Partners create new collaborative fund to support investments in Native children
Prior Lake, Minn. – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), the Center for Indian Country Development of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and Better Way Foundation today released a report outlining a multifaceted framework to improve early childhood development and childhood nutrition among Minnesota’s Native American children. The report was developed as a part of Healthy Children, Healthy Nations, an initiative that convened practitioners, funders, and tribal leaders to discuss ways to improve the health and well-being of Minnesota’s Native children and ensure better educational and social outcomes.
“Our children are our future. While Minnesota’s Native communities have been incredibly resilient in the face of great adversity, there is much more that needs to be done to give our children the best opportunities to succeed,” said SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig. “We are grateful to all of the stakeholders who provided their wisdom and expertise to help develop this framework so that we can build stronger families and communities.”

Poor health among Native children in Minnesota is directly linked to their social, economic, and environmental conditions – known as social determinants of health – and the inequitable distribution of resources across Native populations. Poverty, poor housing, as well as parental unemployment, incarceration, substance abuse, and education has resulted in many Native American children face difficult problems.
Of the more than 60,000 Native American Minnesotans, more than 5,000 are children under the age of five. Many are at risk of starting school behind, dropping out of school, and adopting unhealthy lifestyles. According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, an extra dollar spent on the education of vulnerable children returns between $4 and $16 to society from reductions in costs related to health care, education, and crime.
“What makes the work of the Healthy Children, Healthy Nations initiative so exciting is that it champions soft-hearted policies that survive the test of hard-headed analysis,” said Mark Wright, Senior Vice President and Research Director, Community Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Framework for collective action
Health Children, Healthy Nations identifies three main focus areas to strengthen and sustain early childhood efforts in Native communities:

• Expand Native early childhood development programs that are rooted in traditional knowledge, provide Native perspectives on childhood development, and celebrate Native language, identities, and cultures.
• Provide healthful early Native nutrition by encouraging investment in breastfeeding education, supporting partnerships among food producers and child care providers, and expanding access to healthy, traditional food outside of child care settings.
• Build whole, healthy children, families, and communities by supporting efforts to address historical trauma, adverse childhood experiences, social determinants of health, and substance abuse that create cycles of abuse, neglect, and disparity.

Moving toward action
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Center for Indian Country Development of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and Better Way Foundation are taking the following steps to foster the next phase of action and are actively seeking additional partners to move the effort forward: 

• Collaborative Fund – Assemble resources to support investment in promising models, capacity building, knowledge building, and effective programming. The SMSC and Better Way Foundation have pledged $200,000 – $100,000 each – to seed the collaborative fund. They plan to seek additional commitments from funders to expand the fund to $500,000 in 2018 and $750,000 to $1 million in 2019 and beyond.
• Funders Collaborative – Create opportunities for philanthropy to participate in knowledge building, networking, collaboration, and aligned grantmaking.
• Statewide conference – Convene practitioners, funders, tribal leaders, Native families, advocates, and other stakeholders to prioritize issues and create defined action plans. The conference will be held at Mystic Lake Center on September 18-19, 2018.
• Advocacy – Lay the groundwork for policy changes and funding increases in support of comprehensive Native early childhood development efforts.

“There is much to be done to improve the educational outcomes, nutrition, and holistic health of Native children,” said Andreas Hipple, executive director of Better Way Foundation. “This effort requires long-term thinking and a growing collaborative effort to support Native children and communities, particularly through Native-led initiatives.”

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Native American tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to Native American tribes and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise, and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County. More information is available at 
About Seeds of Native Health
Seeds of Native Health is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition and food access. Launched in 2015, the $10 million campaign has provided grants to local communities and funded research, education, and capacity-building efforts. Partners include the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Better Way Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the University of Minnesota. More information is available at   
Better Way Foundation 
Started in 1988 by Gerald (Gerry) A. and Henrietta (Hanky) Rauenhorst, founders of the Opus Group, Better Way Foundation is focused on building a future where child well-being contributes to strong families and communities. Better Way Foundation invests in systemic, holistic, and evidence-based approaches that support the positive development of all children. Better Way Foundation supports both international and domestic partners, and has connected with exceptional community-based leaders investing in the lives of children and strengthening their communities. More information is available at
Center for Indian Country Development of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Launched in 2015, the mission of the Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) is to help self-governing communities of American Indians attain their economic development goals. Its research and engagement strategies focus on four areas: land (support the best economic use and effective governance of land); business and entrepreneurship (support diversified businesses to strengthen reservation economies), homeownership (better understand mortgage lending processes and homeownership systems), and education (explore synergies between high-quality early childhood development programs and Native language preservation and evaluate educational achievement and funding gaps). More information is available at