For more than 20 years, First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation has provided funding and resources to Indigenous organizations and communities and is dedicated to rebuilding and restoring cultural systems impacted by colonization throughout the lands known as British Columbia. Special Advisor, Cathi Charles Wherry, paints a powerful picture of their purpose, “Throughout the last 200 years, Indigenous peoples and leaders have made a lot of efforts to protect our people and territories, languages, cultures, and children. We have to acknowledge the work that has gone on for generations, and how that continues to shape our work today.”
The Foundation exists through generations of cultural vitality, living languages, Indigenous leadership and knowledge transfer and could not be without the important work of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. First Peoples’ Cultural Council, which began in 1990 from the First Peoples’ Advisory Committee to administer the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Act. Today, the Council is governed by First Nations peoples and is a Crown Corporation providing leadership for the revitalization of First Nations languages, arts, culture and heritage. Through this work, there was an identified need to expand to serve the needs of the amazing diversity of Indigenous languages, arts, culture and heritage in the region. Philanthropic supports for initiatives that fell outside of the baseline activities of the Council were needed. And so, a decade later, the Foundation was created to be an Indigenous-led organization advocating for sustainable long-term funding to support economic development, self-determination, health and wellness, and environmental protection.
Read more about The First Peoples’ Cultural Council.
Today, the Foundation’s small but mighty team uplifts trust-based philanthropy that respects Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty. The Foundation continues to partner with the Council, delivering millions of dollars to Indigenous communities, cultural and educational organizations, artists, heritage experts, Knowledge Keepers, language learners and teachers for Indigenous language, arts, culture, and heritage revitalization initiatives. The Foundation is widely recognized as a global leader in advancing language, arts and cultural revitalization and continues to build various programs and funding streams.
When asked what the Foundation is most proud of, the team points to the innovative and successful FirstVoices – an online space that provides technology, training and support to community language champions. Unlike many technological tools that profit off Indigenous expertise, FirstVoices is fundamentally rooted in values of Indigenous data sovereignty and intellectual property rights. The FirstVoices platform is open source and adaptable to communities’ diverse needs.
Creating the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation enabled the resources and development of FirstVoices, which continues to grow and adapt to uplift 34 Indigenous languages. Like all the programming the Foundation supports, FirstVoices is community focused, community driven, and provides direct and positive impacts to Indigenous communities.
Read more about First Voices here.