2018 bushCONNECT Recruiting Partner

We are excited to announce that the Bush Foundation has selected Native Governance Center as a 2018 bushCONNECT recruiting partner!

What is bushCONNECT?

bushConnect logo imagebushCONNECTis a leadership and networking event hosted by the Bush Foundation in partnership with more than 40 organizations from across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Leaders come together for this day-long event to engage in talks, small-group sessions, community conversations, and networking experiences. The Bush Foundation surveyed leaders from across the region, and they overwhelmingly told them that they’d like to develop stronger and more significant connections with other leaders. bushCON is the Foundation’s response to this identified need.

Native Governance Center will serve as a recruiting partner.

We’ll recruit, sponsor, and host a cohort of 25 leaders from our network of Native Nation Rebuilders, Tribal leaders, and grassroots Native leaders who will benefit from attending bushCONN.

If you are a Rebuilder, Tribal leader, or grassroots Native leader, watch for more information on how to apply to join our bushCON cohort!

Cohort members will receive a stipend to cover travel expenses, in addition to pre- and post-conference programming.

“We’re so grateful for the chance to assemble a cohort of Native leaders for bushCON 2018. The recruitment partner opportunity fits directly with our mission: empowering Native leaders to create stronger connections with one another encourages idea sharing and collaboration around strengthening sovereignty and Tribal governance.”

Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, Program Director

Visit bushconnect.org for more information about the event and watch for upcoming information from us about how to apply to join our cohort.

Funding Opportunities for Tribal Communities

Grants Available to Support Public Safety Projects in Indian Country

The U.S. Department of Justice today announced the opening of the grant solicitation period for comprehensive funding to federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and tribal consortia to support public safety, victim services and crime prevention.

The Department’s Fiscal Year 2018 Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or “CTAS,” posts today at https://www.justice.gov/tribal/open-solicitations. The solicitation contains details about available grants and describes how tribes, tribal consortia and Alaskan villages can apply for the funds.

The funding can be used to enhance law enforcement; bolster adult and juvenile justice systems; prevent and control juvenile delinquency; serve native victims of crimes such as child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and elder abuse; and support other efforts to combat crime.

“We’re proud to offer American Indian and Alaska Native communities opportunities to continue to improve public safety, better serve victims of crime, and strengthen criminal justice systems,” said Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. “CTAS projects support Native American women, ensure tribal self-determination, and further our shared goals of safe and secure communities for American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.”

Applications for CTAS are submitted online through the Department’s Grants Management System. Applicants must register with the Grants Management System prior to submitting an application. The application deadline is 9 p.m. EST, March 20, 2018.

For the FY 2018 CTAS, applicants will submit a single application and select from any or all of the nine competitive grant programs referred to as “purpose areas.” This approach allows the Department’s grant-making components to consider the totality of a tribal nation’s overall public safety needs.

The nine purpose areas are:

  • Public Safety and Community Policing
  • Comprehensive Tribal Justice Systems Strategic Planning
  • Justice Systems and Alcohol and Substance Abuse
  • Tribal Justice System Infrastructure Program
  • Violence Against Women Tribal Governments Program
  • Children’s Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities
  • Comprehensive Tribal Victim Assistance Program
  • Juvenile Justice Wellness Courts
  • Tribal Youth Program

In an effort to provide guidance on the Fiscal Year 2018 CTAS, the Department is sponsoring a series of webinars to educate applicants on CTAS application requirements. For details, including how to register for these webinars, visit https://www.justice.gov/tribal/open-solicitations for the webinar schedule.

Additionally, tribes and tribal consortia may also be eligible for non-tribal federal grant programs and are encouraged to explore other funding opportunities, which may be found at DOJ’s Tribal Justice and Safety website at https://www.justice.gov/tribal/open-solicitations or the www.grants.gov website.

CTAS is administered by the Department’s Offices of Justice Programs, Community Oriented Policing Services, and Violence Against Women.

Today’s announcement is part of the DOJ’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.

Native Nation Rebuilder Profile: Josh Flute

Food insecurity is prevalent across Indian Country, and many Tribal citizens lack access to affordable, healthy foods. As a result, they must either purchase groceries from convenience stores or take their dollars off-reservation. Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate is addressing this problem head-on through a new Tribally-run grocery store called Dakota Crossing. Josh Flute, a Cohort 7 Native Nation Rebuilder, is CEO of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Economic Development Corporation and has been heavily involved with the Dakota Crossing project since 2015.

Flute feels that his experience in the Native Nation Rebuilders Program has had a positive impact on his involvement with the project. He states, “Being a Rebuilder has helped open my eyes on how to build our nation up by asserting ourselves. We don’t need a huge, revolutionary investment; Dakota Crossing is just one small incremental change that we’re creating to increase the self-governance and sustainability of our Tribal community.”

The official ribbon cutting ceremony for Dakota Crossing took place in early October. Now that the store is officially open for business, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate citizens can shop for affordable food locally and directly support their Tribal economy in the process.

“Dakota Crossing addresses multiple needs within our community,” Flute explains. “Most importantly, it stimulates competition to create more fair prices in the market. It creates jobs and helps community members access affordable groceries along with staple foods at better prices.”

“Dakota Crossing is just one small incremental change that we’re creating to increase the self-governance and sustainability of our Tribal community.”

– Josh Flute

Photo of Josh Flute

Josh Flute, CEO of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Economic Development Corporation, and Native Nation Rebuilder.

Not only does Dakota Crossing bring healthy food access to Tribal citizens, it also allows Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate to streamline and centralize the food procurement process for multiple Tribal entities. There are currently six food distribution companies that deliver food to Tribal entities, such as the casino and schools. While these companies sell the same products, their prices vary drastically. The opening of Dakota Crossing will change the situation for the better, as the store will serve as a watchdog over the companies and a main hub for food distribution to Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate’s various entities.

Flute sees the Dakota Crossing project as an example of nation building in action: “We’re creating jobs, and we’re creating a new tax revenue stream that’s helping to fund our Tribal programs. Essentially, it allows these programs to become more self-sustaining and increases our ability to self-govern.”

Even though Dakota Crossing is now up and running, Flute’s work on the project won’t end anytime soon. “My work has just begun with this project,” he says. “Being a brand-new business, we are trying to develop our market share and assert ourselves in the market.” In addition to overseeing Dakota Crossing’s operations at a high level, Flute plans to start working on adding a shopping plaza next to the store. The plaza will feature Tribally-run entities such as a coffee shop, 24-hour fitness center, and satellite location of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Diabetes Prevention Center, among others. Like the grocery store, Flute envisions that the shopping plaza project will grow the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate economy and encourage Tribal citizens to spend their money locally.

Native Governance Center and Bush Foundation Announce Ninth Cohort of Native Nation Rebuilders

25 citizens from 12 Tribes join program to strengthen leadership skills, serve Native people

(St. Paul, MN – September 26, 2017) – Native Governance Center and the Bush Foundation are pleased to announce that 25 citizens from 12 of the 23 Native nations overlapping North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota have been selected for the ninth cohort of the Native Nation Rebuilders Program. Rebuilders consist of emerging and existing Native leaders looking to build leadership skills and nation building knowledge. With this newest cohort, 165 Native leaders call themselves Rebuilders.

“One of the most important roles of Native Governance Center is to nurture emerging leaders in Indian Country,” said Wayne Ducheneaux II, executive director of the Native Governance Center. “The key way in which we do that is our Native Nation Rebuilders Program, which creates homegrown jobs and career paths for people to work for, work with, and support Tribes in their efforts to advance governance.”

The Bush Foundation launched the Native Nation Rebuilders Program in 2009 in response to the guidance of Tribal leaders. In early 2016, the Bush Foundation transitioned delivery of the Rebuilders Program to the newly created Native Governance Center, a Native-led nonprofit that delivers nation building support to Tribes.

“Rebuilders have gone on from this program to support nation building projects in their home communities after gaining a deeper understanding of the tenets and strategies that will contribute to the long-term success of their governments, economies and people,” said Rebecca Stratton, Program Director at the Native Governance Center. “They learn about nation building and leadership in a cohort format, allowing them to form supportive relationships that will continue years into the future, and they develop tangible plans for themselves and their nations.”

Rebuilders will convene for four structured sessions during which they will also develop action plans to share knowledge with peers and their respective Tribal governments. The sessions involve partner organizations and individuals with expertise in nation building, organizing, and issues specific to Indian Country. National partners include the Native Nations Institute (nni.arizona.edu) and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (hpaied.org).

The Rebuilders’ names and Tribal affiliations are below and on the Native Governance Center website. The next round of applications for the tenth cohort of Rebuilders will be announced in the summer of 2018.


Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort 9

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (sioux.org)

Jesse Abernathy

Alissa Benoist


Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (fdlrez.com)

Elizabeth Jaakola


Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (llojibwe.org)

Levi Brown


Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation (mhanation.com)

Cesareo Alvarez

Margaret Landin

Sterling Reed

Cory Spotted Bear


Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (millelacsband.com)

Katie Draper

Bradley Harrington


Oglala Sioux Tribe (oglalalakotanation.info)

Darrell Brown Bull

Paulina Fast Wolf

Tamatane I’atala

Peri Pourier


Red Lake Nation (redlakenation.org)

Harvey Roy


Rosebud Sioux Tribe (rosebudsiouxtribe-nsn.gov)

Lauri Bordeaux

Brian Dillon

Florence “Tinka” Duran

Cante Heart

Tori Whipple


Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe (spiritlakenation.com)

Melissa Brady


Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (standingrock.org)

Caleb Dogeagle


Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (tmbci.org)

Jamie Azure

Jona Peltier


Yankton Sioux Tribe (yanktonsiouxtribe.net)

Valeriah Big Eagle

NGC Program Director Rebecca Stratton Named “Native American 40 Under 40”

The Native Governance Center is pleased to announce that its program director, Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, has been named a “Native American 40 Under 40” award recipient by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED).

This prestigious award is bestowed upon individuals under the age of 40 who have made significant contributions in business and their community. As program director for the Native Governance Center, Rebecca’s primary role is to direct the design and implementation of its leadership programs and Tribal engagement strategies.

Visit the NCAIED website to read more about the award and all the recipients.

Rebecca is a member of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), and has served her community in elected positions on the SMSC Gaming Commission and the Gaming Enterprise Board of Directors. Rebecca also worked for the SMSC in Tribal administration for seven years, leading projects such as the Tribal Nations Plaza at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and helping open a Montessori classroom at the Tribal daycare program.

Congratulations, Rebecca!


The Native Governance Center's Celebration of Nation Building

Kim Tilsen-Brave Heart

Facilitator Kim Tilsen-Brave Heart leads attendees through an interactive exercise during the “Rez Café” portion of the conference.


We are inspired and humbled by the conversation and community participation in the Native Governance Center’s first annual Nation Building Celebration. This year’s convening focused on those who inspire and lift up Native nation building through great partnerships in the name of sovereignty and self-determination.

The agenda showcased strong inter-Tribal partnerships throughout our region in the food, wellness and energy sectors. It was a great opportunity for Tribal officials, Native organizations, and others who work in Native communities to network and connect with each other.

We were honored with an opening prayer presented by the Drum Tinta Ottonwe Youth Drum Group from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

MN State Rep. Peggy Flanagan opened our convening with a discussion of the need for cross-sector partnerships and strengthened self-determination. She shared examples of the work the Native American Caucus is doing in the Minnesota Legislature to make sure Native issues are called out and resolved in bills that are presented for debate. She asked Tribal leaders to reach out to the Caucus to highlight issues of concern to their Tribal communities to ensure Tribal voices continue to be heard. She also reminded us why we do the work that we do; while we want to make a difference today, it is also about protecting our future for the generations to come.

Rep. Flanagan was followed by other strong Native women leaders, with a panel led by Crystal Echo Hawk presenting initiatives in Indian Country aimed at improving the lives and strengthening the cultural connections of our children, youth and families. Crystal shared the Healthy Children, Healthy Nations initiative – a partnership between the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Seeds of Native Health, Better Way Foundation, and the Center for Indian Country Development – designed to strengthen Native early childhood development and nutrition efforts in Minnesota. We also heard from Jewell Arcoren, director of Wicoie Nandagikendan Early Childhood Urban Immersion Program, the first indigenous urban preschool immersion program created in Minneapolis, whose mission is to connect young Ojibwe and Dakota children with their Native language and culture which has many benefits to the children and their families; and Barb Fabre, director of the White Earth Child Care/Early Childhood Program, whose mission is to provide high-quality, culturally based child development support, services, outreach and advocacy for children, families, child care providers and community on or near the White Earth Reservation to help their children succeed.

Monday afternoon we learned about the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority (OSPA), an initiative bringing together seven Native nations to create a Tribally-owned power authority. Not only is the project slated to become one of the largest wind power developments in the nation, but it will also create green jobs and stimulate local economies. Native Governance Center board member and Cohort 1 Rebuilder Tracey Zephier facilitated a panel discussion with Oglala Sioux Tribe President Scott Weston, Cheyenne River Tribal Councilman and Cohort 3 Rebuilder Ryman LeBeau, and OSPA general counsel Jonathan Canis.

Chief Judge Lorrie Miner wrapped up the first day with an entertaining and inspirational talk about the Lower Brule Wellness Court, one of many Tribal Healing to Wellness courts in the region offering low-risk offenders the opportunity to take part in a diversion program. Tribes and prosecutors work together to offer alternatives through a “Wellness Court” so that Tribal citizens avoid a felony record and are not prevented from being productive members of their communities down the road due to poor decisions made in their youth.

Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (N.D) kicked off day two with a keynote highlighting positive accomplishments in Indian Country and looking to opportunities in the future. He shared the work of the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY), a policy program of the Aspen Institute founded by Sen. Dorgan upon his retirement from the U.S. Senate. CNAY believes all Native American youth should lead full and healthy lives, have equal access to opportunity, and draw strength from their culture and one another.

Cohort 7 Rebuilder Nikki Pieratos, Project Director for the new Center for Indian Country Development, shared CICD’s strategic priorities in the areas of land use, business development, housing and homeownership, and education in Indian Country. CICD was created to provide leadership for the Federal Reserve’s work and research in Indian Country.

Our final session of the convening was a lively and thought-provoking “Rez Café” session led by Cohort 1 Rebuilder Kim Tilsen-Brave Heart. Participants discussed questions about innovative partnerships, unique Tribal initiatives, resource needs, Tribal priorities, and how the Native Governance Center can be helpful in their work.

We closed our time together with prayers sung by Aaron Lightfeather, a Minneapolis resident and Seine River First Nation citizen who teaches traditional Ojibwe drumming and singing to Native youth in Minneapolis.

Chi-miigwech and Pidamayaye to all who participated. We can’t wait for next year!

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below about your experience at the convening or what you’d like to see included in future events. And if you’d like to help support our work, visit our GiveMN site and give today!


Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin with Minnesota State Representative Peggy Flanagan


Photo of Nikki Pieratos

Cohort 7 Rebuilder and CICD Project Director, Nikki Pieratos speaks on the CICD’s strategic priorities and partnerships.

NGC announces Program Manager, Jayme Davis


The Native Governance Center (NGC) would like to announce the addition of Jayme Davis to our team as Program Manager. Jayme is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a member of Cohort 7 of the Native Nations Rebuilder Program and comes to NGC after most recently working for the Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt, ND as the Tribal and State Grant Director.

We are excited to have Jayme join the team and she will start in the office January 4th, 2017


4,186 Miles and Counting

The Native Governance Center is entering the fall season with no sign of the tempo easing. Our infrastructure continues to take shape. Rebecca Stratton and Lauren Kramer joined the team adding incredible talent to support to the nation building cause. NGC’s board is engaging us in strategic planning. We held a successful launch event in August drawing representatives from 20 of the 23 tribes in the region. A partnership agreement was finalized with the Native Nations Institute so they will continue delivering nation building services in the region. And, we recently announced the selection of 25 remarkable individuals to make up the 8th Cohort of the Native Nations Rebuilders Program. Read the press release announcing Cohort 8.

One of the summer highlights was Wayne’s 4,186-mile road trip to introduce himself and NGC to the tribal leaders in the region. Many of you monitored his travels through the pictures posted on NGC’s Facebook page. I joined him during a couple segments of the trip where we connected with elected leaders, Rebuilders and allies. At milepost 2,786, heading through Red Lake, Wayne and I had lunch with Cohort 1 Rebuilder Sam Strong and Bush Foundation Fellow Floyd “Buck” Jourdain.

Photo of Sam Strong and Buck Jourdain

Sam was updating us on Red Lake Nation’s development activity to serve the Nation’s citizens. Buck was sharing insight to his project as a Bush Fellow. As Buck drew our attention to the power of the drum in native societies, almost simultaneously, Wayne and I were struck by the analogy of the drum to our work.

Any time we hear the drum we stop, listen for the source, and are drawn to it. Like Sam and Buck, our elected leaders, citizens, communities – whether individually or collectively – are responding to the sound of a drum. They want to celebrate, heal, protect what needs protecting, change what needs changing, and provide for the wellbeing and future of their Native nations.

At NGC we are not the source of the beat of the drum but we are drawn to it. We want to be a place for the responders to help expand understanding, exchange knowledge, make connections, and clarify strategies as they work towards the outcomes that matter to their nations.

The best answers to any issue tribes face are those that come from within. NGC doesn’t provide the agenda, we don’t point the way, we don’t tell anyone what to do. Our approach mirrors the sovereignty and self-determination that tribes possess and you find it in our mission statement that “assists Tribal Nations in strengthening their governance systems and their capacities to exercise their sovereignty.”

We might get lost in our nation building jargon from time to time. That is why it is so refreshing to be on the road meeting with leaders like Sam Strong and Buck Jourdain. We look forward to being a partner as you remind us to think of our work in ways that matters most to our heart.

Jaime A. Pinkham (Nez Perce)

Senior Advisor

October 17, 2016


Announcing Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort 8

Native Governance Center and Bush Foundation Announce Eighth Cohort of Native Nation Rebuilders

25 Citizens from 12 Tribes Join Program to Strengthen Skills, Serve Native People

Click Here for Full Press Release

Executive Director Begins Tour of Tribal Nations

NGC Executive Director Wayne Ducheneaux has begun a whirlwind tour that will see him visit the 23 tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota between June 29th and August 11th prior to the Native Governance Center Launch Event August 15th and 16th at Mystic Lake Casino. Wayne says, “I feel it is important to continue the spirit of the work of the Bush Foundation by getting on the ground with tribes to try and assess where we can be of assistance in their missions improving governance.”

Ducheneaux has already had nation visits with the Lower Sioux Indian Community, Shakopee Mdewakaton Sioux Community and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Senior Advisor Jaime Pinkham will participate in some of the visits along the route as well.

Here are the upcoming dates for the tour:

July 8th – Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
July 11th – Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
July 12th – Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
July 18th – Oglala Lakota Nation***
July 19th – Rosebud Sioux Tribe
July 20th – Yankton Sioux Tribe
July 21st – Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
July 22nd – Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
July 25th – MHA Nation
July 26th – Spirit Lake Sioux Community
July 27th – Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
August 2nd – Red Lake Nation
August 3rd – White Earth Nation***
August 4th – Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe ***
August 5th – Bois Forte Band of Chippewa***
August 8th – Grand Portage Band of Chippewa***
August 9th – Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa***
August 10th – Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe***
August 12th – Prairie Island Indian Community***

***denotes tentatively scheduled