"It used to be if you were dealing with homelessness or alcoholism, you might get some support from foundations and government grants. But if you're talking about media, arts and culture involving American Indians, people who could help always found that hard to grasp," says Michael Smith, who founded the nonprofit American Indian Film Festival in Seattle in 1975 before moving it to San Francisco two years later. "At one point there were white arts groups getting funded for work on Indian arts projects. But our Indian groups wouldn't be given a chance to do things on our own."
That has changed in recent years, as Indian tribes with lucrative casino enterprises realized that they could give back to their communities by helping fund Indian arts groups like Smith's American Indian Film Festival.
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