Mellon Foundation and Native American Agriculture Fund Announce Cultural Foodways Fund for Tribal Colleges and Universities

Mellon Foundation and Native American Agriculture Fund Announce Cultural Foodways Fund for Tribal Colleges and Universities

Apr 4, 2023

Investing in the Arts and Humanities of Indigenous Foodways

The Mellon Foundation and the Native American Agriculture Fund today announced collaborative investments in the Cultural Foodways Fund, a grant opportunity that centers Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) as hubs for stewarding research and education in Indigenous agriculture, preservation, foraging, and other food knowledge. Founding funding partners have committed $2.4 million over the next two years to reclaim and revitalize the intersection between Indigenous cultural identity and foodways. NAAF will work with the Sovereign Equity Fund (SEF) to operate the grant program.

The Cultural Foodways Fund opened requests for proposals on April 3, 2023, through June 1, 2023, and seeks to fund TCUs to conduct projects that focus on learning about, sharing, and safeguarding the cultural and humanities aspects of work that addresses the traditions, ceremonies, language, art, storytelling, cosmologies, belief systems, customs, and ways of being intertwined with Indigenous foodways.

“At the Native American Agriculture Fund, we are committed to reducing and eliminating barriers for Native American farmers and ranchers advancing Indigenous agricultural economies. This partnership with the Mellon Foundation aims to expand the cultural connections of that work and sustain the ancestral knowledge that serves as the foundation for our food sovereignty. This funding will be available to TCUs, and as a proud TCU graduate myself, I look forward to supporting and strengthening the opportunity for TCUs to provide important curriculum and resources through a respectful cultural lens and expand their role as a vital vehicle for education in our Tribal communities,” says NAAF CEO Toni Stanger-McLaughlin.

“We at Mellon are proud to partner with the Native American Agriculture Fund to support the crucial intersection of humanities and agricultural knowledge in Native communities. Tribal colleges and universities are ideally positioned to connect Indigenous foodways knowledge to relevant courses, research, and programming that can both serve their own communities and advance higher learning that lays the foundation for more just and equitable futures for all,” says Maria Sachiko Cecire, Program Officer in Higher Learning at the Mellon Foundation.


About the Native American Agriculture Fund:

The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers. The charitable trust was created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle v. Vilsack class-action lawsuit. NAAF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native American farming and ranching community.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at

About the Sovereign Equity Fund

The Sovereign Equity Fund works to increase investments in Indian Country aimed at transforming food systems. You can learn more at