First Nations Advances Native Lands Stewardship Program With New Director


Wildlife Biologist Shaun Grassel, Ph.D., to Lead Stewarding Native Lands Program

LONGMONT, Colo. (June 9, 2022) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is honored to announce the appointment of Shaun Grassel, Ph.D., as Director of Programs—Stewarding Native Lands. In this position, Dr. Grassel, an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, will lead the organization’s work in supporting Native ecological stewardship and improving Native control of ancestral lands and resources.

Dr. Grassel will also further efforts to formalize the launch of First Nations’ Tribal Lands Conservation Fund, a cultural- and people-centered Native approach to environmental conservation and ecological stewardship that combines traditional ecological knowledge, tribal sovereign jurisdiction, and Native genius and practice.

First Nations President and CEO Michael Roberts said Dr. Grassel’s role will be transformative. “When we launched the Stewarding Native Lands program in 2020, we knew there was an inherent and immediate need to invest in the traditional stewards of our lands, not just to promote the well-being of Native communities, but also to protect the planet for everyone,” he said. “From our years of working with Dr. Grassel, we know his experience and knowledge make him ideally positioned to advance ecological stewardship in Native communities and to identify strategies to increase control of land stewardship by Native people.”

As a wildlife biologist for the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, Dr. Grassel has collaborated with the organization since 2015 as a multi-year grantee of First Nations’ Tribal Stewardship in the Northern Great Plains project. For the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Dr. Grassel has created and led projects for grasslands restoration and rotational grazing, as well as for the reintroduction of wild turkey, black-footed ferrets, and swift fox. Dr. Grassel has also held positions as project leader and biologist with the production and watershed divisions of the Nez Perce Tribe Department of Fisheries Resources Management.

The announcement of Dr. Grassel comes after an extensive year-long search that reflects the importance of the position, said Roberts. “First Nations is becoming increasingly recognized for our work in educating funders and allies about the power of traditional ecological knowledge. As climate change continues to threaten our world, the leadership and experience of Dr. Grassel will be essential in mitigating this risk and investing in the original stewards of the land.”