The Lannan Literary Awards are a series of awards and literary fellowships given out in various fields by the Lannan Foundation. Established in 1989, the awards are meant "to honor both established and emerging writers whose work is of exceptional quality", according to the foundation. The foundation's awards are lucrative relative to most awards in literature: the 2006 awards for poetry, fiction and nonfiction each came with $150,000, making them among the richest literary prizes in the world.
The awards reflect the philosophy governing the Lannan Foundation, a family foundation established by J. Patrick Lannan, Sr. in 1960. It describes itself as "dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired Native activists in rural indigenous communities."Awards have been made to acclaimed and varied literary figures such as David Foster Wallace, William Gaddis, Lydia Davis, William H. Gass, Steve Erickson and W.S. Merwin. The foundation has also recognized people known as much for their public intellectual activities as for their literary talents, such as Barbara Ehrenreich and Edward Said.
The foundation also gives a "Cultural Freedom Prize" for the stated purpose of recognizing "people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression." Prize winners include Claudia Andujar, Helen Caldicott, Julián Cardona, Elouise P. Cobell, Mahmoud Darwish, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Robert Fisk, Eduardo Galeano, Arundhati Roy, Bryan Stephenson and Cornel West.
The foundation does not accept applications for awards or fellowships. Candidates are suggested anonymously "by a network of writers, literary scholars, publishers, and editors," with the foundation's literary committee making the final determination.The foundation also "provides financial assistance to tribes and nonprofits that serve Native American communities..." For instance, it gave more than $7 million in grants to the Blackfeet Reservation Development Fund from 1998 to 2009, to support litigation on behalf of Native Americans with interests in trust lands. This nonprofit was created by Elouise P. Cobell and her legal team to bring claims against the United States for mismanaging lands held in trust for Native Americans. The Cobell v. Salazar case was filed in 1996 and settled in 2009.
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