Alaska Native youth practice traditional dance in the Alaska Native Heritage event space.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center Receives Grant Award from Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity

Anchorage, Alaska, Sept 22, 2021— The Alaska Native Heritage Center is among 40 awardees across 20 U.S. states that received a grant from Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity, which mobilizes financial resources for organizations focused on non-clinical interventions that affect a person’s health. Commonly known as the social determinants of health, these factors include an individual’s physical, social, political, cultural, and economic environment.
The 40 awardees included in today’s announcement received funding for a wide range of initiatives, including efforts to diversify the healthcare workforce, serve people experiencing homelessness, sustain and restore Indigenous health practices, and reduce infant mortality rates that fall disproportionally along racial and ethnic lines.
ANHC received $198K from the Fund for Health Equity to support IñuPiphany, a community-led project serving Alaska Native women who experience homelessness, addiction, and post-incarceration reentry challenges in Anchorage, Alaska. 
The word IñuPiphany is derived from the word Iñupiaq, meaning real person, and the word epiphany to recognize the moment this idea was born by Alaska Native community member Helen Lane (Iñupiaq).

Helen Lane

“Sometimes, we just need support to overcome trauma, whether it be emotional or physical trauma,” said Lane, who will serve as Project Manager for the program. “IñuPiphany will be a place where Alaska Native women have a safe, sober environment they can gather to reconnect to their culture.” 
IñuPiphany’s vision is to support Alaska Native women through arts and culture to foster community healing. In its simplest form, IñuPiphany will create a safe place for Alaska Native women to reconnect with each other and our community while creating Alaska Native art in various media and techniques. Artists will also have an opportunity to sell their art at ANHC’s Ch’k’iqadi Gallery and online.  

“As a result of this generous support, ANHC will be able to meet our community where they are at,” said Emily Edenshaw, ANHC President and CEO. “The program is modeled after the success of ANHC’s partnership with the Alaska Art Alliance, an Alaska Native-led cultural nonprofit that supports men who struggle with addiction, homelessness, and reentry into the workforce post-incarceration.” 

According to both Lane and Edenshaw, an Alaska Native woman’s-only program is desperately needed in our community, too, as there are far too many Alaska Native women currently experiencing issues related tounstable housing and poverty. Cultural activities such as beading, knitting, and sewing will help our women heal and the IñuPiphany program will help provide an economic outlet for themselves and their families.

“We are pleased to bolster the indispensable work of these grassroots organizations striving to reduce disparities and increase equity among vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Byron Scott, MD, MBA, Co-Chair of the Fund for Health Equity and Board Director of Direct Relief and Chair of its Medical Advisory Council. “With their deep ties and particular insights into the people and communities they serve, these groups are best suited and most acutely aware of what can make a difference – and it’s a privilege to be able to enable them to do more of it with philanthropic funding that is often difficult to secure within their local communities.”

The awardees were selected by the Fund for Health Equity’s Advisory Council, which includes the following members:

  • Co-Chair Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, 18th U.S. Surgeon General of the United States, Founder Bayou Clinic, Inc.
  • Co-Chair Byron Scott, MD, MBA, Board Director of Direct Relief and Chair of its Medical Advisory Council
  • Martha Dawson, DNP, MSN, R.N., FACHE, President of the National Black Nurses Association, Associate Professor the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Jane Delgado, Ph.D., MS, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health
  • Gail Small, J.D., Head Chief Woman, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe

The grants announced today follow $1.8 million in funding issued by Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity last month, with support from the AbbVie Foundation.  

Direct Relief will announce additional grant awards this year.

ANHC is temporarily closed to the public from February 2024 – May 2024 for renovations to ANHC’s facility.