McKnight Culture Bearers Fellowship

The latest addition to the McKnight Artist Fellowships program in partnership with Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center.

What is a culture bearer?

Culture Bearers practice intergenerational lifeways and living, evolving cultural art practices that educate, exchange, and share in order to preserve ancestral knowledge. In this work, Culture Bearers hold a direct throughline from ancestors and teachers and center sharing their practice with youth. The role of culture bearer is particularly important within ancestral cultures undergoing transition or experiencing threat from outside and dominizing culture(s). 

Culture Bearers accept a responsibility to share ancestral and cultural knowledge. The practice of being a Culture Bearer is distinct from other individual art practices because the practice is a full life tradition (not separate) and includes intergenerational transmission of learning. While we honor the role of guests within lineages, the intent of this opportunity is to first resource individuals and cultures that are from the cultural and heritage lineage that they practice.

Meet our Culture Bearers

What Are Some Culture Bearer Disciplines?

Culture Bearers’ art forms and cultural traditions include healing practices that connect to earth and to others. They can be:




(ancestral to hip hop)


(Instruments, print, textiles, mixed media)



and more.

About the Fellowship

The McKnight Foundation and the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center of St. Paul have partnered to launch the first-ever McKnight Artist Fellowship for culture bearers. The McKnight Culture Bearers Fellowship will support three culture bearers who practice sacred and healing lifeways and share cultural art practices across generations. Fellows will receive a $25,000 unrestricted award and public recognition in support of their cultural practice. Additionally, fellows receive:

Professional development support, including a stipend to honor mentors/teachers

Participate in a network of culture bearers in Minnesota

Access to Indigenous Roots facilities and resources

Honored and recognized at gathering ceremony

Selection Process

There will be three rounds of reviewing submissions before entering the final harvest or random selection of the final four fellows. For more information on the review process please contact us directly through our contact form or by scheduling a virtual support session below.

First round

This initial round centers on a collective peer review process. In this round, every person who enters a submission will have the option to review another person’s submission along with the additional community members and Culture Bearers (local) who did not apply.

Second and Third Rounds

Following the peer review process, there will be two rounds of community reviews. In these rounds, additional community members and Culture Bearers (local and national) who did not apply will be reviewing submissions.

The submission review process will occur between January to April 2024.

Fellowship Timeline

November 6th

Submissions open

November 22nd & 24th

Info Sessions

Submission Support (Tuesday & Wednesdays from 5p to 7p/ Fridays 1p to 3p)

January 15th, 2024

Submission are due by 11:59p

January to March

Review of submissions

April 2024

Announcement of McKnight Culture Bearer Fellows

Values We’re Holding Up

  • Honor teachers of cultural traditions who keep and preserve ancestral knowledge and practices alive
  • Lift up and recognize cultural bearers whose works extend outward to the community
  • Support the progress of cultural bearers and create space for cultural bearers to level up
  • To celebrate those who have reclaimed their cultural traditions and also
  • To recognize culture bearers who have been able to stay focused on this work even without outside resources
  • To honor cultural bearers who have stood strong in their personal belief in the teachings to spite the negativity from the outside of shame, pressure, and isolation
  • To invest in cultural bearers focused on learning and teaching

We Commit To

  • Hold up self-care throughout our process and fellowship
  • Help create connections and opportunities for cultural bearers
  • Being intentional and validating of culture bearers life’s work


Please see our PDF of Questions to prepare for submission. Submission must include:

1) Your narrative: refer to submission questions 1-3 in PDF & submission portal. (Answers can be written, audio or video. Accepted file types: doc, docx, pdf, mp3, mp4, m4v, Max. file size: 256 MB.)

2) Community Elder Nomination: one nomination from a community elder acknowledging your role as a culture bearer. (Answers can be written, audio or video. Accepted file types: doc, docx, pdf, mp3, mp4, m4v, Max. file size: 256 MB.)

3) Community Mentee Nomination: one nomination from a community youth / young adult / mentee describing their experience learning from you. (Answers can be written, audio or video. Accepted file types: doc, docx, pdf, mp3, mp4, m4v, Max. file size: 256 MB.)

There are two ways to send a submission:

The submission deadline is January 15, 2024, by 11:59pm.

Eligibility Requirements For Culture Bearers Fellowship

  1. You have or maintain Minnesota residency for one year prior to submission and for the duration of the fellowship year.
  2. You have practiced and passed down knowledge for the past 20 years and can demonstrate a sustained body of work that shows commitment to tradition, to sharing knowledge, and artistic excellence.
  3. You have applied to only one McKnight-supported Artist Fellowship within the year. 
  4. You have not been a recipient of a McKnight Artist Fellowship in the last five years. If it has been over five years you will be asked to demonstrate growth since your McKnight supported Artist Fellowship.
  5. You are not staff, board, or immediate family of the McKnight Foundation or Indigenous Roots.
  6. Please let us know if you are enrolled in a full-time academic program.

Support For Your Submission

Schedule to get support for your fellowship submission

(e.g., Get help with gathering work samples)

Register for an informational session for more details about the fellowship.


Wednesday, November 22nd at 5:30p

Indigenous Roots
788 E 7th St
St. Paul


Join the Information session here

Friday, November 24th at 11:00a

Sorry. This form is no longer available.

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