WATCH VIDEO: INTRODUCING 2018 NIGANI SCHOLARSHIP AWARDEE, HALI’A LOCKE-NACIMENTO, AGE 16 FROM BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII. HALI’A IS CURRENTLY STUDYING MARINE BIOLOGY AND AWAITS HER 2019 FALL ACCEPTANCE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF HER CHOICE. SHE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK TOWARDS ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND USING INDIGENOUS SCIENCE TO PROTECT OR MALAMA AINA, PROTECTING MOTHER EARTH.

The Nigani Scholarship was developed with the belief that now, more than ever, we need a generation of fearless, prepared activists working to build a better world through social, economic and environmental change. Nigani Scholarship awards seek Native students who want to be leaders in ranks of this generation needed to change the world. The scholarship provides resources needed to participate in ITY/Native Like Water programming, with the aim of propelling these Nigani Scholars toward study and careers that create a world with equal opportunity and environmental sustainability. The opportunity is available to students who want to apply any discipline of study, from science, to art, to social fields, toward this goal.


We are currently recruiting applicants for the 2019 programs in San Diego, NorCal, Panama, Jamaica or Hawaii. The Nigani Scholarship covers both travel expenses and program fees. The application deadline for 2019 scholarships is April 25, 2019.

Donate to Nigani Scholarship Fund.

The Inspiration Behind Nigani

Jake Williams, a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi initiates the Nigani Scholarship in honor of his late sister, Rachel Williams

Jake Williams, a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi initiates the Nigani Scholarship in honor of his late sister, Rachel Williams

Nigani means “she/he leads” in the Potawatomi language. This scholarship was created by Jake Williams, a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, in honor of his late sister, Rachel Williams. Rachel had a passion for activism and had hopes of discovering the world through travel, but the full scope of her ambitions were unrealized due to a cancer that claimed her life at a young age. This spirit, however, will be carried forward by Nigani Scholars.  

Jake Williams has built a career in advocacy on fronts including economic justice, LGBTQ equality, environmental sustainability and health equity. He believes that the opportunities he had to discover wide ranging places, people and cultures at an early age were ones that enhanced his ability to succeed. Through the Nigani Scholarship, he seeks to provide native youth with the same type of opportunities for discovery and growth. By learning about who they are and how they relate to the world, Nigani Scholars will be better positioned to change the world for the better.

Application Guidelines

Applications will be graded on merit, but economic need can also be factored into the final selection.

selected Nigani Scholars carry on Rachel Williams’ passion for activism and knowing the world through InterTribal Youth travel education

selected Nigani Scholars carry on Rachel Williams’ passion for activism and knowing the world through InterTribal Youth travel education

This scholarship is available to students ages 12 to 18 who are Native American, Native Hawaiian or Native Alaskan. The tribes to which applicants belong may or may not be state or federally recognized. Applications will be graded on merit, but economic need can also be factored into the final selection.

The merits of an application will be judged on the overall clarity and persuasiveness of the case presented by the applicant. We will look for points that support the expectation that the applicant would be a productive participant in ITY/Native Like Water programs and a promising long-term candidate as an agent of change. Desired attributes include demonstrated interest in creating change (whether through previous experience or an articulation of aspiration), creativity, and demonstrated aptitude in a relevant field of study or pursuit.

To apply for the scholarship, the following materials should be emailed to niganischolarship@gmail.com by April 25th, 2019 at 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern Time.  You should first download the Scholarship Application Form here or request a one by contacting us or emailing niganischolarship@gmail.com.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, a living museum. one of the last old-growth white pine stands in Michigan. these native trees were spared from deforestation and oil drilling by advocates and activists.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, a living museum. one of the last old-growth white pine stands in Michigan. these native trees were spared from deforestation and oil drilling by advocates and activists.


1. A completed Intertribal Youth/Native Like water registration form. Under the “Programs” menu on nativelikewater.org, you can find or request the form for the program in which you seek to participate.

2. A completed Nigani Scholarship form (available via Google Drive here).

3. A supporting essay or video (described on the scholarship form).

4. One letter of recommendation (described on the scholarship form).

Applicants may be asked to participate in a brief interview via phone or video (FaceTime, Skype, etc). If a resource offered by the tribe to which an applicant belongs can cover the participation costs of an ITY/Native Like Water program, we ask that those resources be utilized. The Nigani Scholarship can be awarded to provide the remaining balance. Questions regarding the scholarship can be sent to niganischolarship@gmail.com.

Donate to the Nigani Scholarship Fund
2018 nigani Inaugural Scholarship Recipient, Hali’a Locke-Nacimento  feeling comfortable in Environmental Indigenous science.

2018 nigani Inaugural Scholarship Recipient, Hali’a Locke-Nacimento feeling comfortable in Environmental Indigenous science.