“We will continue leaning in”: Nick Tilsen on COVID-19 Response | NDN Collective

Nick Tilsen · May 6, 2020

“We will continue leaning in”: Nick Tilsen on COVID-19 Response

NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen recaps the past month of mobilization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hau Mitakuyapi. Greetings, Relatives.


This past month has been one filled with extraordinary challenges and yet answered with even more extraordinary courage. As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, hitting North America and devastating Indigenous communities, we here at NDN Collective recognized this as a call-to-action– an opportunity to show up for our people, our communities and our movement.

We mobilized quickly, creating a comprehensive, multi-phased COVID-19 response strategy that included grant-making, narrative and truth-telling, capacity-building and mobilizing communities into action. As Tribal and community  leaders throughout the nation began reaching out to us by the dozens, we asked our philanthropic partners to not pull back but instead, step up. In challenging times, we came together, galvanizing a movement to protect our communities while holding on to the vision for radical transformation, which is what we set out to do since the inception of this organization.

We must build up people of color and Indigenous-led philanthropic and movement infrastructure organizations in order to challenge the power structures in this country and invest into the self-determination of the people on the frontlines.

We made a bold decision to keep existing programming going here at NDN Collective, while building a new fund and strategy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. In the past 30 days we have raised over $4 million and deployed over $2.5 million to nearly 100 partners impacting over 200 Indigenous communities. This was possible because of organizers, activists, Tribal leaders, partners, philanthropic collaborators, and straight-up changemakers who were willing to step up in this historic moment.

I have been saying for years: We must build up people of color and Indigenous-led philanthropic and movement infrastructure organizations in order to challenge the power structures in this country and invest into the self-determination of the people on the frontlines– those who are closest to the pain and closest to the problems. When we do so, we will see innovation, courage, and we will begin building a pathway of justice and equity that will eventually lead us all to liberation.

We will continue leaning in, binding together, moving resources and taking action.

The past 30 days have been evidence that organizations like NDN Collective, who have grown out of movements with lived experience in doing this work, can be catalytic. We can stimulate change not only in times of crisis, but on the daily, as we strive to co-create the new world we are fighting for. We are charting a path forward, and there’s nobody else I would rather be in relationship with to do this work than with partners like all of you.

We will continue leaning in, binding together, moving resources and taking action, for the movements we build today will be the same force that creates the change tomorrow and for generations to come. 

Nick Tilsen
Nick Tilsen

Nick Tilsen, President & CEO, is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Tilsen has over 18 years of experience building place-based innovations that have the ability to inform systems change solutions around climate resiliency, sustainable housing and equitable community development. He founded NDN Collective to scale these place-based solutions while building needed philanthropic, social impact investment, capacity and advocacy infrastructure geared towards building the collective power of Indigenous Peoples. Tilsen has received numerous fellowships and awards from Ashoka, Rockefeller Foundation, Bush Foundation and the Social Impact Award from Claremont-Lincoln University. He has an honorary doctorate degree from Sinte Gleska University.

November 2020 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.

Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

Posted 8 months ago NDN Collective Selects Ten Indigenous Radical Imagination Artists from Across Turtle Island
Over the next year, each selected artist will receive a grant up to $50,000 to support their community embedded project that envisions the future world we are striving towards.
Posted 22 hours ago Disrupting Rainbow Capitalism: ‘We will not be commodified or erased.”

Brandi Douglas , Steph Viera

"Commodification of the rainbow flag and Queer culture does little to nothing to benefit those within the 2SLGBTQ+ community itself, nor does it address the violence continually directed towards these relatives."
Posted 1 week ago NDN Collective Launches “LANDBACK U”: A Curriculum on How to Join the Fight to Return Land to Indigenous Hands
LANDBACK U is a free, comprehensive, online learning platform to engage in political education and discussions on topics critical to the Indigenous movement to reclaim land and relationship to land.
Posted 2 weeks ago Keystone XL Terminated: NDN Collective Points to Power of Indigenous Political Pressure
"The end of KXL is an affirmation that persistence works, that intersectional organizing works, and that when we center our efforts in our Indigenous values and in our respect for water, land, and our people, we win."
Posted 2 weeks ago The Sacredness of our 2SLGBTQ+ Relatives Must be Timeless

Brandi Douglas

A Call to Celebrate our 2SLGBTQ+ Relatives 365 Days Out of the Year
Posted 3 weeks ago In Memoriam: Carrying the Hopes and Courage of 215 Children

Sarah Sunshine Manning

"We hold space for the pain in remembrance of all of the babies who were deprived of so much more than a proper burial-- they were deprived of love, of justice, of basic human dignity. "
Posted 3 weeks ago "We call for justice and accountability": NDN Collective Responds to Mass Grave of 215 Indigenous Children in Kamloops
NDN Collective joins the call for continued searches for mass and unmarked graves on all properties of former Indian residential schools across Canada and the United States.
Posted 4 weeks ago “Moving Forward Together for Our Relatives”: MMIW+ 5k Walk/Run in Rapid City Brings Community Together

Brandy Calabaza , Brandi Douglas

NDN Collective, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe co-organize the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives+ 5k Walk Run in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Posted 1 month ago Memo: Mobilizing Climate and Environmental Justice Investments to Indigenous Frontline Communities
NDN Collective's Climate Justice Campaign and the NDN Fund provide memo with guidance to the federal government on how to move resources directly to frontline communities and individuals throughout Indian Country, in response to recently proposed climate justice legislation like the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021 and the American Jobs Plan.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective’s 2021 Radical Imagination Grant Submission Period Now Open
The NDN Collective Radical Imagination Grant will provide 10 Indigenous artists in the United States, U.S. Territories, Canada and Mexico with $50k to radically imagine a new future, better normal, and a more just world for all people and the planet.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Decries Israeli Human Rights Violations & Colonial Violence in Palestine
NDN Collective calls upon the Biden Administration to pull U.S. support for the Israeli policies of apartheid and occupation that are strategically violent and ultimately uphold Israeli aspirations of complete colonization of Palestine.
NDN Collective
317 Main St #1
Rapid City, SD 57701
P: +1 (605) 791-3999
E: info@ndncollective.org
© 2021 NDN Collective. All rights reserved.