Native Forward has been empowering Native scholars for over 50 years, and we want to mark this momentous occasion by honoring and celebrating our legacy.

Founded on the belief that all Native people deserve higher education; the legacy of our founders continues today and has grown to become the premier national resource for funding that continues to empower generations of Native leaders across all sectors.

This historic anniversary event will honor the legacy that began in 1969. This special evening is dedicated to our founders, inaugural Hall of Fame inductees, and those who continue to make impacts in and for Indian Country.


Reception, Silent Auction, Dinner, Live Music, and Cocktails

DATE: Wednesday, February 22, 2023

LOCATION: Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., Fourth Street & Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20560

TIME: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. E.T.



Throughout our 50-year history, Native Forward has empowered over 20,000 students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states by providing scholarship dollars and support for services for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

Our collective story is woven together from a diverse fabric of cultures, customs, and histories. The exchange of ideas and knowledge enriches our shared experiences from one generation to the next.

We are all part of contributing to that story and with each Native perspective and journey, the next chapter will evolve and grow.

We believe higher education deepens our transformative impact on every part of society. Knowledge and experience are powerful tools that can advance and preserve our way of life.

Native Forward Scholars Fund is the largest direct scholarship provider to Native students in the U.S. We award approximately $15 million in scholarships annually and have awarded over $350 million since our inception.

Throughout our 50-year history, Native Forward Scholars Fund has empowered over 20,000 students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states by providing scholarship dollars and support services for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

By learning from the past, we are creating our own brilliant future.

Honoring Our Founders

A lot of times things like this turned into a one-time offering. Instead, they built an organization with the capacity to grow and acquire more funding to provide more opportunities. I really think Bennett had a lot to do with that.”

Without an education, you can only go so far. Whether you choose formal education, technical training, or learning a trade, education will prepare you for life."

Robert Bennett

One of the co-founders of what today is known as Native Forward Scholars Fund was Robert L. Bennett (Oneida). Bennett was born on the Oneida Indian Reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1912. He attended Haskell Institute in Kansas before he studied law at Southwestern University Law School in Washington D.C., where he earned his law degree in 1941. Much of his legal work supported Native land claims. For this work, he was awarded the Indian Achievement Award in 1962 and the Outstanding American Indian Citizen Award in 1966. His commitment and work representing American Indians caught the attention of many including President Lyndon B. Johnson. Bennett was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II.

John Rainer

One of the co-founders of what today is known as Native Forward Scholars Fund was John C. Rainer (Taos Pueblo). Rainer was born on the Taos Pueblo in Northern New Mexico in 1913. He attended the University of Redlands in California where he received his bachelor’s in education in 1938. He also earned his master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Southern California. Rainer was appointed by President Richard M. Nixon to the National Council on Indian Opportunity; was executive director and later served as vice president and treasurer for the National Congress of American Indians and was chairman of the All Indian Pueblo Council. Rainer was part of the Washington, D.C. Taos Pueblo delegation for the return of Blue Lake.


Silent Auction Items

  • All-Inclusive Resort Stay – Palm Island Resort, The Grenadines. Value: $3,000 Details: Valid for up to two rooms, double occupancy. The winner is responsible for airfare and an all-inclusive supplement of $140+ tax/service, per person, per night. (Additional peak season surcharge of $100 per person, per night, applies for stays from Dec. 21 – Apr. 15.)
  • All-Inclusive Resort Stay – Hammock Cove Resort & Spa, Antigua; Value $3,800
    Details: Enjoy seven nights of romantic waterfront resort accommodations! Valid for two villas, double occupancy. The winner is responsible for airfare & all-inclusive supplement of $250+tax/service per person/per night.
  • Bethany Yellowtail (Crow Tribe) – Matriarch Silk Scarf; Value $165
  • Maka Monture (Tlingit and Mohawk) – Circular Alaska Native harvested sealskin earrings tethered with glass beads; Value $325 (set on silver hypoallergenic silver-plated brass ear wires) & Diamond shaped Alaska Native harvested sealskin earrings tethered with glass beads; Value $265 (set on silver hypoallergenic silver-plated brass ear wires).
  • Darrick Tsosie (Jemez Pueblo) – Parrot pottery hand painted with natural earth materials; Value $375
  • Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation) – Flight of Fancy – Limited Edition Canvas Giclee – 24X36; Value $525
  • Regina Shebala – Moccasins
  • Darlene Cronin – Poem

Live Auction Items

  • Walter Lamar – “Contrast” 3’ x 4’ original framed black and white photograph; Value $3,500
    This beautiful piece is currently on display in the lobby of the Department of Agriculture. Item description: Contrast

    “In 1967, my father Newton Lamar was the photographer for the Navajo Nation – he shot with a Nikon camera and upon release of the Nikkor 24mm he immediately purchased it. In March 2016 as no DAPL protesters converged on Washington, D.C., set lodges on the mall, and prepared to march against the pipeline, I visited the mall late one evening. Shooting through my Dad’s lens gives me the feeling of seeing things through his photographic eye. After setting my tripod and looking through the lens, I was sure this would be the shot he would have taken. He loved lots of contrast in his photos, the blacker the blacks, and whiter the whites, all the better. This photo represents “contrast” with the teepee set in front of the monolithic monument and also presents the contrast my Dad liked. The starburst of the lights comes from the older model of lens.” 

  • Sky-Eagle Collection Package – Value: $695
    • “Warrior” Blanket, collaboration with Dante Biss-Grayson of the Sky-Eagle Collection and 8Generation. Retail: $220
    • “Sky-Ties” Custom Print Silk Ties, extra long for ease of tying. Retail: $80
    • “Sky-Scarf” Custom Print Silk Scarf, Size 43”42”; Retail: $95
    • 𝕯ü𝖆-𝕭𝖑ä𝖘 𝕯𝖊𝖘𝖎𝖌𝖓𝖘” Design By Sky-Eagle Collection with hard to find lace. Haute Design, limited edition, and most likely will never be restocked, very luxurious and with pockets. Each Item is unique and slight imperfections can add to the character, uniqueness and overall beauty.
      Material: Embroidery Flower Lace Inner layer Cavalli Silk
      Length: Inner Layer 28” Lace Overlay 41” Expandable
      Waist: Small to 2XL Waist 26”to 46”
      Retail: $300


The 50th Anniversary Celebration: Honoring Our Legacy Gala is a premier fundraising event that benefits Native Forward Scholars Fund.  Proceeds from the event support our Native scholars through scholarships, culturally relevant student support, and transformational programming. Your sponsorship today will ensure that we can keep the vision and continue our work of empowering Native scholars across the nation through education. We have increased graduation rates for undergraduate students to 69%, and graduate students to 95%, compared to the national average of 41% for Native students. Native Forward is offering you coveted opportunities to sponsor our 50th Anniversary Gala. By having a presence at our exclusive event, you have the opportunity to build relationships and connect with your audience in a very unique way. Our partnership will showcase a positive image of your brand by highlighting your support of education, and advocating for the forward movement of Indian Country, all while benefiting your brand and giving you access to a rare marketplace. 

Please see the following sponsorship packet for more details:

Click to Download Sponsorship Packet