Issue #08 / 2019


NDN Collective and IllumiNative team up for #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth

L-R: Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and CEO of IllumiNative; William Cordery; Edgar Villanueva, Author of Decolonizing Wealth.

Native American History is American History
A Campaign in Partnership with IllumiNative

In a special collaboration for #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth, NDN Collective partnered with IllumiNative, an Indigenous-led organization doing critical narrative change work. Together, we launched a strategic campaign in response to the Trump Administration’s act of erasure at the beginning of November, and asserted our voices as change makers, storytellers and media makers, launching the “Native American History is AmericanHistory” campaign. Friends, partners and allies joined the campaign, posting photos to social media with the campaign message, from Congresswoman Deb Haaland, to Olympic Athlete Billy Mills, to students on college campuses, to Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, a steady ally to Indigenous causes.

In partnership with Kiowa-Choctaw artist Steven Paul Judd, a series of graphics were also released for the campaign, providing a fresh take on Indigenous history, Indigenous people, and our rich contributions to our communities and to the country, not simply as a people of the past, but as multifaceted and dynamic people of the present AND the future. Like this image of a person in outer space– Not the typical way that the masses tend to think of Indigenous and Native people.

John Herrington became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in space. To honor his Chickasaw people, Herrington carried the Chickasaw flag on his thirteen-day trip to space. “When you hear ‘Native American Heritage Month,’ it might evoke images of the past, or a stoic Native standing next to a wolf looking at the moon,” said Steven Paul Judd of this image. “But this year, instead of them looking at the moon, let’s broaden our thinking and instead of a photo of someone looking at the moon, let’s have a photo of someone who actually flew among the moon and stars.”

Thanks to all #NativeAmericanHistoryIsAmericanHistory participants!

Thank you to all across Turtle Island and beyond who supported the #NativeAmericanHistoryIsAmericanHistory campaign with IllumiNative. Thanks to your efforts, we have challenged systematic forms of erasure and have brought more visibility to our past and current issues as Indigenous Peoples.

Check out a collection of the #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth posts on NDN Collective and IllumiNative’s social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). And read more from NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen and IllumiNative Founder and CEO Crystal Echo Hawk in this article in Truth Out.

Read More about NDN Collective’s NAHM Campaign with IllumiNative


Caddo journalist Joe Whittle shares a powerful vision of cultural renewal and decolonization

Allen Pinkham Jr., and his granddaughter Lily, test for leaks, buoyancy, and balance in the shallows of Wallowa Lake, after completion of the first stage of carving the canoe.

Return of Nimiipuu Dugout Canoe Brings Cultural Renewal
A Photo Essay by Joe Whittle

As an organization devoted to building Indigenous power, the NDN Collective seeks to highlight stories of Indigenous resilience, innovation, decolonization and cultural renewal. These are the stories that often take place in the quiet corners of Turtle Island, among committed changemakers and community builders.

Lifting up stories of strength and cultural renewal are not only how we, as Indigenous people, have survived in the past, but persisting to tell stories in this same manner is also how we will continue to thrive and rise into the future. In this photo essay, written and photographed by Caddo journalist Joe Whittle, we have the tremendous privilege of vividly experiencing cultural renewal and the power of decolonization in action.

Here is an excerpt of that story:

Glowing amber in the breaking rays of morning’s first light, a thin cloud of sweetgrass smoke drifted around a circle of people gathered on the shore of Wallowa Lake at sunrise on July 20th, 2018. They were there to participate in a ceremony to honor the completion of the first Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) dugout canoe to float on the waters of the Walwaama Nimiipuu homeland (in what is now Northeast Oregon) since Chief Joseph and the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Tribe were extirpated from there during the Nez Perce War of 1877. The canoe was carved by Nez Perce tribal member Allen Pinkham Junior.

Read More and See All of the Stunning Portraits

NDN Collective Program Updates

NDN Changemaker Fellowship finalists selected

After reviewing hundreds of applications for the NDN Changemaker Fellowship program, we have selected our 20 amazing finalists!  It was difficult selecting finalists from so many outstanding Indigenous leaders from across our Nations, and we extend our deepest thanks to our regional board members and our Final Selection Committee members for their gentle, thoughtful, and intentional decision-making process and dialogue. 

We are working with some outstanding consultants to craft powerfully decolonial curriculum designed to build the power of our Fellows, and are preparing to host them during our first Fellow Convening in January, 2020.  Look for our coming announcement of our 2020 Cohort members!

South Dakota Education Equity Coalition advances education Equity throughout the State

The South Dakota Education Equity Coalition continues to build and advance the work of education equity for Indigenous students in the State of South Dakota. In November, parents and coalition members testified before the Tribal Relations Committee at the State Capitol in Pierre, proposing a bill for charter school legislation that allows for Native people in the state to establish charter schools based on Oceti Sakowin values.

Sarah Pierce, NDN Collective Director of Education Equity, and Cante Heart, NDN Collective Organizer, were featured in a collection of news stories on their work to advance this legislation:

• “New coalition hopes to create public charter schools based on Oceti Sakowin values
• “Charter school legislation in S.D. seen as path to improved outcomes for Native students
• “Native American students left behind by S.D. education system

Complete the SD Education Equity Coalition Interest Form to Learn More
NDN Fund Managing Director Nikki Pieratos Represents NDN Collective at the American Evaluation Association’s Annual Conference

November was an eventful month for NDN Fund. Throughout the month, Nikki Pieratos, Managing Director, shared and learned innovative practices to decolonize data and evaluation, shift our thinking around money to a post-colonial mindset, and open new pathways to capital for Native Nations and Native organizations. 

During the week of November 11th,  Nikki represented NDN Collective at the American Evaluation Association’s annual conference in Minneapolis. The event featured tracts led by the world’s leading Indigenous evaluators, lifting up Indigenous wisdom for decolonizing data and looking at program and project success through a more holistic lens, and incorporating communities into the process for designing intended outcomes. Nikki’s big takeaway from the event was that NDN Collective’s metrics framework (still in progress) is one of the best existing examples of how to plan and assess the work of our entire organizational ecosystem so that it is regenerative and truly answers the question: Did we help Defend, Develop, and Decolonize Indigenous communities?

On November 14th, Nikki had the honor of moderating a fireside chat with Decolonizing Wealth’s Edgar Villanueva (an NDN Collective Board member) at the Minneapolis-based Tiwahe Foundation’s annual gathering. They engaged the largely Native audience on ways to shift the way we conceive of money, engage philanthropy, and share our stories. 

Recent Events Attended by NDN Collective Staff 

L-R: Little Fawn Boland, Chrystel Cornelius, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Michelle Fox, and Michael Johnson.

SOCAP19 Conference
San Francisco, CA

Billed as the “world’s largest gathering of thought leaders and practitioners of impact investing”, this year’s SOCAP19 conference continued the annual trend of increasing the visibility of Indigenous People in both programming and content.  NDN staff were able to present our own session and network with other Indigenous leaders as well as investment managers from around the world. Michelle Fox (NDN Partners Managing Director), Julian Brave NoiseCat (NDN Senior Media Fellow), Michael Johnson (NDN Director of Advancement) and our colleague Chrystel Cornelius, Executive Director of First Nations Oweesta were honored to host a conversation about exciting investment opportunities with Indigenous partners that further just, equitable, and regenerative development for future generations.

In all, there were more than ten Indigenous-led sessions at SOCAP19.  Presentations covered a gamut of investment conversations for the audiences including, Native CDFIs, food sovereignty, environmental protections and climate crisis.

The team was also fortunate to meet and brainstorm with some of Indian Country’s best economic development talent including First Nations Oweesta, Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, Ceiba Legal, LLP, Roanhorse Consulting, First Peoples Worldwide, Social Impact Strategies Group, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, the Native American Rights Fund, Red-Horse Financial Group, Inc. and many others.  The NDN team was also grateful to attend the Indigenous reception where we met with other Indigenous attendees and speakers at the conference and experienced an installation by Dine artist, Remy (who also presented a session on Art for Resistance).

SOCAP continues to be one of the best conferences to educate and meet investment managers from around the world that are interested in new forms of economic development and investment in partnership with Indigenous communities. The NDN team is honored to have presented and engaged with this year’s attendees and we look forward to continuing to advance the collective power of Indigenous Peoples in these economic and investment spaces.

New Members of the NDN Collective Team

Cassandra Begay
NDN Collective Climate Justice Organizer

Cassandra Begay, Diné of the Black Streak Wood People born for Mexican People clan, brings extensive experience in non-profit and transformational organizing, working across the country to protect ancestral lands and elevate Indigenous voices and issues. Cassandra will be developing climate justice strategies and organizing with directly impacted Indigenous communities who are working for climate justice and doing just transition work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Utah State University.

Julian Brave NoiseCat
NDN Collective Senior Media Fellow

Julian Brave NoiseCat is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian and many other publications. He is a correspondent for Real America with Jorge Ramos and contributing editor at Canadian Geographic and has appeared as a commentator on many programs including MSNBC, Marketplace and Democracy Now. Julian grew up in Oakland, California and is a proud member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie.

Edie Clemmons
NDN Collective Sr. Finance Tech

Edie Clemmons, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota, works to support the Finance Team. Clemmons was in the SD National Guard and was the South Dakota Accounting Officer for the National Guard for 34 years. She received numerous awards, locally and nationally for her service. She retired from the NG in 2016. Clemmons has a Bachelor’s degree from University of Iowa, Majoring in Business with an emphasis in Accounting. She is married to her husband Shawn for 33 years and has two children and two granddaughters.

NDN Collective is Hiring!

Director of Evaluation

Reporting to and in partnership with the President & CEO, the Director of Evaluation is responsible for NDN Collective’s monitoring, evaluation, and research components. The Director of Evaluation will contribute to NDN Collective’s information management by advising on the planning, design, and strengthening of program evaluation systems throughout the organization.

Learn more