2022 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows

In 2019, First Nations, in partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation, launched the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship to honor and support a select cohort of fellows as they work to further Indigenous knowledge creation, dissemination and change in Indigenous communities.

The Fellowship continues with the selection of 10 new Fellows for the 2022 Cohort – each one chosen for their work in their knowledge fields, as well as their contribution to this growing Fellowship.

Selected Fellows receive a monetary award of $75,000 and access to additional resources for training and professional development. They also commit to meeting regularly throughout the first year of the fellowship to share and grow their knowledge, projects, and drive to achieve their personal and community goals.

The 2022 cohort of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows was selected by an Indigenous advisory committee. Ten candidates were selected from over 300 applicants in a competitive, two-application, peer-reviewed process.

Learn more about the fellows below, and check back for updates as we share news of their Fellowship projects, accomplishments, and impact they’re making on the health and futures of their Native communities.

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2022 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows

Bernadette Demientieff, Tribal Member of Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government

Bernadette Demientieff

Knowledge Field: Land, Water and Animal Protector/ Mother
Demientieff will expand the work of protecting sacred sites and help people understand the issues facing the Gwich’in Nation, while investing in the next generation of Gwich’in leaders. Through the fellowship, she will engage young Gwich’in people, creating spaces for young Indigenous people to be on the land together, in connection with Gwich’in ancestors, as an essential part of building an inclusive, resilient, and effective movement. This work will include developing opportunities for community education and youth engagement.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“This opportunity proves that using your voice makes a difference and that people do listen and they do care. It means we can expand the Indigenous voices and share the direction of our elders. Using our voice is one of the most powerful tools we have and we must always use it, even if it means we stand alone. As long as we know in our hearts that we are on the right side of history, then we keep fighting for generations to come, just as our ancestors fought for us to be here. We must acknowledge our identity and be proud of who we are. This fellowship also means that  we can focus more on our youth. They are the future, and they will one day be our leaders. We must guide them in the right way, and in a good way, but never compromise our position.”

Jessica Denny, Cheesh'na Tribe

Jessica Denny

Knowledge Field: Ahtna Language Specialist

Denny will further efforts toward becoming a language warrior, building partnerships, and creating a place to gather and share the Ahtna language. Her vision is to become an Ahtna scholar and expert of the language; create a collection of high-quality Ahtna sound files and videos; design a program that can be utilized virtually and in Ahtna language retreats; and create an inclusive Ahtna language community through the hosting of an annual Ahtna Athabascan Language Symposium.

 What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“It is an honor and exceptional opportunity to receive the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship. It means a great deal to me to have the support to continue my work with the Ahtna Athabscan Language and to create space for land-based language work. I am both thankful and grateful for the fellowship and for the opportunity to work on the Ahtna Language project, along with building relationships with the 2022 cohort and previous cohorts.”

 

Mariah Gladstone, Blackfeet, Cherokee

Mariah Gladstone

Knowledge Field: Food Systems Advocate

Gladstone will continue sharing information about Indigenous foods through the expansion of her website, Indigikitchen, and its library of Native recipes, while adding information about other parts of Native food systems, including sustainable planting, preservation, and whole animal utilization. She will spend time working in more Native communities and learning from elders and knowledge keepers interested in showcasing the stories of their food.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for this opportunity to continue sharing information about Indigenous foods. With the support of First Nations Development Institute and the other fellows, I hope to amplify this critical knowledge and gain more important skills to navigate this work.”

Jessa Rae Growing Thunder, Fort Peck Assiniboine/Sioux

Jessa Rae Growing Thunder

Knowledge Field: Beadwork/Quillworker

Growing Thunder will focus on promoting natural materials for porcupine quillwork. She will apply community-based methodologies like oral history and traditional ecological and cultural knowledge to develop comprehensive educational resources for traditional natural dyes. This work will result in community-based educational tools and resources for other Indigenous quillworkers to create a ripple effect in the promotion of all traditional art forms.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“It is an honor to be selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow. This work will benefit generations of quillworkers as we continue to honor these traditions.”

Coy Harwood, Blackfeet/Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

Coy Harwood

Knowledge Field: Hunter, Health and Wellness Advocate

Harwood will focus on the development and implementation of community outreach and service programs in a traditional camp platform. These programs will holistically interweave traditional conservation wisdoms, traditional plant foods, medicines, traditional art, songs, and stories within value-based preservation of his people’s lifestyles.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“I am genuinely honored and humbled by being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow. This fellowship provides an opportunity to help bridge a collective consciousness and awareness of traditional knowledge that can support communities, clans, and tribes as a whole.”

hôbEthlE Ryan Hill, Yuchi

hôbEthlE Ryan Hill

Knowledge Field: Language Advocate

Hill will develop a creative space for second language learners to produce video content, which will serve as a learning tool for the Yuchi community and across virtual platforms to aide in Yuchi language acquisition. The videos will also be used to generate interest among younger generations of Yuchis, serving as the necessary representation they may need in hopes of motivating them to undertake their own language-learning journeys.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“I am truly honored to be selected as a 2022 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow. I look forward to the opportunities this fellowship brings to me and my fellow language warriors. The fellowship will help me combine my interests and passions in hopes of creating new opportunities for language education in the Yuchi Community.”

Tessie Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo

Tessie Naranjo

Knowledge Field: Cultural Preservationist

Naranjo will address the fact that fewer and fewer Santa Clara children are becoming fluent in Tewa. She will gather Tewa stories and songs, and incorporate them into a book which includes a digital audio component made available to Tewa people and to community organizations like the Poeh Cultural Center — a museum and educational community hub owned and operated by Pojoaque Pueblo.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“I am honored and humbled to have been chosen for the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship. I have always felt a responsibility to contribute to my community and to leave behind the knowledge and experience I gained for those who will take my place. Receiving this fellowship means that I will be able to realize a dream I have to honor my mother. She said a number of times that everything is about the children. I can now finish a project based on children and for children.”

Melody Windsong Redbird-Post, Ph.D, Kiowa Tribe

Melody Redbird-Post

Knowledge Field: Educator

Dr. Redbird-Post will focus on ensuring that the Kiowa community has a foundation on which to embrace Kiowa knowledge, bring back Kiowa understanding of child development, and develop their own perceptions of their Indigenous early childhood knowledge systems. She will engage with Kiowa elders and educational partners to sift through existing resources to define Kiowa child development knowledge through language and culture, and use computer technology to document Kiowa elders’ knowledge, stories, and experiences.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“It is an honor to be a part of such an inspiring group of Indigenous individuals. This fellowship will provide an opportunity for me to build on the work completed over the years with my Kiowa people and finalize a theory of learning that can be used by future Kiowa educators to perpetuate Kiowa knowledge of child growth and development through various educational settings. My hope is to carry forward the voices, wisdom, and knowledge of Kiowa elders in the process.”

Francis “Palani” Sinenci, Native Hawaiian

Francis Sinenci

Knowledge Field: Kuhikuhi Pu’uone (Master Indigenous Architect)
Kuhikuhi Pu‘uone Francis “Palani” Sinenci will elevate the practice of kūkulu hale and uhau humu pōkahu by supporting practitioner development and stewarding natural resources to build the infrastructure needed for continuing this traditional architecture practice. He will also document his knowledge for future generations and train his most skilled students to ensure they are able to achieve mastery, so that each of the islands throughout Hawai’i has a trained team of practitioners ready to carry on his work when he is no longer physically present.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

“The Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship support comes at a critical time and will help me to ensure ‘ike (knowledge) is passed on to the next generation of practitioners as they achieve mastery in kūkulu hale (Indigenous architecture) and uhau humu pōhaku (traditional masonry) for the ongoing benefit of our lāhui Hawai’i and communities throughout Hawai’i.”

Lynda Teller Pete, Diné/Navajo

Lynda Teller Pete

Knowledge Field: Diné Weaver

Teller Pete will explore and expand the Navajo/ Diné weaving artform, as well as research and properly archive the expertise and processes of Diné weavers. She will continue to conduct classes online, addressing Navajo history, warping, beginning weaving, troubleshooting, finishing, and marketing, and preserving Diné students’ weaving journeys. She will also partner with a Diné language expert to translate her book, How to Weave a Navajo Rug and Other Lessons from Spider Woman, into a spoken word version for language immersion classes.

What does being selected as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow mean to you?

 “I am thrilled about the fellowship. I am an established Diné textile artist and am ready to do more for my Diné weaving community with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation through First Nations. I look forward to continuing to seek out opportunities with people and established organizations, always working to advance my art and assist my students to weave beautiful stories.”

 

Luce Fellow Spotlight: Mariah Gladstone

In 2016, Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet and Cherokee) created Indigikitchen − an online digital cooking show dedicated to Indigenous food. Her motivation was to help reverse the epidemic of diet-related illnesses in Indian Country. In the last seven years, Gladstone has grown the start-up website into an in-demand enterprise and go-to source for how to reimagine and prepare Indigenous foods.

 

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Jessa Rae Growing Thunder

Jessa Rae Growing Thunder (Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation) is an expert in the art of traditional porcupine quillwork ─ a rare Indigenous art form using dyed porcupine quills to embellish clothing, bags, and other items.  Read how a dream about a porcupine inspired her “heart-work.”

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Ryan Hill

Over the last 10 years, 37-year-old Ryan Hill (Yuchi/Muscogee/Cherokee) has been working hard to keep the Yuchi language alive and grow the pool of Native speakers.  He estimates that he has taught this unique language to more than 50 tribal members. With his Luce Fellowship, he is going “all in” to teach the Yuchi language by leveraging his passion and expertise in video production to make language-learning enjoyable for students.

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Melody Redbird-Post

Melody Redbird-Post (Kiowa Tribe) has spent much of her life working to revitalize the Kiowa language, which she says is “severely endangered and only spoken by our great-grandparents.” Through the Luce Fellowship, she will gather and compile the knowledge and wisdom shared with her by elders over the years into a guide for parents and teachers that can be accessed in a printable PDF and digitally on the website, learnkiowa.org.

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Tessie Naranjo

Tessie Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo) has dedicated her life to preserving and perpetuating Pueblo culture and the Tewa language. Through the Luce fellowship, Naranjo is creating a children’s book called “Tewa Children’s Book of Stories.” It is a collection of stories, verses, and songs published in the Tewa language, with English translations, and intended for ONLY Tewa communities.

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Bernadette Demientieff

Bernadette Demientieff (Gwichʹyaa Zhee Gwichʹin of Fort Yukon, Alaska), executive director of the Gwichʹin Steering Committee (GSC), has successfully led the charge to protect her tribe’s homelands — the Coastal Plain of the 19.3-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is a sacred place for the Gwichʹin people because it is the birthplace of the Porcupine Caribou, where tens of thousands of calves are born every year.

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Coy Harwood

Coy Harwood (Blackfeet/Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) is a man with many passions and endless energy. He earned a Master of Science degree in health sciences and he is applying to medical school. While he leans toward a career in cultural and osteopathic medicine to help improve the health disparities for Montana Natives, he is also interested in becoming a lawyer.

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Lynda Teller Pete

Lynda Teller Pete comes from five documented generations of Navajo weavers. A celebrated weaver, textile artist, teacher, and author, the 64-year-old Native is working passionately, alongside her sister, Barbara Teller Ornelas, to create renowned, collectible Two Grey Hills tapestries and to pass on the art of Diné weaving to the next generation.

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Francis 'Palani' Sinenci

Francis “Uncle” Sinenci is a Hawaiian treasure. He is renowned in Hawai`i for preserving the dying art of building traditional hales (hall-lees), or thatched structures. Uncle Francis is the only Hawaiian currently referred to as a Kuhikuhi Puʻuone, which loosely translates to “master architect, builder, and engineer, all in one.”

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Luce Fellow Spotlight: Jessica Denny

Moosehide tanning, dog mushing, salmon-cutting, and storytelling with Grandma Lena were all part of Jessica Denny’s idyllic childhood in Tok, Alaska. Now 40, the Cheesh’na Tribe Native and mother of three daughters wants to pass on these traditional knowledge systems to other tribal members and “build up the fire” of Ahtna, the official language of eight federally recognized tribes along the Copper River in Alaska.

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