First Nations Announces 2023 Cohort of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows

10 Indigenous Leaders Selected to Perpetuate Native Knowledge and Continue Strengthening Native Communities

LONGMONT, Colo. (February 28, 2023) – First Nations Development (First Nations) has announced the 10 outstanding Indigenous leaders selected for the 2023 Cohort of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship.

Conceived and facilitated by First Nations and The Henry Luce Foundation (Luce), the fellowship – now in its fourth year – is designed to identify, support, and convene Native American knowledge holders and knowledge makers who embody exceptional creativity and progressive and critical thinking, and who have the potential to significantly move forward their fields in ways that will ultimately lead to broad, transformative impacts for Native communities and beyond.

Over the last four years, 43 Indigenous leaders have been selected for the prestigious fellowship, which has become a key component of First Nations’ overall work to strengthen Native communities, including advancing Native food sovereignty, protecting Native resources and assets, promoting Native language learning, and investing in Native youth, said First Nations President and CEO Michael Roberts.

“We are honored and inspired to see this population grow. Every fellow is a testament to the skills, talent, and knowledge found throughout Indian Country, and we are fortunate to be able to continue investing in these leaders and the value they bring to their communities and the future,” Roberts said.

Sean T. Buffington, Vice President of the Henry Luce Foundation, concurred, saying “I’ve seen firsthand with every cohort the fantastic work of these individuals, and we are excited to support them and their contributions to Native communities and beyond.”

Selected fellows receive a monetary award of $75,000 and access to additional resources for training and professional development. They also commit to convening three times during  the first year of the two-year Fellowship to share and grow their knowledge, projects, and drive to achieve their personal and community goals.

The 2023 cohort of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows was selected by an Indigenous advisory committee. Ten candidates were selected from over 250 applicants in a competitive, two-phase application, peer-reviewed process.

The 2023 Luce Indigenous Knowledge fellows are:

Martha A. Austin, Navajo
Knowledge Field: Language educator

Austin will work toward completing the Navajo Ethno-Medical Encyclopedia, which was discontinued in the early 1980s when the Federal Government ceased funding the project and conduct a series of in-service workshops across and beyond the Navajo Nation for healthcare providers, Navajo language/culture teachers and college professors. The encyclopedia initiative is unique in that there are few places in the world where research funding, a still-vibrant Indigenous health and healing system, and research expertise are all present in the same national community.

Keola Kawaiʻulaʻiliahi Chan, Native Hawaiian
Knowledge Field: Kumu Lapaʻau

Chan will work toward reestablishing traditional healing practices to increase the spiritual aspects of such practices to be more consistent with how Native ancestors viewed and treated health. Through the fellowship, Chan will develop a curriculum that includes learning the skill sets of how to become a healer, building relationships with the environment, traversing the spiritual realm through cleansing, and shifting and moving mana (energies) to maintain and sustain mauli ola.

Michon R. Eben, Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone
Knowledge Field: Cultural resource manager/THPO

Through the fellowship, Eben will work to empower Nevada and Eastern California tribal nations, including Native youth, to advocate for the protection and preservation of Native American cultural resources and sacred sites adversely impacted by the extractive mining practices being proposed in the State of Nevada. Eben will provide the tools and knowledge for tribes to respond to the rapidly changing landscape by creating a tribal cultural resource managers group to participate in hands-on training.

Anna Brown Ehlers, Chilkat Tlingit
Knowledge Field: Chilkat artist, educator

Brown Ehlers will execute a monumental 20×12-ft Chilkat weaving, with support through the fellowship, and strategize how to give the monumental work a public life and audience to amplify its messages of cultural pride, identity, and power. Brown Ehlers is inspired by monumental carved and painted wood house screens in historic Northwest Coast clan houses, as well as the giant tapa cloth wall hangings on exhibit in the Burke Museum in Seattle. She feels the art form of Chilkat weaving can be elevated to this scale, and her people along with it.

Sara L. Chase Merrick, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Shinnecock Nation
Knowledge Field: Language activist and educator

Merrick will pilot a Hupa language nest, which will include recruiting families to participate; providing daily immersion instruction for students; creating, using, and expanding current Hupa language immersion curriculum; training teachers; and providing support for families to continue language use at home. Merrick will also disseminate knowledge gained through this process via social media, conference presentations, and possibly a publication with a learner-teacher cohort.

Kyle K. Nahoi, Native Hawaiian
Knowledge Field: Farmer  

Nahoi will create a collaborative, comprehensive collection of knowledge of the different varieties of Taro or Kalo; the cultivation, nuances, needs and preferences of locality; pests; viruses; soil; and effects on future farmers. He will continue the intimate research needed to arrive at a successful observation, collection, documentation, and distribution of Hawaiian varieties, and enable study of crucial specifics not researched before like salt tolerance, alluvial soil propagation, and king tide solutions.

Kathleen Sanchez, Tewa-San Ildefonso Pueblo                                     
Knowledge Field: Community activist, educator, elder, pottery artist

Sanchez will share with her community the Two World Harmony Butterfly Model – and the relational activities of time, space and memories – to offer an understanding of how an Indigenous person navigates between the traditional and the Euro-American ways of being. Sanchez also will look at and implement traditional sharing, visually and orally, of life narratives with a core team of Tewa and Indigenous women elders to give and gain the connectivity of health pathways.

Anton Treuer, Leech Lake (descendant)
Knowledge Field: Professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University

As one of the youngest fluent speakers of Ojibwe in his community, Treuer will identify and work closely with four apprentices on a major Ojibwe language and culture preservation and revitalization initiative. This will serve to deepen the Ojibwe language knowledge and accomplishments of the apprentices so that they can continue efforts to preserve and revitalize Ojibwe. Treuer’s goal is to catalyze the growth of the apprentices in these areas through intentional master-apprentice model application.

Wayne Valliere, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewas
Knowledge Field: Language and culture educator

During the fellowship period, Valliere will lead a project to build a dugout canoe, which will provide an opportunity to pass down the Anishinaabe language, as well as topics associated with the art of canoe-building, including ecology, history, technologies, math, and chemistry, to the Anishinaabe community and its youth. By bringing that knowledge back to the community, Valliere hopes to strengthen the Anishinaabe way of life.

LaRae Wiley, Sinixt (Colville Tribal Member)
Knowledge Field: Language activist

Wiley will carry out regular cultural and language activities to the benefit of herself and her community. She will engage with fluent Elders to discuss and record information about important cultural practices. Wiley will also produce and record new Salish language music, ranging from traditional hand-drum songs to country and rock music in Salish. She will also organize regular Salish immersion cultural, ceremonial and social activities with new speakers so that Salish people can live in the language and to be happy together as a cultural community.

Honorable Mentions Recognized

With support from the Henry Luce Foundation, First Nations also awarded honorable mentions to 15 candidates who demonstrated a strong commitment to generate, perpetuate and disseminate Indigenous knowledge.

The 2023 Fellowship Honorable Mentions and Knowledge Fields are:

  • Jennifer Denetdale, Diné, Critical Indigenous Studies, Diné Studies, Indigenous Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Carol Emarthle Douglas, Northern Arapaho-Seminole, Traditional/Contemporary Basket Weaver and Multimedia Artist
  • DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren, Catawba Nation, Basketry, Storytelling, Performance, Music, and Technology
  • Marcella Giles, Mvskoke Creek, Original Allotments
  • Stormy Hamar, Kasaan Haida, Haida Steamed Dugout Canoe Making
  • Polly Hyslop, Northway Tribal Descendant, Enrolled to the Tanana Tribe and White River First Nation, Indigenous Dispute Systems Design and Peacemaking
  • Steve LaRance, Hopi-Assiniboine, Youth Cultural Programming and Empowerment
  • Lanniko L. Lee, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Literature, Poetry and Essays
  • Gilbert Louis, III, Acoma Pueblo, USDA/FSA Programming
  • Sherri Mitchell, Penobscot, Environmental, Spiritual
  • Rachael Nez, Navajo Diné Nation, Media/Art and Technologies, Native Language Reclamation and Community-based Research
  • Pete Perez, Chamorro, Mariana Islands, Indigenous Canoe Building and Traditional Restoration
  • Dawn M. Spears, Narragansett, Indigenous Food Producer and Advocate, Cultural Preservationist, Artist, Designer, Dollmaker
  • Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, Chickasaw, Classical Composer
  • Diane M. Zephier, Oglala Nation, Traditional History

About the Henry Luce Foundation

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. The foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art and public policy.

Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., the foundation’s earliest work honored his parents, missionary educators in China. The foundation’s programs today reflect the value Mr. Luce placed on learning, leadership, and long-term commitment in philanthropy.

The Henry Luce Foundation is a private independent foundation based in New York City.

About First Nations Development Institute

For 42 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit

For more information about the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship, contact Kendall Tallmadge, First Nations Senior Program Officer, at ktallmadge@firs​ or (303) 774-7836.

Communications Contact:
Amy Jakober, Senior Communications Officer
303-774-7836 or