First Nations Introduces 2021 Cohort for the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship

13 Native Leaders Selected for their Passion and Ingenuity in Perpetuating Indigenous Knowledge and Strengthening Native Communities

LONGMONT, Colo. (June 3, 2021) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and The Henry Luce Foundation (Luce) announced today the continuation of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship with the selection of 13 new Fellows for the 2021 Cohort – each one chosen for their work in their knowledge fields, as well as their contribution to this growing Fellowship, which was created in 2019 to honor and support intellectual Native leaders.

First Nations President and CEO Michael Roberts said First Nations has always been about restoring the ability of tribes and Indian people to take control of their assets, which is highly tied to Native culture and tradition, and that the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship is integral to that philosophy and practice. “Working with the Luce Foundation, we can stand behind these leaders who are culture bearers in their communities, and we hope this Fellowship allows us to stand with them so that they may focus on their work, amplify it, and make it even more powerful,” he said.

Sean T. Buffington, Vice President of the Luce Foundation, added that the Fellowship is an investment both in individuals and in their broader communities. “These knowledge makers and knowledge keepers are passionate, creative, and committed. With the support and community the Fellowship provides, they can continue to deepen and extend their work and strengthen Native America through their leadership.”

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 2021 cohort of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows was selected by an Indigenous advisory committee. Thirteen candidates were selected from over 450 applicants in a competitive, two-application, peer-reviewed process.

The 2021 Luce Indigenous Knowledge fellows are:

Brooke Mosay Ammann, St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
Knowledge Field: Language Warrior

For the Fellowship year, Brooke will plan for a time of revisiting experiences, envisioning, and gathering resources of other leaders in language revitalization to create leadership approaches for her community that will help the Ojibwe People. As part of this reflection process, Brooke will outline and develop the foundation for an Indigenous language and culture revitalization leadership training series based on best practices. She will also use the time to process her experiences to make them more accessible outside the Indigenous language and culture revitalization circle.

Charlene Stern, Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government
Knowledge Field: Scholar

During the Fellowship, Charlene will use her training to work with the remaining elders in her community to document their traditional knowledge and contributions to key tribal political developments in Alaska. She will focus on meaningful research for her tribe and document the stories and life experiences of Gwich’in elders who have played a key role in the tribal sovereignty movement in Alaska and who are among the last generation of fluent language speakers to be raised on the land and in the traditional lifestyle of the Neetsąįį Gwich’in.

Charles Kealoha Leslie, Native Hawaiian
Knowledge Field: Kupuna Lawai’a (Elder Fisherman)

Chuck is one of the last traditional Native Hawaiian net-makers and kupuna lawaiʻa (fishing elder) in Hawaiʻi. To capture and share his knowledge, Chuck will develop an Indigenous lawaiʻa apprenticeship program, accompanied by a video and workbook course for teachers and students. Chuck will also foster and develop a statewide lawaiʻa network for the traditional ʻōpelu fishing families. Through net-making and outreach, he will strive to restore the fishing culture back into the lives of the younger generations.

Charles E “Aulii” Mitchell, Native Hawaiian
Knowledge Field: Kumu Hula, Artist

Charles is the only Kumu Hula in the world committed to creating, preserving and perpetuating the practice of carving and dressing images for the ritual dancing of hula ki’i that is closest to the oldest written accounts. Charles will focus on revitalizing this traditional medium of communication to strengthen the sacred and secular wellbeing of ka lāhui Hawai’i, the Hawaiian people, through hula ki’i. Throughout the year, he will teach the Hula Ki’i process; make a Galleria Exhibition on hula kiʻi with hula students, the Hula Ki’i Collaborative, and hālau hula; and complete a book manuscript.

Gimiwan Dustin Burnette, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
Knowledge Field: Ojibwe Language Immersion Educator

The Fellowship will support Dustin’s work to build a collaboration, unite Ojibwe language immersion efforts, and maximize resources from institutes and individuals. During the Fellowship, he will create a collaborative communication network of professionals in the field, develop a repository of shared curriculum and materials, and enhance the repository by collecting and organizing pre-existing public language materials. This infrastructure will combine resources, knowledge, and individual skills to support language revitalization across Indigenous communities by maximizing the sharing of valuable resources.

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Kanaka (Native Hawaiian)
Knowledge Field: Kuma (Teacher)

Hinaleimoana will write and voice a public broadcast documentary film and produce a digital exhibition exploring the stone monument on Waikiki Beach that honors four legendary mahu – people of dual male and female spirit – who brought healing arts to Hawaii and used spiritual power to treat disease. The Kapaemahu project will use animation, newly discovered archival materials, and expert interviews to revive this cultural legacy of healing and gender diversity, examine how and why it was suppressed, and provide tools to educate and engage audiences on the importance of maintaining traditional knowledge in the face of modern challenges.

Jennifer Malone, Wukchumni
Knowledge Field: Wukchumni Cultural Consultant

Jennifer and her mother are among the last remaining speakers of the Wukchumni language, and their professional and personal lives are dedicated to ensuring their language, people, and understandings of the world continue. In line with this, Jennifer will create a series of videos. One will show young Wukchumni people teaching traditional lessons around language, land skills, and traditional stories. Another video will share the story of the Wukchumni people from genocide to termination and the land theft. This Wukchumni story will be one for all tribes in the country to strengthen their commitment to status, tribal lands, and their future.

Reba Jo Teran, Eastern Shoshone
Knowledge Field: Shoshone Language Specialist

During the Fellowship year, Reba will finalize and register the Eastern Shoshone font and complete an Eastern Shoshone dictionary that will be the foundation of many Shoshone language projects, and will help speakers of the 64 Shoshone bands reference their words and remember lost words. She will also re-record 7,000 audio files that have been compromised by background noise or other interference. These language audio files will be converted to MP3 files and stored for safe keeping, future distribution and public access.

Richard Moves Camp, Oglala Sioux
Knowledge Field: Traditional Healer

Richard’s work reinforces cultural identity and improves self-esteem and self-efficacy of Natives at high risk of suicide, violence, and addiction. During the Fellowship, Richard will formalize his traditional teachings by developing a written curriculum to equip urban and rural organizations and community leaders with culturally responsive strategies for addressing contemporary issues and preparing future Native leaders. The Fellowship will enable Richard to amplify the traditional view of health and wellness, share his ancestors’ philosophies, and transfer knowledge using new tools and instruments to help young people learn, grow, and heal.

Steven A. Darden, Diné (Navajo), Cheyenne
Knowledge Field: Artist, Human Rights Advocate, Business Owner, Traditional Practitioner

The topic of death, bodies, the afterlife and final preparations for burial of the body is extremely sensitive for Navajo people and must be approached with prayer and protocols in the Navajo language. Through the Fellowship, Steve will prepare protocols to engage traditional practitioners who have Diné perspectives on the life cycle. He will develop and disseminate a curriculum on traditional knowledge and network with educational institutions to facilitate a return to traditional knowledge and practices. His work will facilitate a widespread movement to reclaim ancestor knowledge and practices around the end of life.

Theresa Secord, Penobscot Nation
Knowledge Field: Basket Maker

Working with an apprentice, Theresa will demonstrate ash and sweet grass basketry/language use, fostering self-determining efforts to organize basketry phrases into a working document that can be shared with community members, tribal language departments, classes, workshops, and immersion camps. Theresa, a basket maker for 33 years, will work with speakers and tribal linguists to learn and complement existing Wabanaki language resources in Passamaquoddy and Penobscot, with the goal of updating and creating a new basketry/language workbook (print and digital) for publication and community use. This work offers a solution to secure and actively practice Indigenous language in Wabanaki basketry and its specific, associated terminology, which is rapidly falling into disuse.

Delores Churchill, Ketchikan Indian Community/Haida
Knowledge Field: Visual Art

One of the last living speakers of the Haida language, master weaver Delores is an eminent Haida weaver and an expert in gathering and preparing materials for cedar bark, spruce root, and Naaxiin weaving, as well as Ravenstail textile and cedar clothing weaving. During the Fellowship, Delores will share knowledge with new weavers, who in turn, will teach their own students, perpetuating the skill and traditions of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian weaving. The Fellowship also will make it possible for Delores to complete and publish a book on weaving and work to promote it to various communities and organizations. She will also continue teaching and sharing her knowledge, as well as learning and researching basketry and textile weaving.

Evelyn Lance Blanchard, PhD, Laguna/Yaqui
Knowledge Field: Social Work Activist/Educator

Evelyn’s work addresses how social work has not given attention to Native social work theory and practice and has historically viewed Indian Country through a deficit lens. The Fellowship will support the transformation of Evelyn’s dissertation, “To Prevent the Breakup of the Indian Family: The Development of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978,” into a text for social workers and Native and non-Native practitioners and administrators. Doing this will shed light on this law, which has been obscure to educators, students and practitioners, thus disabling the law’s intent to prevent the breakup of Indian families.

Honorable Mentions Recognized

With support from the Henry Luce Foundation, First Nations also awarded honorable mentions to 12 candidates who demonstrated a strong commitment to generate, perpetuate and disseminate Indigenous knowledge.

The 2021 Fellowship Honorable Mentions and Knowledge Fields are:

  • Angelo Baca, Diné/Hopi, Traditional Knowledge, Sacred Lands Protection
  • Carrie Calisay Cannon, Kiowa/Oglala Lakota, Ethnobotany, Language Preservation/Revitalization
  • Christina M. Thomas, MA, Numu (Northern Paiute)/Newe (Western Shoshone)/Hopi (Tobacco Clan), Indigenous Music and Language Resurgence
  • Francis “Palani” Sinenci (Kuhikuhi Pu’uone), Native Hawaiian/Holani Hana/East Maui/Hawai’i, Kuhikuhi Pu’uone (Master Architect), Master Mason, Kuklu Hale (Indigenous Hawaiian Architecture), Uhau Humu Pohaku (Indigenous Hawaiian Masonry)
  • Gary Dubois, Luiseno Tribe, Customs and Tradition
  • Katherine Gottlieb, Seldovia Village Tribe/Old Harbor Village Tribe/Native Village of Eklutna, Tribal Leader in the Alaska Native Community
  • Laura Manthe, Oneida, Traditional Foods
  • Leona Swamp, Akwesasne Mohawk, Grief & Intergenerational Trauma
  • Michael Waasegiizhig Price, Wikwemikong First Nation, Anishinaabe Star Knowledge and Cosmology
  • Roger Fernandes, Lower Elwah Klallam, Storytelling, Art
  • Wanda Dalla Costa, AIA, LEED A.P., Saddle Lake First Nation, Architecture
  • Zachariah Mitteness (Earley) Binesi Dagoshin, White Earth, Ojibwe Second Language Speaker, Ceremonial Knowledge Keeper, Wild Foods and Medicine Knowledge, Traditional Ojibwe Artist

Additional background on the 2021 Fellows, along with information about the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Advisory Committee, past Fellows, and the application process for the 2022 Fellowship is available here.

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 40 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