“Knowing that my community supports my success encourages me to continue life long learning that will benefit my entire community.” — Lisa Owen

“Tiwahe” means family, and family means people — both givers and recipients who form a Circle of Giving that can lead to self-sufficient Indian families and sustainable communities. Through the history of the American Indian Family Empowerment Program, it has invested in human capital, supporting individuals through grants for educational attainment, economic self-sufficiency and connections to their culture.

Since its inception, the AIFEP Fund has made about 800 grants totaling more than $1.4 million. These individuals are dedicated to applying their talents in ways that give back to their families and communities.

Charissa Blue

Preserve and Renew Native Cultural Connections

Charissa Blue was awarded a grant to purchase new regalia so she can dance at powwows.

Charissa writes, “I have gained a new appreciation of how much time and work goes into regalia. I have learned (and am still learning) what the different parts of regalia are, what they mean and what their origins are. I am appreciating people’s regalia more and the history of the pieces- I’m looking at regalia through a new lens.”

Lisa Owen

Educational Achievement

Lisa Owen received funding to support pursuing education at Metro State University. She recently graduated with a degree in individualized studies.

A single mom, Lisa hopes to set an example for her kids to pursue their goals. Lisa writes, “Knowing that my community supports my success encourages me to continue life long learning that will benefit my entire community.”

John Boyd

Economic Self-Sufficiency

John Boyd received funding to support his internship teaching in Red Lake in 2015.

John writes, “The financial support was helpful during this experience in Red Lake and I was able to obtain teaching tools for my future classroom. I am so thankful for this grant to help me reach my dreams of becoming an educator.”

Brian Heart

Preserve and Renew Native Cultural Connections

Brian Heart was awarded a grant to continue providing education of native culture at Little Earth of United Tribes housing residents.

Residents cite his “humility’ and “love of community” as reasons they turn to the master beadworker for spiritual direction.

Leah Lemm

Educational Achievement

Leah Lemm received funding to attend a certificate program at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies.

Leah writes, “I have taken the leap to start a multi-media documentary that pushes me to examine my own artistry. I am working on a year-long, multi-media documentary about artistry, songwriting and self-discovery, combining audio and writing on the web.”

Lenny Hayes

Economic Self-Sufficiency

Lenny Hayes received funding to help support the Two-Spirit weekly co-facilitation he was conducting at the MN Indian Women’s Resource Center.

Lenny participated in planning weekly culturally-specific activities for the group, and supported individual group members. He also connected with the Minnesota Two-Spirit Society, as well as planned a Native American Community event bringing together over 100 participants to connect, educate and bring awareness of the issues impacting the Two-Spirit/ Native LGBTQ people.