15 Native changemakers join Rebuilders Cohort 11

Rebuilder Cante Heart’s Historic Campaign for Rapid City Council

Cohort 9 Rebuilder Cante Heart (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) hopes to get elected to the Rapid City Council in June. She joins four other Native women running for municipal office in Rapid City—an unprecedented number. We sat down with Cante to learn more about her candidacy, what inspires her, and her motivation for seeking public office.

Native Governance Center:  Give us a little information on your background, family, and community.

Cante Heart (pronounced chun-tay): I was raised by a strong Lakota woman. She taught me to always try to help my people in any kind of way possible. Even though I didn’t grow up on the reservation, I was always thinking of ways I could do this. Early on, I was instilled with Lakota values. And we kind of moved around a little bit, but Rapid City and South Dakota have always been home to me.


NGC: Tell us about your candidacy for Rapid City Council (District 5). What inspired you to run?

CH: I’ve always wanted to run, and I’ve always wanted to be a leader for my community. So, what started it is, I wanted to inspire my community to get involved as far as voting, as far as stepping up into leadership positions. And I felt that if the younger generation could see a familiar face, or, you know, could identify with me, then it’d inspire them to get involved, too. And so, basically, I’m doing it for the up-and-coming leaders who need to be recognized and need to be taken seriously, too.


NGC: Why do you feel it’s important to have Native representation in local governments?

CH: It’s important to make running for office and running for leadership positions the new norm for our people. And also, to make voting the new norm. Because we’re the original inhabitants of this land, so we should also have a say in what goes on to shape the future of our community—whether it’s municipal, or statewide, or on a national level. Our population makes up at least a fourth of the city, and every year we bring in so much revenue due to the events that go on, like the Black Hills Powwow and Lakota Nation Invitational. You know, there are all of these surrounding reservations that do their shopping in Rapid City. It’s been home to us forever. Our representation on city council needs to reflect our population. So if our population is ¼ Native, then our city council needs to be, too.


NGC: What advice do you have for other Native women running for public office?

CH: I think they should do what’s in their heart. And to not let anyone’s opinions bring you down. Because if your mind is in it and your heart is in it, then you can never lose. Our ancestors are behind you 100%, and to never take no for an answer. If you have the heart to do it, and the inspiration and the support, you can do anything.


NGC: Do you see any intersections between the Rebuilders program curriculum and your candidacy?

CH: I definitely get most of my inspiration from my Rebuilder family! They inspire me because of everything they’re doing in the community. They set the tone for being a leader. I think the Native Nation Rebuilders leadership program was a huge inspiration, and it’s kind of the foundation that made me want to run.

Cohort 10 Rebuilders Announced

21 citizens from 14 Tribes join program to strengthen leadership skills, serve Native communities

(St. Paul, MN – October 8, 2018)Native Governance Center is pleased to announce that 21 citizens from 14 of the 23 Native nations in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota have been selected for the tenth cohort of the Native Nation Rebuilders program. Rebuilders are emerging and existing Native leaders looking to build leadership skills and nation building knowledge. Over 139 Native leaders have graduated from the program during the past nine years. With the selection of Cohort 10, Rebuilders now represent all 23 Native nations located in the three-state region.

“One of the most important roles of Native Governance Center is to empower leaders from across Indian Country,” said Wayne Ducheneaux II, executive director of Native Governance Center. “The key way in which we do that is through our Native Nation Rebuilders Program, which equips Native leaders with governance knowledge and organizing skills so that they may positively impact their communities.”

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 organization that supports Tribes in strengthening their sovereignty.

“Rebuilders gain a deeper understanding of native nation building and leadership in a cohort format,” said Native Governance Center Program Director Jayme Davis. “This allows them to form supportive relationships that continue years into the future. Armed with an understanding of nation building principles, Rebuilders share this knowledge with their communities and contribute to the long-term success of their governments, economies, and people.”

Rebuilders will come together for four structured sessions during which they will also develop action plans to share knowledge with community members 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, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, and Parrish Digital.

The Cohort 10 Rebuilders’ names and Tribal affiliations are below. The next round of applications for the eleventh cohort of Rebuilders will be announced in the summer of 2019.

Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort 10

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Kathy Aplan

Julie Thorstenson

Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

William Blackwell, Jr.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Benjamin Benoit

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

Rebecca (Agleska) Cohen-Rencountre

Lower Sioux Community

Justice Wabasha

Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation

Thomasina Mandan

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

Valerie Harrington

Oglala Sioux Tribe

Angela Koenen

Dallas Nelson

Kiva Sam

Prairie Island Indian Community

Blake Johnson

Melanie Urich

Red Lake Nation

Charles Dolson

Cherilyn Spears

Deanna StandingCloud

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

Melinda Stade

Spirit Lake Nation

Natasha Gourd

Alicia Gourd-Mackin

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Michael Laverdure

White Earth Nation

Nicole LaFrinier