Issue #02 / 2020

Atsa’ Biyaazh: Month of Baby Eagles

Winter in Monument Valley, Arizona. Navajo Nation.

Renewal and Affirming Our Visions for the Future

In the Diné language, the month of February is known as ‘Atsa’ Biyaazh, the month of baby eagles. During this month, baby eagles hatch and the snow begins to melt in the high desert of Dinetah (Diné homelands) marking what many acknowledge as the Diné new year.

As we reflect upon the natural world and our relationship to it, we affirm our commitment to the incredibly important work of stimulating change throughout Indigenous communities while supporting sustainable solutions for the future. In the coming months, which are comprised of legislative sessions throughout the U.S., we are keeping our finger on the pulse, staying engaged, and readying ourselves to defend and protect Indigenous lands, communities and Nations from exploitation and degradation, which often comes in the form of unconstitutional and unjust laws.

In the past year, the NDN Collective fought one particular unconstitutional law in the State of South Dakota, and won, protecting and ensuring our First Amendment right to defend and protect what we hold sacred. We will continue to show up on the ground during this legislative session and after, bringing our trove of strategies, allies, and our unwavering commitment to ensure a just and equitable future for all people and the planet. Beyond fighting unjust legislation, we also remain committed to bringing forth solutions in the legislative arena, co-creating legislative bills that function to empower Indigenous people to determine our own futures, namely, with Senate Bill 66 in the South Dakota Legislature– an act to provide for the creation and funding of Indigenous culture-based schools in the state, based on Oceti Sakowin culture and values.

We exist in a time of movements, and the NDN Collective was built specifically for this purpose. We are honored that you are joining us on this important and necessary path.

Visit the NDN Collective Website to Support and Learn More About our Work

NDN Changemaker Fellows Gather at First Convening

Tohono O’odham Lands

NDN Changemakers, facilitators, and Spanish-English translators at the first convening of NDN Changemaker Fellows.

Changemakers Ground Themselves in Purpose
Tohono O’odham Lands

A Message from Dr. PennElys Droz, Director of the NDN Changemaker Fellowship:

The NDN Changemaker Fellowship opened with its first Fellow Convening in Oracle, Arizona.  We were graciously welcomed by local Tohono O’odham mover and shaker Amy Juan, who offered teachings about the land, people, struggles, and inspirations of the place we were in.  It was wonderful to gather this first cohort of empathic, powerful, and inspiring people from all different Nations together to share food, stories, laughter, some deep challenges, and growth.  We began learning about each other and how NDN Collective can support the leadership and path of each fellow.  We are excited to deepen and build this work at our Indigenous Leadership Training, the second gathering of the Fellows, March 1-5!

Read More About the NDN Changemaker Fellows

NDN Collective Program Updates

SD Education Equity Coalition Presents SB 66 to SD State Legislature

The South Dakota Education Equity Coalition has been working diligently on engaging stakeholders and drafting a bill that would allow for Indigenous self-determination through education in the State of South Dakota. Senate Bill 66 is an act to provide for the creation and funding of Oceti Sakowin community-based schools. Sarah Pierce, NDN Collective Director of Education Equity, and Cante Heart, NDN Collective Organizer, are coalition members who are participating in this important work with other coalition members, including parents, educators and tribal leaders.

South Dakota Education Equity Coalition and NDN Collective staff Amy Sazue, Cante Heart, and Sarah Pierce.

On Thursday, January 30, a hearing of SB 66 took place before the Senate Education Committee. Proponents and opponents of the bill gave testimony, similarly expressing a sentiment that there is an urgent need to address the inequity of Indigenous education in South Dakota. The Senate Education Committee postponed their vote until February 13. This postponement will provide time for members of the SD Education Equity Advisory Committee to work collaboratively with the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education to discuss amendments and additions to SB 66 that will be introduced at the forthcoming Senate Education Committee hearing.

To learn more about the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition, follow the coalition on social media, visit their website, and complete the interest form below:

Complete the SD Education Equity Interest Form to Learn More

Recent Events Attended by NDN Collective Staff

NDN Collective Multimedia Producer Willi White (center) participating on a panel at the first-ever Indigenous Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival. L-R: Moderator Heather Rae, 
Director/Producer; Danis Goulet, Writer/Director; Amanda Kernell, Director/Writer; Willi White, Producer, NDN Collective; Michelle Latimer, Writer/Director/Producer; Shaandiin Tome, Writer/Director.

Sundance Film Festival Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge

NDN Collective Multimedia Producer Willi White attended the first Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival and participated on the panel discussion, “An Indigenous Lens on the Story.”

Via Indian Country Today

“Filmmakers and film enthusiasts make their annual voyage to Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, to screen their films and get the scoop on what’s new in the independent film world. This year was a little bit different with the inaugural Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge. It was the two-day event full of panels, roundtables, and screenings cultivated by Native artists, filmmakers, actors, and industry leaders during the festival’s opening weekend.” 

Read More about the Indigenous Lounge at Indian Country Today
Surdna Foundation
Inclusive Economies Grantee Convening

NDN Fund Managing Director Nikki Pieratos and NDN Collective Vice President Kim Pate at the Surdna Foundation Inclusive Economies Grantee Convening.

Kim Pate, NDN Collective Vice President and Nikki Love, NDN Fund Managing Director, attended the Surdna Foundation Inclusive Economies Grantee Convening in Austin, Texas.

The Inclusive Economies Program fosters the creation of an inclusive and equitable economy in which people of color can maximize their potential as leaders, creators and innovators across sectors. Over 100 grantees, board, and staff inspired and galvanized each other to put learning at the center of each organization’s mission, name our assumptions so we can overcome them, address the roles race, gender, and class have in our current economy and how to measure our efforts to create new pathways for economic mobility, understand whether the metrics and indicators we use are truly aligned with an equitable and inclusive future for our communities, reimagine debt instruments, investments, and underwriting criteria to increase capital access for IPOC, and tell compelling stories. 

With an expertly developed and facilitated program, Kim and Nikki participated in valuable sessions on current Surdna Foundation priorities for the Inclusive Economies Program, evaluation and communications. In a series of breakout sessions, Kim and Nikki delved into two critical areas of focus, Business Start-up & Growth and Equitable Economic Development, to craft strategies for making an even greater impact for people of color in business and economic development. NDN Collective and the NDN Fund look forward to carrying forward this work and deepening the relationships we have with Surdna Foundation and our fellow grantees across the country. 


NDN Collective Staff and Board Gathering

Sunrise in beautiful Tohono O’odham Lands. Tucson, Arizona.

NDN Collective Staff and Board Gathering in O’odham Lands
Tucson, AZ

Last month, the NDN Collective staff and board of directors gathered in Tohono O’odham lands in what is known today as Tucson, Arizona. During the gathering, we were expertly guided by Diné facilitators, Jihan Gearon and Janine Yazzie, both of whom bring years of experience working as grassroots organizers and leaders in the intersecting realms of climate justice and Indigenous rights.

The purpose of this gathering was multifaceted: To ground ourselves in our purpose as a growing, values-driven organization; to connect and strengthen our bonds as an international, multi-tribal team; and to strategize for our solution-focused future. The NDN Collective is a team of Indigenous practitioners, professionals, and organizers situated throughout Turtle Island and surrounding Island Nations. This most recent in-person gathering was powerful and left our entire team with a deepened sense of purpose and connection to this work.

We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to Jihan and Janine, to Amy Juan and the Tohono O’odham community who shared inspiring stories and welcomed NDN so graciously to their lands, to the La Indita restaurant family for sharing your space, your rich history, and mission with us, ​and to the team of natural healers and bodyworkers on-site who extended their gifts to the NDN Collective team. 

Learn More About the NDN Collective Staff and Board of Directors

New Members of the NDN Collective Team

Gaby Strong
NDN Collective Director of Grantmaking

Gaby Strong, NDN Collective Director of Grantmaking, is an enrolled citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate. She brings over 35 years of experience in the tribal, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. Her professional work includes serving as a program officer for the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies in the Arts & Cultures domain, serving as technical assistance specialist with the Education Development Center, advising tribes, schools, and communities with federal funding streams, serving as tribal administrator for Lower Sioux Indian Community, and as program officer with the Grotto Foundation, where she administered key initiatives, including the Native Language Revitalization Initiative and American Indian Family Empowerment Program. 
Gaby’s community and professional experience has centered on Indian education, Indian child welfare, Native history, language and lifeways, leadership, and community development. She is committed to perpetuating and sharing Native cultural knowledge, particularly Native songs, dance, and horse traditions.

TAKE ACTION: Reject Teck Frontier Mine

The Largest Proposed Tar Sands Project

It’s time to take a stand, draw the line, and Reject the Frontier Mine Proposal

Teck Resources wants to build the largest open-pit tar sands mine on Indigenous lands in what is known today as Alberta, Canada. This mine will supply oil to the TransMountain Pipeline, impacting over 29,000 hectares of Boreal Forest, creating 6 megatons of GHG emissions per year.

From Indigenous Climate Action, a leading voice for climate justice in Canada:

Right now, Liberal cabinet ministers are deciding whether to approve or reject the Teck Frontier tar sands mine. The decision is incredibly important — as this government’s first big climate test, it’s a huge indication of whether they will make good on the climate commitments they made during the election, or whether they’ll lock us into a dying fossil fuel industry. With the decision due by the end of February, the next 30 days are critical.

We encourage you to join us in showing solidarity to our relatives at Indigenous Climate Action, who are organizing in defense of impacted Indigenous lands and communities.

Learn More and Take Action Now