ECFC November 2023 Meeting Materials

Continued Connections:

  • Learn more about our Indigenous Early Childhood work - see below for suggested related reading.
  • Attendees: Did you meet someone but can’t remember their name? Someone working with doulas? Someone who shared your favorite song? A parent leader or speaker? We can help!  Contact Rena to help find THAT person!
  • Need some musical inspiration? Listen to our November Playlist on Spotify.

Wednesday, November 1, Welcome Activities:

Context of ECFC’s Racial Equity and Indigenous EC Work
  • Keami Harris, ECFC Chief Equity and Strategy Officer
  • Rashanda Perryman, Vanguard (ECFC Steering Committee Chair, first/former chair of ECFC Racial Equity Workgroup)
  • Mercedes Plendl, Better Way Foundation
Introduction Activity: Connecting with people in place
  • Facilitated by: Victoria Tafoya, WK Kellogg Foundation

Wednesday, November 1, Keynote Speaker:
Understanding Native Child Well-being: Issues and Context

This session defined child and youth well-being from an Indigenous perspective and shed light on several historical federal policy periods that have played a pivotal role in shaping the current state of Native child well-being. Additionally, this session explored the diversity of tribal nations in the United States and their key role in facilitating the well-being of Native children.  We will discussed the adverse effects of the trend of prioritizing evidence-based practices on Native communities and highlight models for including culturally based practices as well as research methods that balance scientific and cultural rigor.

Related resources: 

Wednesday, November 1, Partner Pair Discussions:
Building Relationships with Indigenous Communities 

This session explored real examples of partnerships with Native and Tribal communities through small group discussions with partner pairs representing multiple perspectives (funder, grantee, community leader, parent). Partner Pairs helped us think about engaging those with lived experience to advance equity across their work, and shared real challenges and opportunities for partnership from their work with Native and Tribal communities.

Partner Pairs (*see related materials below in our Gallery Walk profiles for programs/organizations participating in Pair discussions).
Shawn Malia Kana'iaupuni, Partners in Development Foundation (Honolulu, HI)*
& Al Castle, Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation
Better Birthing Collaborative:*
Adene Sacks, Co-Founder, With/In Collaborative
& Danielle Anderson-Reed, Community Engagement Coordinator, First 5 Humboldt (CA)
Jennifer Rackliff,
National Indian Child Care Association (NICCA)*
& Choua Vue
, The Care for All with Respect and Equity (CARE) Fund
Emily White Hat
American Indian College Fund *
& Lis Stevens, Bezos Family Foundation
Vanessa Goodthunder, C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi - Lower Sioux Children Are Sacred School (Morton, MN)*
& Mercedes Plendl, Better Way Foundation

Thursday, November 2, Panel:
Honoring Native Culture, Language and Self-Determination 

This panel explored critical lessons and considerations for partnering with Native communities including; what's needed to create sustainability and ensure impactful change and growth; how language can help heal children, communities and people; and how philanthropic organizations can aid in this process while also respecting tribal sovereignty.

For a deeper dive into themes discussed in this session, we suggested reading these important reports commissioned by ECFC and Native Americans in Philanthropy from interviews with both EC philanthropists working in Native communities, and leaders in those communities.  The reports are rich in detailed feedback, and if you only have time to read part of the reports, we suggest recommendations for action summarized in each report: Lessons learned with Philanthropy, and Lessons learned with Community.

Previous ECFC meetings have explored culturally based early childhood education in Hawai'i:

Thursday, November 2, Keynote Speaker:
The Evolved Nest, Returning to Nature's Way of Raising Connected, Nurtured Children 

Until very recently in human history, our species evolved ways of raising “nested children” – children raised with loving, affectionate, and supportive villages, and deep connections to and respect for the natural world.  We have, as a society, strayed from elements of an evolved nest that respond to children’s basic needs: providing soothing perinatal experiences, extensive on-request breastfeeding; multiple caregivers who provide responsive care; affectionate touch; a welcoming climate; self-directed social play; nature immersion; and regular healing practices. We will explore the evolved nest, and these conditions and components that are particularly important in the first few years of life to shape a child’s neurobiology towards a trajectory of health and wellbeing; and reflect on how funders can support their communities, and parents and families they work with to return to a culture of connectedness.

  Gallery of Community Based Programs & Models in Indigenous Communities 

Following are Indigenous organizations and programs who joined us at our November meeting in various sessions, and related meeting handouts/materials.  Download a Printer Friendly Version.

American Indian College Fund
Emily White Hat, Vice President of Programs

The American Indian College Fund seeks to increase the number of American Indians who hold college degrees. Along with student scholarships, the College Fund supports programs at accredited, tribally controlled colleges and universities. Since its founding in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native student access to higher education. The Ihduwiyayapi: Advancing Indigenous Early Childhood Education partners with tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to build the capacity of their early childhood education programs and improve teacher education through family and community outreach, enhanced child developmental pedagogy, pathways development, enhanced capacity, and engagement in national conversations about ECE best practices and lessons learned. The program was initially funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2011. The program received continued support from WKKF and in 2020 received funding from Heising-Simons Foundation and the Bezos Family Foundation. The Bezos Family Foundation has since committed a $5.3 million grant over four years of a broader $11.3 million program plan.

Better Birthing Collaborative - California
Adene Sacks, Co-Founder, With/In Collaborative
Danielle Anderson-Reed, Community Engagement Coordinator, First 5 Humboldt (CA)

Danielle and Adene shared their experience working alongside parents and leaders from tribal lands in and around northern California – and with medical practitioners, on how to better the birth experience of Native parents at Providence St. Joseph Hospital. What emerged from the time this team of folks spent together —  now known as the “Better Birthing” team —  are multiple efforts that seek to provide the care Native parents want versus what they have experienced in the past. The early outcomes of their work together resulted in the change of a California law — and the creation of a birth plan that centers Native birthing traditions. And their work continues — they are currently working on peri-natal care and training for native doulas in the community. Please join them in a conversation about the imperfect and ongoing effort to create a more culturally responsive birth experience in this community by centering relationships and creating the time and structure to reimagine a different path. 

Related materials:

C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi - Lower Sioux Children Are Sacred School (Morton, MN)
Vanessa Goodthunder, Director

C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi (Lower Sioux Early Head Start and Head Start, Children Are Sacred School) was created to meet a need for increased cultural connections and wrap-around services to target families with a need for resources and early child care and increased cultural connections.  Once we received federal and state grant dollars to plan, hire staff, create policy, obtain training, and conduct renovation, we thankfully opened doors on August 1, 2018. We have now finished our first year of operation and are in our second year serving 83 children and families with 60 in the center, 11 home-based, and 12 expectant families. We are looking to build with and for the community for this school to raise the next generation of Dakota language speakers to thus strengthen our community’s sovereignty and overall well-being.

Early Relational Health - Family Network Collaborative
Nicole Loveless – Native American Parent Leader, San Felipe Pueblo, NM
Bryn Fortune – FNC Coordinator

Nurture Connection's Family Network Collaborative is an exciting and innovative approach to partnering with parents/caregivers that moves away from learning from a few parent voices or perspectives to an approach that co-designs with representative groups of neighborhood parent/caregiver voices without the filter of organizational lenses.  Six Parent Leaders from all regions of the country represent groups from whom we have the most to learn: families of color, Spanish-speaking immigrants, fathers, children with special health needs/disabilities, families receiving home visiting services, the Native American community, and rural Southern culture.

Related Resources:

Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, First Light Education Project
Joshua Sparrow, Brazelton Touchpoints Center

The Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative is a national Institute that serves as an intellectual home for Indigenous early learning and development Communities of Practice to engage, learn, and access material and intellectual resources to inform their locally designed community-based inquiry, programs, Co-Learning (and evaluation), and strategy for sustaining high-quality early learning opportunities for Native children and families. The Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative Institute relies on Community-Based Inquiry and knowledge generation as a foundational component toward achieving racial equity in Indigenous early learning and care systems.

Indigenous Parent Leadership Institute (IPLI) – White Earth Nation, MN
Beth Ann Dodds, Program Manager, Indigenous Visioning
Susie Ballot, Graduate & Facilitator
Ashley Bunker, Graduate

IPLI is a partnership with the National Parent Leadership Institute (NPLI), White Earth Nation (WEN), Dr. Anton Treuer and the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to bring this parent leadership initiative to Indian Country. IPLI is a free 22 week program which integrates child development, leadership, democracy skills and Ojibwe culture into a parent curriculum to empower the parent voice.  The mission of the Indigenous Parent Leadership Initiative (IPLI) is to guide parents in becoming leading advocates for children using a cultural lens. IPLI supports parents, grandparents, foster parents and other community members to build on their leadership skills they already have and help instill a confidence in using their parent voice. Learn more about IPLI.

Related materials:

Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan
Michelle Leask, Project Manager/CAN Coordinator

The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, Inc. (ITCM) is a 501©(3) non-profit corporation duly organized under a State Charter filed April 16, 1968, representing twelve federally recognized tribes in Michigan. The Agency was created out of financial necessity.  Tribes originally part of the Agency were so small in population that an organization combining all the numbers could generate more fundable programs for much needed delivery services to tribal members. The communities suffered extreme poverty, high unemployment, poor housing conditions, poor health care, and other basic services were not readily available for most Indian people. The Inter-Tribal Council was the frontier consortium that allowed a beginning to for small tribes working for self-sufficiency and better services for their people.   

Related materials:

National Indian Child Care Association (NICCA)
Jennifer Rackliff, Executive Director  

The National Indian Child Care Association is the recognized representative body of the Tribal Child Care and Development Fund Grantees.  NICCA was established in 1993 to provide information, support, coordination, and advocacy for Tribal child care. Tribal child care programs serve over 300,000 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children from over 500 Federally recognized Tribes across the United States. Participation in the Child Care and Development Fund allows Tribal governments the opportunity to design, implement, and support programs which are beneficial to the unique needs of our Tribal citizens.

Related resource: NICCA Impact Brief

Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF) - Hawai'i
Shawn Malia Kana’iaupuni, President & CEO

PIDF empowers families to navigate social challenges and to grow self-resiliency, vibrancy, and healthy, secure communities in Hawaiʻi. E mālama i ka ‘ohana, ola ke kaiāulu, care for the family, and the community lives. From our beginnings in 1997, PIDF draws on ʻike kupuna, ancestral wisdom and knowledge, to meet the current challenges facing Hawaiʻi. We serve the needs of young keiki, their caregivers, and economically vulnerable youth and families in the Hawaiian community to overcome systematic disparities and historical trauma. Our programs are guided by time-tested values and practices that honor our kuleana for people and place in caring for our islands and communities.  E ola ka ‘ohana, may the family thrive.  Learn more about PIDF's work, including multi-generational education programs such as youth mentorship, homeless family education, and a community school model to address physical, mental and emotional health needs of students, their families, and staff.

Raising a Reader - California
Kim Nall, Executive Director, Tribal Child Care Association of California
Michelle Torgerson, President and CEO, Raising a Reader

Sharing collaborative work in California to customize Raising a Reader’s Super Summer Learning Adventures (SSLA) program with tribal communities, to ensure Native American children and families living California see themselves reflected in books—affirming their cultural identity, and receive culturally relevant materials and resources that empower them to connect with their heritage while fostering a love for reading.  Learn more about their work together.


ECFC Work & Lessons

Learn More About Indigenous and Tribal Communities

Commit to Organizational Learning

  • Investing in Native Communities, a joint Project of Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid, provides resources for funders on Narrative Change, Investments in Action, and and other resources including collection of reports, case studies, news stories, and media.
  • Philanthropy Self-Assessment for Working with Tribal Communities, a tool developed by Native Americans in Philanthropy was designed to help funders determine where you are in your work with tribal communities, Native organizations, and Indigenous peoples, and to identify areas that can be strengthened as you move towards equity and effectiveness.  This assessment is meant to spark internal discussion and aid in your organization’s planning and visioning.

Funders interested in learning more from ECFC about how philanthropy investments can strengthen Indigenous and other culturally-based early childhood programs and systems are invited to connect with ECFC.

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