Language Preservation: Pendleton and First Nations Development Institute

A New Partnership

Logo for First Nations Development Institute

Pendleton has maintained a longstanding connection with the Native American community since our founding over a century ago. In 2023, Pendleton committed to provide yearly grants to two nonprofits that support Native American language preservation and help strengthen Native Americans in their journey to serve the community as healthcare professionals.

One of the two nonprofits to receive donations is First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), which invests in Native communities’ ability to promote their economies, nurture their young people, strengthen their institutions and assets, and rebuild their Native food systems. Pendleton has earmarked donations to their Native Language Immersion Initiative.

Support for the new partnerships will be accomplished through donations generated by sales of all merchandise that uses the Chief Joseph design, including blankets, apparel, accessories, home goods, and any collaborative or licensed products.

A Chief Joseph blanket on the loom in Pendleton, Oregon.

CHIEF JOSEPH: First produced in the 1920s, the Chief Joseph blanket is one of the oldest ongoing blankets woven by Pendleton Woolen Mills. The pattern celebrates the heroism of the great Nez Perce leader with a balanced design of arrowheads pointing in all directions of Mother Earth. Chief Joseph, known by his people as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder Coming Up Over the Land From the Water), assumed his role as Chief in 1877.  

See products here: Chief Joseph

First Nations Development Institute’s Language Immersion Initiative

First Nations launched the Native Language Immersion Initiative in 2017 to stem the loss of Indigenous languages and cultures, to support new generations of Native American language speakers, and help Native communities establish infrastructure and models for Native language immersion programs that may be replicated throughout Indian Country. The initiative supports programs that provide multiple cultural, social and economic benefits that can be life changing to Native American communities.

As First Nations explains: Language is a vital asset for Native people and communities. It defines who we are, where we come from, and the value systems that in many ways cannot be translated into English. To stem the loss of Indigenous languages and cultures, the Native Language Immersion Initiative supports new generations of Native American language speakers, and helps Native communities establish infrastructure and models for Native language immersion programs.

Michael E. Roberts, President and CEO of First Nations Development Institute, said the partnership will raise valuable support and awareness surrounding Native language retention. “Pendleton Woolen Mills has stepped forward where the private philanthropic community has repeatedly failed to invest – in the important work of Native language preservation and revitalization. Keeping Native languages alive is imperative to the passing down of Native ways. The commitment by Pendleton is an investment in the future, health, and strength of Native communities.”

Through mid-year 2022, First Nations has successfully managed 2,702 grants totaling $54.7 million to Native American projects and organizations in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territory American Samoa. As 2022’s most highly rated American Indian nonprofit in the nation, First Nations again earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, the highest level of recognition offered.
For 11 years in a row, First Nations has received the top 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator.

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Learn More about Pendleton’s Partnerships

This new partnership will join Pendleton’s philanthropic efforts with: 

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