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Mary Annette Pember

The Bush Foundation announced the 2022 Bush Fellows in May.

The 24 recipients of the prestigious award were chosen from a group of 468 applicants. Six of the winners are Indigenous.

The Foundation chooses fellows from communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

Fellows receive up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue education and learning experiences that help them develop skills and relationships to foster large-scale change within their communities and region.

Celebrating its 60th year, the organization has supported more than 2,400 people with fellowships in which recipients have the flexibility to define what they need to become more effective and equitable leaders. Fellows can use the funding to pursue education, leadership training, networking and mentorship.

The rigorous selection process takes place over a span of six months involving four rounds of interviews according to Damon Shoholm, grantmaking director for the Foundation.

“Rather than a measure of the genius of ideas that people present, the selection process helps determine if the applicant is prepared to step into this opportunity,” Shoholm said.

The Bush Fellowship offers people a chance to build on individual leadership. As part of that effort, applicants are expected to include a plan of self-care.

“We want people to do a personal assessment and build a practice of self-care that they can keep with them in the future,” Sholom said.

“Self-care in this context is not about just going to a spa; it’s a way to really think about what is needed for Fellows to remain engaged and sustained in their work.”

Here are the six Indigenous Bush Fellows listed in alphabetical order:

Rebecca Dunlap of the Fond du Lac Ojibwe tribe is Bush Fellowship winner. Photo courtesy The Bush Foundation.

Rebekah Dunlap of the Fond du Lac band of Ojibwe lives in Cloquet, Minnesota. Dunlap, a nurse, who just earned her Ph.D. in midwifery is now working on obtaining her licensure as a midwife and lactation consultant.

Her dream is to create the first-ever birth center on tribal lands. She hopes to integrate the birthing work with her Anishinaabe traditional teachings.

“I want to offer out-of-hospital options for Native people,” Dunlap said.

In her former work as a doula, Dunlap was saddened by what she describes as inequitable treatment of Native women by White male health care providers.

“That experience drove me to become a provider for Native people who are pregnant and birthing,” she said.

“I’m also driven by our high maternal mortality rates.”

Dunlap plans to include time with tribal elders and sitting in ceremony as part of her self-care plan.

“My big goal is to get back to some of our first teachings,” she said.

Erin Griffin, a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate is a 2022  Bush Fellow.  Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation.

Erin Griffin of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate envisions Makoce ataya Dakota Oyate kin Dakota iapi kte, a future where the Dakota Oyate will speak the Dakota language everywhere. She lives in Sisseton, North Dakota.

From an early age, Griffin wanted to understand and speak Dakota but found it difficult to find effective learning strategies and opportunities to use what she had learned. She has dedicated much of her work and passion to creating spaces for her community to learn the Dakota language and culture. Now, to create even greater change, she knows it is important to establish supportive places for people, especially women, to speak Dakota. To be a leader of this movement, she will finish her doctoral degree in Indigenous language and culture revitalization, increase her proficiency in the Dakota language, and create intentional moments for rest and rejuvenation.

Bradley Harrington of the Milles Lac Band of Ojibwe has been awarded a Bush Fellowship. Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation.

Bradley Harrington (Nazhike-awaasang) of the Milles Lacs Band of Ojibwe envisions pairing technology with Anishinaabe culture as a way to help reinvigorate traditional knowledge, culture and history. He lives in Onamia, Minnesota.

Harrington wants tribal nations to have access to the tools and spaces they need to create and share culturally specific digital resources. He sees technology as a way to preserve and more easily share the knowledge of elders. He also sees opportunities for Native youth to thrive in a digital world.

To lead this change, Harrington will pursue advanced training in technology and organizational leadership.

“What excites me is that the Bush Foundation was willing to give this amount of resources to somebody like me,” he said.

Harrington grew up on the Milles Lacs reservation. He spent years struggling with addiction, landing in prison and undergoing treatment.

“They (the Bush Foundation) saw something in me that maybe I don’t see yet,” he said.

“But they are willing to help me lift myself higher and help me to be able to build others up as well.

Harrington will also carve out time to spend with tribal elders as well as travel to other Anishinaabe communities to immerse himself in their language, culture and history.

Shirley Nordrum, citizen of the Red Lake Nation won a 2022 Bush Fellowship. Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation.

Shirley Nordrum of the Red Lake Nation developed the environmental program for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and served as the tribe’s environmental director for nearly 19 years.

Nordrum was also co-founder of the Leech Lake Traditional Foods movement where she helped increase the amount of locally grown and harvested foods.

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Nordrum plans to pursue a master’s degree in environmental stewardship and create curriculum at the college level that will allow her to share her traditional knowledge.

“I want to blend traditional ecological knowledge with academic Western science,” she said.

Nordrum also wants to build and develop a network of Anishinaabe people and allies to discuss actions individuals or a group should take to help protect and preserve the land and resources.

“It’s really time for Indigenous people to step forward and share what we know and be active on the land again,” she said.

A lifelong asthmatic, Nordrum plans to study qigong, a health practice developed in China that includes physical exercises and regulation of the mind, breathe and posture.

Tashina Banks Rama of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe won a 2022 Bush Fellowship. Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation.

Tashina Banks Rama of the Oglala Lakota and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe tribes is vice president of Red Cloud Indian School, a former boarding school on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota where she oversees a truth and healing initiative aimed at addressing generational harm by boarding schools.

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Rama hopes to assist in the community’s healing by sharing boarding school stories, history and records. This will be done in the context of Lakota worldview that will help propel positive change.

Although she was surprised by the Foundation’s rigorous process for choosing fellows, she noted that it helped her develop a very clear personal vision for her work and life.

“It (the process) forced me to dig into deep areas, thinking and reflecting on my life and intentions,” she said. “It really was an amazing process.”

Rama plans to continue with her nightly studies to learn the Lakota language as well as tribal origin stories.

“I hope to unlock within the language, the skills to amplify our vision for ourselves and the community,” she said.

“Through this work I’m hoping to walk into difficult conversations and be at the table with organizations in order to talk about reparations,” Rama added.

As far as a self-care plan, Rama will begin fitness training in the small gym at Red Cloud school with the help of a trainer.

Rama’s home is crowded between her and her husband’s blended family so there is little space to work at home, a problem during the pandemic. Currently, when she works at home, it’s in her bedroom.

“I’m hoping to reclaim our bedroom space and create a home office in the garage,’ she said.

Janice Richards of the Oglala Lakota Tribe was awarded a 2022 Bush Fellowship. Photo courtesy of the Bush Foundation

Janice Richards of the Oglala Sioux tribe was in disbelief when she received the letter informing her she won the Fellowship.

“I ran into my kitchen, burned some sage and said a prayer,” said Richards who lives in Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

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During her 30 years as director of the Head Start program at Oglala Lakota College, Richards saw first-hand that health and wellness resources for children and families were limited. Lack of connection to language and culture, she realized and post-traumatic stress contribute to health disparities.

Richards was raised by her grandmother, a fluent Lakota language speaker. “In order to communicate with her I had to learn the language too,” she said.

Richard’s grandmother was also very traditional.

“She told me never to forget your language, never forget where you came from. So I’ve always held that close to my heart,” Richards said.

Language, ceremony and culture are essential to well-being according to Richards.

“Our children should be immersed in the language and ceremonies from the very beginning, “ she said

As part of her Fellowship program, she plans to open a child and family wellness center called the Circle of Life in the community. In preparation for achieving her vision she is pursuing a master’s degree in administration with a specialization in organizational leadership at the University of South Dakota

The Fellowship means she will have funding for books, fees and travel associated with her education.

“It’s going to be a big load off my mind,” Richards said.

Her ambitious self-care plan includes visiting Carlisle Indian school which her grandfather attended. Richards’ mother shared stories with her about his time at the school and the trauma he experienced.

“I want to travel to Carlisle and step into my own trauma healing,” she said.

Richards also plans to train to be a certified yoga instructor in order to share those skills with the community.

“Yoga is about self-reflection, working within your mind, body and spirit; the beliefs are very similar to the Lakota worldview which is all about balance,” she said.

Read about all the Fellows here.

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