The Hopi Tribe, a non-gaming tribe, receives the majority of its revenues from its natural resources. The revenue generated from these resources is not only finite, but also precarious from year to year, as demonstrated by the recent closure of the Mohave Generating station. With ever-increasing tuition costs, cuts in federal student aid, and other negative economic factors (including the Hopi unemployment rate of 45%), Hopi students who want to pursue higher education face an enormous financial burden. Rising education costs, compounded by stagnating higher education funding appropriations from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and an average 10% annual increase in the number of Tribal applications for higher education funding, pose a tremendous challenge to the Hopi Tribe and its commitment to education.
With the mission of “cultivating and nurturing the future of our Hopi people through education by growing and safeguarding a perpetual source of funding,” the Hopi Tribe established the Hopi Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) in 2000. The HEEF is a perpetual education endowment fund segregated from the Hopi Tribe’s general funds; its goal is to foster the resources to aid in development of new strategies to address areas of greatest educational need, including Hopi language revitalization and post-secondary education for Hopi youth. As an IRS Code Section 7871 non-profit organization, the HEEF operates under its own governing structure and is held accountable to the Tribal Council; however, it remains independent of state law and standards for governance. Its independence from state law reaffirms the Hopi Tribe’s commitment to national sovereignty and self-sustainability.
Currently, the Fund is primarily directed at higher education, but the HEEF has also worked in partnership with other entities to provide funding for educational programs deemed important to the Hopi Tribe. These programs include the Hopi Lavayi Summer Institute, a Hopi language program, and the Northern Arizona University Hopi Scholars Program, a retention program focused on college freshmen. Future plans for the Fund include partnerships with other programs to address additional areas of importance in education, such as curriculum development, facility needs, and research.
The issue of cultural integration is always a high priority for the HEEF’s executive committee. By ensuring that Hopi culture is considered and included in all aspects of the program operation, the Fund’s managers have helped the Hopi public gain a better understanding of the goals of the program, thus making the task of gaining community support for the Fund less challenging. The HEEF board members and staff have conceptualized their investments in terms of Hopi agricultural practices such as planting, cultivating, harvesting, storing, and consuming corn. By using the planting process to explain the purpose of the fund, the HEEF governors have incorporated Hopi teachings into contemporary philanthropic fundraising. Through careful management and active marketing, the initial principal gift to the Fund, $10 million, has increased to over $16 million.
An example of this commitment to cultural relevance can be found in one of the HEEF’s cornerstones, the notion of “formalized philanthropy,” which is based on traditional principles. By encouraging the concept of reciprocity among the Hopi people, the HEEF have been largely successful in marketing the program within the Hopi community: the Annual HEEF Art Auction is supported entirely from donations by Hopi artists giving their artwork as a means to ensure a viable economic resource for generations to come. Twenty-five percent of monetary donors to the HEEF are Hopi, while a total of 95% of the Silent Auction’s art donors are also Hopi.
As a non-profit organization, the HEEF enables the Hopi Tribe to direct the future growth and availability of education resources for the Hopi people; its managers seek to encourage self-governance in the areas of education, culture, and language revitalization in order to build human capital for tribal nation-building. Since the implementation of the Fund, it has been responsible for a total of 2,400 awards, totaling $3.8 million dollars for Hopi students nationwide, administered through the Hopi Tribe Grants and Scholarship Program (HTGSP).