Mellon Foundation Grants Local Contexts Start-up Funding


Headshot of Jane Anderson

Jane Anderson
Vice-Chair, Local Contexts; Associate Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies and Global Fellow in the Engelberg Center for Innovation Law and Policy, Law School at New York University.

We are thrilled to announce that the Mellon Foundation has awarded Local Contexts funds to support our initial organizational leadership and operations. This two-year US$2.5 million grant, awarded as a subcontract to Jane Anderson at New York University, will help us to transition from a soft grant funding to an independent, scalable, and sustainable non-profit organization dedicated to Indigenous data sovereignty. 

Since 2010, Local Contexts has been building and testing its value proposition to support Indigenous data sovereignty. We have worked with Indigenous communities to develop Traditional Knowledge and Biocultural Labels and Notices, as well as a range of training resources and implementation guidelines for Communities and institutions. In 2021 we launched the Local Contexts Hub, and in 2022 we registered as a non-profit entity in Navajo Nation. In addition, we are recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit entity by the United States Internal Revenue Service. In consultation with Indigenous leaders, we have created an Indigenous-led governance structure to promote our values of transparency, self-determination and Indigenous leadership.  

Our next goal is to ensure multi-generational technical and community support for our growing user base and ultimately to expand our reach globally. 

With this funding from the Mellon Foundation, we are bringing on a dedicated Executive Director and full-time staff to support the technical development and maintenance of the Local Contexts Hub, and to continue our community engagement in support of the adoption and use of Traditional Knowledge and Biocultural Notices and Labels. We are establishing the operational infrastructure to support our team and we are rolling out our membership and subscriptions functions.   

Our sustainability plan combines Indigenous membership and free participation coupled with a reparations-based institutional subscription participation. 

While Local Contexts will always be free for Indigenous communities, Indigenous community-based organizations, and Indigenous-led projects, the reparative subscription model we are using acknowledges the violence of taking and holding Indigenous culture away from Indigenous communities. All institutions have a responsibility to firstly disclose the location of these collections and secondly to work with Indigenous communities to include Indigenous provenance, protocols, and permissions in the record. Indigenous communities retain their sovereign interests to determine how these collections are to be used into the future.

We look forward to making this next part of the journey with you!