Collage of persons with disabilities and people of different ages, ethnicities and races doing research and learning.
Broadening Participation in STEM

Supporting Tribal Nations in STEM

The U.S. National Science Foundation respects the sovereignty and self-governance of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations; the agency is committed to sustained and meaningful consultation with tribal nations as it carries out its mission. NSF has invested in the STEM instructional and research capacity of tribal colleges and universities since their establishment over 50 years ago.

This page highlights NSF programs that are especially suitable for tribal-led proposals and the ways that NSF is engaging with tribal nations.

Students and faculty and Navajo Technical University work on electrochemical detection techniques under an NSF grant.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Tribal Colleges and Universities Program

A Native Alaskan male student doing an experiment with a glass beaker and dropper.
A student from McGrath, Alaska, takes a measurement during a science lab at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. NSF's Tribal College and University Program helps native and rural Alaskans succeed in college and pursue careers in STEM.

Credit: Todd Paris, University of Alaska Fairbanks

The Tribal Colleges and Universities Program provides awards to federally recognized tribal colleges and universities and eligible Alaska Native- and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions. It aims to increase Native individuals' participation in STEM careers by expanding the breadth and depth of STEM programs at eligible institutions and facilitating the development of a strong STEM enterprise in these institutions' service areas.

The program supports transformative capacity-building or community engagement projects through several strands:

ICE-TI projects support designing and implementing comprehensive institutional advances in STEM education and research capacity at eligible institutions.

TSIP projects support the attainment of a short-term, well-defined goal to improve the quality of STEM education.

SGR grants support research studies that further the scholarly activity of individual faculty members.

These partnerships support collaborations led by tribal colleges and universities that involve non-tribal institutions of higher education. With these projects, other NSF programs support the work of the non-tribal collaborating institutions.

These centers build upon the STEM capacity of tribal colleges and universities by positioning their faculty and students as intellectual partners to address STEM needs or aspirations of the community they serve.

TSETS supports K-12 STEM teachers in tribal colleges and universities' communities to increase their content knowledge of STEM disciplines and enhance their expertise in sharing that knowledge with students, colleagues and community members.

CHAI supports projects at eligible institutions to upgrade the cyberinfrastructure necessary to conduct, expand, manage and administer STEM research and education programs.

Pre-TI supports activities that prepare an institution for implementation-level projects. Examples of supported activities include completing an assessment of an institution's current STEM instructional capacity or engaging in conversations necessary to formulate a shared vision of what that capacity should be and how to achieve it.

Arctic Community Engagement Program

Given the deep knowledge held by local and Indigenous residents in the Arctic, NSF recognizes the importance of collaboration with Arctic residents and welcomes collaborations that improve NSF-funded research.

The Arctic Community Engagement Program encourages the following types of collaborations:

  • Research at sites near local and Indigenous communities.
  • Community engagement and outreach.
  • Developing the next generation of researchers and Indigenous scholars.
  • Co-producing Indigenous knowledge to address shared research questions, pursue shared methodologies, and agree upon appropriate outreach and data sharing activities.

Additional funding opportunities to support the co-production of knowledge and include Indigenous people and organizations in Arctic research can be found on NSF’s Office of Polar Programs page.

Alaskan elementary school students participating in an ice and snow observatory program.
Credit: Photo by Martin Jeffries, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Elementary students learn how to measure snow depth and temperature and how to take snow samples through the Alaska Lake Ice and Snow Observatory Network program, a partnership between the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and the K-12 education community.

Other NSF programs that support tribal nations

American Indian graduate in a field removing invasive plants.
Credit: Photo from ATE Centers Impact 2008-2010 (
The Northwest Center for Sustainable Resources, at Chemeketa Community College, develops natural resource curriculum materials used in programs that educate advanced technicians and students in natural resources and environmental majors.

The following programs focus on equity in leadership, development and impact and support many tribal-led awards or are especially suitable for tribal-led proposals:

Additional programs that encourage submissions from tribes include:

NSF tribal engagement

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan is committed to improving accessibility to NSF's tribal programs and expanding NSF's reach to tribal nations. NSF engages with tribes whenever tribal interests or resources are potentially impacted as a result of proposed NSF funding; this activity is part of NSF's responsibilities under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. 

In compliance with the Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships, NSF has conducted a series of listening sessions and hosted a virtual town hall and a virtual room, which can be found at

In 2021, NSF developed and began implementing the Action Plan of the National Science Foundation to Enhance Tribal Consultation, which reflected verbal and written comments from tribal nations and members of tribes.