Be the Change: First People's Fund

By  | 

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - A Rapid City non-profit is helping Native American artists paint a brighter future.

Terra Houska of Rapid City is an Oglala Lakota and Cheyenne artist.

Her main mediums of art include beading and sewing.

Terra Houska, artist and fellow, First People's Fund, says, "I hope to become a better artist. I want to learn new techniques. In the First People's Fund grant, I wrote that I wanted to learn how to do quillworking and do more things with rawhide."

In order to become a better artist, Houska earned a $5,000 grant as a fellow from the First People's Fund.

Her fellowship entails research work and visits to Native museums in Washington D.C. and Nebraska.

Terra Houska says, "It's really inspired me. When we had our convening in Phoenix earlier this year, we all got to meet each other, all the fellows. To me people that you've seen on social media and actually be able to talk to them and meet them in person and see their artwork in person, it was really amazing."

First People's Fund is a Native women-led nonprofit with grant programs from Maine to Maui.

And their staff members believe art perpetuates their people's traditions and beliefs.

Cecily Engelhart, communications manager, First People's Fund, says, "The continuation of those is really the continuation of who we are as people. And so it's important to us because we really see artists and culture bearers as not only carriers of knowledge but also the communicators of we are in a really authentic way."

Engelhart says the group supports art not only because it benefits Natives culturally but it also helps them financially.

Cecily Engelhart says, "When you look at 40 percent of people relying on creating some form of traditional arts as a means of income, supporting artists and culture bearers is just a really smart investment in our community. It's being able to support people who are already doing work that they do."

First People's Fund has other programs like the Rolling Rez Arts Bus and Dances with Words.

Their next big project is building an Oglala Lakota Artspace center on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Do you know someone who's drawing a bigger picture in the community?

If you do, send an email to