Sundance Institute receives historic endowment for Indigenous talent

Sundance Institute receives historic endowment for Indigenous talent

The Sundance Institute has received the largest grant in the nonprofit’s four-decade history to support its Indigenous talent programs.

The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have donated a $4 million endowment to the Institute’s indigenous program. The endowment, known as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria | Sundance Institute Endowment, will provide support to Indigenous artists from California-based, federally and non-federally recognized tribes. (The Graton Rancheria tribal lands are located in Rohnert Park in Sonoma County, California)

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The endowment will immediately establish a new scholarship for emerging and mid-career Indigenous artists who have a project in development or in production. The scholarship will include a $25,000 grant, annual mentorship from Indigenous program staff, as well as access to creative and professional development opportunities and support to participate in the annual Sundance Film Festival. The gift will also support the creation of scholarships with the Sundance Institute’s digital learning space, Sundance Collab.

FIGR Tribal President Greg Sarris, who attended the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in 1992, facilitated the endowment. “I have witnessed firsthand the incredible support the Institute provides to all artists, but especially indigenous talent,” said Sarris. “We are excited to see the creative breakthroughs of future fellows and fellowship recipients. Supporting and nurturing these artists will pave the way for success for California’s entire Indigenous creative community and allow us to tell our stories.”

The Sundance Indigenous Program began in 1994 and has supported the work of Academy Award winner Taika Waititi and Booking Dogs creatives Sterlin Harjo and Sydney Freeland.

“Much of the history of cinema and the establishment of the American film industry was created in California, but very rarely has it included the people on whose very land it sustained it. That’s why it’s so encouraging to think of all the artists who will benefit from this generous gift,” said Adam Piron, Indigenous program director at the Sundance Institute. “The knock-on effect of the opportunities created through this endowment will be significant.”

At the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, eleven Indigenous artists’ projects were showcased in feature films, shorts, and episodic series.