Honoring Nations: LuAnn Leonard: The Hopi Education Endowment Fund

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Hopi Education Endowment Fund Executive Director LuAnn Leonard (Hopi/Tohono O'odham) speaks about the purpose and growth of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund and how the initiative has inspired those HEEF serves to answer the question: What does it mean to be a Hopi?

Native Nations
Resource Type

Leonard, LuAnn. "The Hopi Education Endowment Fund." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 27-28, 2007. Presentation.

Michael Lipsky:

"Our next speaker will be Luann Leonard, the Executive Director of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund [HEEF]."

LuAnn Leonard:

"Good morning. My name's LuAnn Leonard. I'm Hopi and Tohono O'odham from Arizona. We've come a long way. Yesterday morning I woke up really late and so this morning I woke up really early to be prepared, and now I'm all sleepy. So hopefully I won't fall asleep on you here. But the Hopi is located in northeastern Arizona. I'm from the village of Sichomovi on First Mesa. I'm from the Deer Clan, the Hopi Deer Clan. I wanted to introduce the people who are here with me. Monica Nevumsa in the back; she is the president of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund. And then sitting at our table, he's not here right now, is Ben Nuvamsa; he is the chairman of the Hopi Tribe. And no, they're not married, same last name. Our colleagues, Cedric Kuwaninvaya, he is a councilman with the Hopi Tribe and also a former recipient of an award, and Bernita Kuwaninvaya, she is a 2006 honors awardee; and yes, they are married, these two.

I wanted to thank Mrs. [Amy Besaw] Medford -- I had to say that -- and her staff for inviting us here. Everyone was telling us when you win honors, or high honors, with [the Harvard Project] you really join a family and I think that that's true. We've felt very appreciated and we appreciate the involvement and having us come out all the way [here]. I had to mention, in your booklet you see us listed with those big donors. And it's funny because they had put out a, you probably all got one, a letter asking for donations; they're non-profit. And we wanted to be one of the first to respond because we know how hard it is to raise money and so we responded to the call. And I challenge all of you to do that because it will make their job more easier to raise money if the people who they're asking know that we are all trying to contribute, even if it's a little bit to the fund to make this keep going cause this is a great program. I think you all can agree with me on that.

There's Chairman Nuvamsa. I told them you're not married to Monica -- he's her 'boyfriend' in Hopi way.

A little bit about the HEEF and then I want to get into the topic. We are a 7871 non-profit of the Hopi Tribe. We're the only one in the United States that focuses on education. We are not a rich tribe. We're located in a remote area of northern Arizona. We're not gaming. We established our 7871 through a tribal ordinance and that was done on purpose to protect it from the politics of the day. We have a 30-member board, which 80 percent are Hopi. We have a seven-member executive committee of which Monica is the president and the president must be an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe. What's really nice about our organization is no member of the tribal council can be a member of the board, but we're part of the tribe. So we're protected from the tribe but we're part of the tribe. The seven-member executive committee has the fiduciary responsibility. They're my bosses, and talk about a challenge that changes every year, that board. But I get a new boss every year, but it's a great, wonderful group of people. We truly believe in Hopi for Hopi. When we created the endowment fund seven years ago, we chose to keep it on reservation. We're located on one million acres in northern Arizona in Kykotsmovi village, a little rock house, you probably would get lost looking for it, but we do all of our outreach from there. I have a three-member staff, all of which are Hopi.

When we came on board none of us had any non-profit experience, but we had a desire to make this work and I believe we are making this work. When we went to trainings, what was really encouraging -- we went to trainings at Indiana, IUPUI [Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis], University of Indiana; they have a non-profit program there. And one of the first things we heard is Native Americans were the first philanthropists and I think about that and I think that's so true. And we've come to find that out. We're not experts in what we do yet, but hopefully we will be, but we believe that we have things to share. I don't believe in reinventing the wheel, so you can take our ideas and hopefully change them into something that you can work with, with your people. With the Honoring Nations award we produced our first video. We used some of our money to create the video about our program. I brought a few copies; this one's for Oren Lyons because he's so special. If you'd like a copy, just give me your card and I'll make sure you get one. But it's a seven-minute video, and I think you'll understand what I'm talking about when you see our video. It's called Planting the Seeds...for our Children's Future.

When Amy gave me the topic of the panel, I thought about, what am I going to talk about? She talked about community participation, what [role] it plays in nation building, how do we engage our community members so that we create ownership, sustainability, and program effectiveness. The bottom-line question is what do we do to connect with the community to foster that support? And I asked myself some questions. I asked, what inspires a talented 16-year-old high school student to donate a piece of his first artwork to our silent auction? What motivated an artist living in low-income housing to donate a $700 painting that he could sell to sustain him and his family? What motivated him to donate that to our silent auction? What moved a high school graduate to donate $25 to our alumni challenge in the name of his alma mater, which is Stewart Indian High School? And finally, what motivated the Hopi Tribe, the Hopi Tribal Council, to really walk the talk and, that day in October of 2000, to create the Hopi Education Endowment Fund and to give us the first gift of $10 million? How did we do it?

So I thought about what in our culture made us be this way because, obviously, there's people who really need the money but somehow they're giving of their own. Our goal at the Endowment Fund is to turn our people into our ambassadors. We want every Hopi to know who we are, what we do. And when someone, a visitor, an Anglo friend comes our to see a dance and they say, 'How can we help?' They can say, 'Hey, you should think about the Hopi Endowment Fund.' And they can go online and find us real quick. As I thought about it, I found that the answer lies right before us and it lies right before each of you too. It's in your teachings, your practices and your beliefs.

You all have been given a copy of a piece called A Hopi. This piece was created in '95 and I was happy to see this created. It was kind of started funny because we have the Hopi, Navajo-Hopi Observer that comes to our reservation. And for a while there they had an award, Hopi of the Year, Navajo of the Year. And then we all thought, 'Hey, I want to be Hopi of the Year.' But what is a Hopi? And so we got into this big discussion. Joan Timeche was Hopi of the Year one year. So you'd join a high caliber of people there.

But what is a Hopi? And so we had a person in our group who thinks way beyond the present and he came up with the piece. And I don't want to read the whole thing to you but I want to read a couple of sections that really hit what we do as philanthropists. The third paragraph down; a Hopi is one who fulfills the meaning of Sumi'nangwa and will come together to do activities for the benefit of all out of a compelling desire and commitment to contribute or return something of value or benefit to the society. A Hopi is one who fulfills the meaning of Nami'nangwa by helping one another or give aid in times of need, without having to be asked to do so, and without expecting compensation for that deed. A Hopi is one who places the society and/or community's interests and benefits above their individual and personal interests and gains. And finally, a Hopi is one who understands that the greatest feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment is one's participation in social and community functions or activities and knowing that your contributions have resulted in benefit to the community and people. I think each of you can relate to this. Each of your native teachings and beliefs have this, involve these kinds of thoughts. We incorporate these teachings into all the things that we do.

We work to help our people understand what we do because, although we were the first philanthropists, formal philanthropy is not really understood. And so just the 'endowment,' even the name of our fund, throws our people off. But what we do is we help them to understand what we do and translate it into the concepts of Hopi. One example is that we're known for farming; we farm blue, white, red, yellow corn, beans and squash. The beauty of that is it's dry farming; we have no irrigation. It's all hard labor and prayers for the rain to come. When we talk about our Endowment fund, the seeds in the planting cycle, we let the people know that the seeds are the money; that's the donations coming into our organization. When you plant the seed, your next step is to cultivate that. Keep those relations going, go to your field, check on it and keep that plant growing. So that's what we do when we cultivate our donors and we watch over our investments so that they grow day to day. Eventually, the harvest comes. And the harvest -- we take part in the harvest, we eat part of it. And how we relate that to what we do is we disperse out our money, and we fund college students across the United States with some of that money, some of the harvest. The final part of the planting cycle is the storing. Hopis always store part of that crop for the next year and the next year after. Our storing is reinvesting our money and hoping that it will grow and benefit people 50 years out. Another good concept in helping them understand investing, cause investing itself is so technical, is planting in more than one field. I don't know how many of you are farmers, but Hopi men, they usually plant where their wife is from and then they plant in another area, maybe where their traditional clan has a planting field -- because you never know where the rain's going to fall and your family has to eat. So you need that kind of diversity to make sure you're going to get something out of your crops. When we explain investments and diversification, such as stocks and bonds, that makes sense to people and it helps them really understand, 'Hey, these guys are doing the right thing.' So think about those kind of things when you are working with your people to enhance your community involvement.

My message to you is to look within yourselves and ask, 'What is a Lummi? What is a Sioux? What's a Chippewa? What's a Umatilla? Who are you?' And find that connection and use those teachings, use what you find in a very respectful manner in dealing with your people. They know when you're overusing those kinds of beliefs and maybe materializing them and they will take you to task on that. But use them in a respectful manner and you'll find that you're going to grow your own ambassadors. Those people are going to be the spokesperson for your programs. In closing I'd like to say, to be a Hopi is to continually chase a rainbow. It's looking for that pot of gold, but you know you're never going to get to it. But if you read A Hopi and you live this way, and I think if you go back and you look at your own people and you live this way, you'll agree that it's going to be a long journey. But along the way, you'll make the world a better place. So I wanted to thank you for this time and opportunity to speak. Askwali."

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