August 2015

The Chamiza Foundation: 26 Years of Support for Pueblo Communities


Brian Vallo


Established in 1989 by the late Gifford Phillips and his wife, Joann, the Santa Fe-based Chamiza Foundation continues to operate in the spirit in which it was envisioned; that is, to assist in the continuity and living preservation of New Mexico’s Pueblo Indian communities. With a passion for the evolving arts and cultural traditions of the (then) 19 pueblos, the Phillips family enlisted the guidance of their close friend, Dr. Alfonso Ortiz, a scholar from Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo), who would help them develop a framework for long-term engagement with the pueblos.


Seeking to establish a foundation that was responsive to the real needs of the tribal communities and recognizing that these needs would  best be identified and articulated by Pueblo people themselves, the Phillipses sought out the assistance of others to serve as board members, including Dr. Joe Sando of Jemez Pueblo and Agnes Dill of Laguna and Isleta pueblos.


After informing the pueblos of the new financial resource available for tribal initiatives focused on language revitalization, cultural preservation, youth development and the revitalization of traditional arts, the foundation evaluated the first proposals and grants were awarded. By 2014, the Chamiza Foundation had contributed close to $14 million to the 19 pueblos in support of hundreds of diverse projects. Grantees have also included Native American organizations that provide direct services to Pueblo people, partnerships and collaborations among Pueblo tribes and other special interest groups engaged with Pueblo communities.


Meaningful involvement of Pueblo people in the foundation’s development and grassroots grant making continues to be an essential part of how Chamiza operates. Over the years, the foundation and its board have diligently worked to build relationships and trust with tribal communities, working closely with grantees during funding periods, offering technical guidance and administrative support. On annual field trips to the pueblos, the board has met with administrators and tribal leaders, witnessed projects in progress and interacted with project participants. The foundation has also hosted community dialogues to help evaluate the projects and their impacts. Robust, candid discussions have provided useful information about the communities’ challenges and needs, as well as opportunities and aspirations for growth. After analyzing this information and incorporating many suggestions, Chamiza’s grant making has expanded to support specific needs.


Since then, the foundation has awarded multi-year project grants, as well as long-term grants for tribal initiatives requiring planning and development support. The Keres Children’s Learning Center (KCLC) in Cochiti Pueblo is one such project that Chamiza has supported since its inception. Ten years later, as a direct result of support from the Chamiza Foundation, KCLC has been able to leverage additional support from significant philanthropic organizations.


Last year, both the Southern Pueblos Governors Association and the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council adopted resolutions acknowledging the significant contribution made by the Chamiza Foundation over the past 25 years. This recognition honored the Phillips family and their commitment to the Pueblo people, and acknowledged the importance and success of past and current projects and the dedication of past and current board members.


The current Chamiza Foundation Board of Directors comprises Joann Phillips and her children—James Phillips, Marjorie Phillips Elliott and Alice Phillips Swistel—who work closely with 11 other directors, nine of whom represent Pueblo communities, including the newest member, Trisha Moquino (Cochiti/Ohkay Owingeh/Kewa), cofounder of the KCLC.


Philanthropy is not a new concept to Pueblo people. The inherent values associated with caring for one another, offering and sharing, and making a contribution towards the general welfare of the community remain an integral part of social and cultural cohesion within the pueblos. This sacred principle, which helps ensure the vitality and survival of these communities, is the basis for their engagement with the Chamiza Foundation.



Brian Vallo is from Acoma Pueblo and is a member of the Chamiza Foundation Board of Directors. He is the director of the Indian Arts Research Center at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe.


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