Native Arts

Native American artists exchange weaving techniques

NEFA's Native Arts program ran from 200 to 2014. Learn more on the Past Programs page.

Native American artists and organizations are encouraged to explore grant opportunities and services in other NEFA programs, and contact us with questions.

As part of our planning process, NEFA awarded planning grants to five Native-led organizations  to explore the formation of an independent  regional consortium. The Northeast Indigenous Arts Alliance is positioned to leverage the work of member organizations to bring resources and visibility to New England’s Native artists with support from private philanthropy.

This planning process was led by Dawn Spears, former Native Arts program manager at NEFA, and participants include:

  • Aquinnah Cultural Center (MA)
  • Gedakina (VT, MA, ME)
  • Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (ME)
  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center (CT)
  • Tomaquag Indian Museum (RI)

For more information about the consortium and planning process please visit NEFA’s blog, news, and the Northeast Indigenous Arts Alliance.

Program History

In 2005, the Ford Foundation invited NEFA to design a support system for New England’s Native artists. NEFA, in association with the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA), conducted gatherings with Native American artists and leaders throughout the region in 2005-2006. The recommendations heard at those meetings informed NEFA’s design of a program with staff leadership by a member of the Native community, created to serve a marginalized, underserved, and often invisible community of Native artists and organizations.

NEFA was then honored to be selected in 2007 as one of seven organizations across the U.S. that formed the Ford Foundation’s IllumiNation cohort.  Other members of this distinguished group included the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, First Peoples Fund, Seventh Generation Fund, First Nations Composer Initiative, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the Evergreen State College Foundation Longhouse Education Cultural Center.

Additional support for Native Arts has been provided by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, anonymous foundations, tribal funders, and individual donors.  The program is led by Program Manager Dawn Spears (Narragansett/Choctaw) with support from Program Associate Summer Confuorto (Gros Ventre/Mi'kmaq) and guided by an advisory board of Native artists, folklorists, and Native arts professionals.  

Impact & Accomplishments

  • Provided over $350,000 through 131 grants to 74 artists and nine organizations representing over 35 tribes through regional, national, and master-apprentice grantmaking areas
  • Brought visibility to the region’s artists and their art through advocacy, press, and social media
  • Re-connected diverse Native communities around the region via numerous workshops, gatherings, professional development opportunities, technical assistance, and conferences
  • Produced the groundbreaking exhibit Native New England Now and companion publication of grantee work in partnership with MPMRC
  • Created a New England Native American arts directory of both artists and organizations, recently converted to an online searchable format via NEFA’s CreativeGround website
  • Connected many Native artists to other NEFA grantmaking programs and services


T. Lulani Arquette (Native Hawaiian) President/CEO, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation

David Moses Bridges (Passamaquoddy), artist

Marge Bruchac (Abenaki), storyteller

Judy Dow (Abenaki), artist

Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy), artist

Sherry Gould (Abenaki), artist 

Maggie Holtzberg, Manager of the Folk Arts & Heritage Program at the
Massachusetts Cultural Council

Charlene Jones (Mashantucket Pequot), NEFA Board of Directors (former)

Pame Kingfisher (Cherokee), Owner/Principal, Shining Waters Consulting

Dee Ko (Cherokee), artist

Joan Lester, Lecturer, American Studies, Tufts University

George Longfish (Seneca/Tuscarora), artist

Pauleena MacDougall, Director, Maine Folklife Center; Editor, Northeast Folklore; Faculty Associate in Anthropology; Cooperating Research Associate in Lobster Institute

Nancy Marie Mithlo, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Art History and American Indian Studies Program
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Kathleen Mundell, Executive Director of Cultural Resources, Inc.

Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot), Artist

Elizabeth Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag), Artist 

Paula Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag), Artist

Ramona Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag), Artist, Historian,
Archivist Curator for Wampanoag Repatriation Project, Cultural Sensitivity Trainer

Rick Pouliot (Abenaki), Executive Director/Co-Founder, Gedakina

Lori Pourier (Oglala/Mnicoujou Lakota), President, First Peoples Fund

Darren Ranco (Penobscot), ethnographer

Elizabeth Theobald Richards (Cherokee), Opportunity Agenda

Trudie Lamb Richmond (Schaghticoke), NEFA Board of Directors (former), Director of Public Programs (retired), Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Storyteller, Researcher

Reuben Tomás Roqueñi (Yaqui/Mexican), Program Director, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation

Stevie Salas (Mescalero Apache), Guitarist, Music Producer, Music Director for American Idol

Theresa Secord (Penobscot), artist, Executive Director, Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, NEFA Board of Directors (former)

Duane Slick (Sauk, Fox, and Winnebago Nations), artist

Tiffany Smalley (Aquinnah Wampanoag), Native Arts program intern

Cassius Spears (Narragansett), artist, Cultural Educator/Consultant

Loren Spears (Narragansett), Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum

Quita Sullivan (Montaukett), artist, Program Manager, National Theater Project (NEFA)

Meredith Vasta (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Collections Manager/Registrar, Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

Toni Ellen Weeden (Pequot/Wampanoag/Narragansett), artist, Public Programs Department Manager, Pequot Museum and Research Center

Lynne Williamson, Director, Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program



Native Arts is made possible with funding from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Anonymous donors.  NEFA is grateful to the Ford Foundation's Indigenous Knowledge and Expressive Culture program, which provided lead funding for the program from 2005 to 2013.



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