‘It’s allowing us to write a new book’: Alaska Native Heritage Center receives multimillion-dollar gift

Coming from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett
(Taylor Clark)
Updated: Jun. 28, 2021 at 7:25 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The pandemic was hard for businesses across the board. At the Alaska Native Heritage Center, President and CEO Emily Edenshaw said that the lack of tourists put them back about $1 million. Those are hard times they can start to look past thanks to a very hefty donation from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.

$2.7 billion came right out of their pockets and into the funds of 286 nonprofits across the country. Edenshaw said the Heritage Center is one of them. She wouldn’t disclose exactly how much they will be receiving out of respect to the donors but said it was a multimillion-dollar gift.

For those unaware, MacKenzie Scott is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife. She recently explained why she and Jewett were making the donation in a blog post.

Edenshaw explained that the donation is a gift, and has no restrictions on how the Center must use the money like many grants and other aids do.

“This is saying, ‘you know what’s best for your community. Let’s support the work that you’re already doing,’” she said.

She said the money would allow the Heritage Center to grow and expand in ways they couldn’t even think about before.

Right now, she said they’re just beginning to figure out what to do with the money and don’t have any set plans yet.

“It’s allowing us to have conversations — very dreamy conversations — that we’ve never had before,” she said.

Part of Scott’s blog post reads that, “Because community-centered service is such a powerful catalyst and multiplier, we spent the first quarter of 2021 identifying and evaluating equity-oriented non-profit teams working in areas that have been neglected.”

Edenshaw expressed that the Heritage Center falls into that category.

“I would say that oftentimes the Heritage Center is distilled down to we’re just a tourism entity, or just this, or just that,” she said. “When in reality, we’re doing education programming, we’re partnering with organizations really across the country to do great work.”

Edenshaw said the size of the donation and the fact that they were just given the money speaks volumes about Scott and Jewett’s gift. She said especially when Native American organizations receive less than one percent of all grant money in the country.

Now, coming out of hard times, she said the gift means a new beginning for the Heritage Center.

“This doesn’t allow us to write a new chapter. It’s really allowing us to write a new book,” she said.

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