Philanthropy in Indigenous Culture
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify the similarities in philanthropic behavior among people of different cultural backgrounds.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark E.4 Describe an early example of philanthropy practiced in the indigenous culture.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Trace the historic roots of philanthropy in the nation's history.
      3. Benchmark E.7 Give examples of how indigenous traditions and immigrant traditions shaped philanthropy in the nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.

The purpose of this lesson is to examine the tradition of giving and sharing in Indigenous communities and to learn about philanthropy in other cultures.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will be able to:

  • define philanthropy
  • describe a practice of indigenous giving and sharing.
  • Social Studies text or reference materials related to Native American giving and sharing
  • copies of Native American Giving Graphic Organizer (handout) 
  • Native American Giving and Sharing  (handout)



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    In the book Braiding Sweetgrass, author Robin Wall Kimmerer shares that gift giving in Native American culture involves a responsibility to give back. When we give a gift from nature or from our own time and talent, we increase the value of the gift. When we receive a gift from nature we are obligated to give something back to nature. In contrast, when we purchase something from the store, the obligation ends. 

    "If all the world is a commodity, how poor we grow. When all the world is a gift in motion, how wealthy we become."

  2. Define philanthropy as sharing one's talents or treasure with a community for the good of all. Discuss how that is like the giving concept above.

  3. The graphic organizer handout can help groups compare and contrast the ideas of giving and community in different Native American cultures. They may find information in social studies texts or the other handouts and links above. Be sure to read about different indigenous groups, especially in your area.