Giving Compass' Take:

• Six out of the 30  foundations that are most generous to Native Indian causes are all in Minnesota, and together have made significant investments in Indian Country. 

• Annual charitable giving to Indian causes has declined by one-third nationally in nearly a decade. What are ways to encourage more charitable giving to this population of people and their needs? 

• Read about the myths of Native American giving. 

The family of railroad baron James J. Hill started a charitable foundation in 1934 with the wealth it accrued after the railroad swept westward through American Indian lands.

Today, that Northwest Area Foundation is trying to make amends, giving 40 percent of its $16 million in annual grants to Indian-led organizations. It’s joined by a handful of Minnesota foundations that have prioritized such giving in recent years — bucking a national decline in philanthropy to Indian causes.

Annual charitable giving to Indian causes has dropped by one-third nationally in nearly a decade’s time, according to a recent analysis by the Colorado-based nonprofit First Nations Development Institute. But Minnesota is a bright spot as home to six of the 30 foundations most generous to Indian causes, giving $118.5 million in that time. Only New York gave more between 2006 and 2014.

The Northwest Area Foundation, Bush Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, McKnight Foundation, Charles K. Blandin Foundation and Otto Bremer Trust are all making large investments in Indian Country. In addition, Indian communities in Minnesota with financial means, including the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, are also prominent givers.

Together, they are pouring millions of dollars and low-interest loans into the arts, education, good-governance programs, business development and antipoverty efforts benefiting tribes across the country.

The Northwest Area Foundation First Peoples Fund $1 million in recent years, and the organization’s CEO Lori Lea Pourier said that support has helped attract the attention of other national donors.

“They are a good example for other philanthropy because everyone is sitting on Indian people’s land,” she said. “I know many don’t want to hear it, but it’s really fact.”

Read the full article about philanthropy to American Indians by Shannon Prather at StarTribune