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First Nations Selects 11 New Indigenous Leaders in 5th Year of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship

2024 Cohort to Perpetuate Native Knowledge and Continue Strengthening Native Communities

LONGMONT, Colo. (February 16, 2024) – First Nations Development (First Nations) today announced the 11 Native American leaders selected for the 2024 cohort of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship.

Facilitated by First Nations and the Henry Luce Foundation (Luce Foundation) and launched in 2020, the fellowship 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.

First Nations President and CEO Michael Roberts said this year’s cohort adds to the growing network of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows dedicated to sharing and sustaining Native knowledge, whether it’s through language, culture, food systems, or resources. “Every year, the applicants for this prestigious fellowship are beyond exceptional. It makes the selection process very competitive, and it also sends a clear signal to philanthropy of the wealth of projects and initiatives happening throughout Indian Country well worth investment,” he said.

Both First Nations and Luce are honored to be able to support this new cohort, which will join the 43 Indigenous leaders who have been selected for the fellowship since 2020 and are collectively advancing Indigenous knowledge.

Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D., Program Director for Indigenous Knowledge at the Henry Luce Foundation, explained that, historically, colonial policy targeted Indigenous knowledge systems for extermination, and Indigenous knowledge was viewed as a barrier to progress for Indigenous peoples and communities.

“Despite this history, Indigenous knowledge systems have continued, and today there is growing recognition by larger society that Indigenous knowledge systems are important for Indigenous communities and for global society,” Dr. Foxworth said. “These fellows are doing important work to carry on and advance Indigenous knowledge systems and lifeways to improve their communities today and for future generations of Indigenous peoples and communities.”

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 2024 cohort of Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows was selected by an Indigenous advisory committee. Eleven candidates were selected from over 314 applicants in a competitive, two-phase application, peer-reviewed process.

The 2024 Luce Indigenous Knowledge fellows are:

Rose Bear Don’t Walk, Bitterroot Salish/Crow/LonePine Shoshone Paiute
Knowledge field: Salish Ethnobotany

Bear Don’t Walk will work hands-on with her Salish community looking into aspects of what it means to be “healthy and well” from a Salish perspective in regard to traditional food plants, as well as collaborating on an ethnobotanical resource together to bolster community learning and knowing of these plants.

Warlance Chee, Diné
Knowledge field: Language and Culture Advocate

Chee will continue to build a strong and sustainable foundation for Saad K’idilyé. He will also build on his cultural knowledge and share it with his urban community so they can carry on cultural ceremonies and traditions.

Audré Etsitty, Diné
Knowledge field: Diné Horsewoman

Etsitty will research traditional ecological knowledge centered around Diné traditional horsemanship. Utilizing her traditional knowledge and western education in equine science, she will work to enhance the bicultural and bilingual education of horses within her Diné community.

Cara Flores, Chamoru and Micronesian
Knowledge field: Filmmaker, Community Organizer

Flores will draft and share a guide to Indigenous filmmaking that centers Indigenous Pacific values and is reflective of practices that she has adapted over 15 years of filmmaking in island communities. She will share the guide as a resource that Indigenous filmmakers can use and modify to equip themselves and to build capacity and community in their filmmaking practices.

Ernestine Hayes, Tlingit
Knowledge field: Writer, Teacher          

Hayes will write about ancient stories that tell of ancient events, and will examine how histories told since time immemorial shed light on our shared, common future.

Jamie Jacobs, Tonawanda Seneca Nation
Knowledge field: Seneca Language Teacher, Traditional Quill Worker, Ceremonial Custodian, Museum Curator

Jacobs will research Jesuit history among the Haudenosaunee and their persistence of documenting Iroquoian languages. He will travel to view writings and collections of dictionaries, gather statistical data, and begin the transcription process to rematriate information back to his home community.

Ivan MacDonald, Blackfeet
Knowledge field: Filmmaker

MacDonald will develop Indigenous-centered, non-extracted filmmaking practices. He will also create short-form media content made in collaboration with Indigenous communities.

Kekaiokalani Naone, Native Hawaiian
Knowledge field: Kumu Hula

Naone’s efforts will make hula accessible to Naone’s community. Participants will have the opportunity for hands-on learning and immersion through hula (traditional dance), place-based learning, and ceremony. Through this knowledge, the traditional practice of hula will be a vehicle for modern Native Hawaiian liberation.

Bertha Peters, Yurok
Knowledge field: Traditional Food and Basket Weaver

Peters will teach two cohorts how to gather and process traditional foods, such as acorns, salmon, and sturgeon. She will also facilitate a net-making workshop so people can make their own nets for fishing. Lastly, she will teach two cohorts of students how to gather and process basketry materials and weave materials into baskets.

Matthew Vestuto, Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians
Knowledge field: Language Educator

Vestuto will further his work on the archival record crucial to mitsqanaqan̓ (Ventureño Chumash) language and cultural revitalization. He will transcribe and organize the voluminous ethnolinguistic notes of John Peabody Harrington, the grammar of Juan Estevan Pico, and other recorders of mitsqanaqan̓ language and culture. His work centers on language revitalization and fostering renewal and living culture in his community.

TJ Sgwaayaans Young, Haida
Knowledge field: Carver

Young will focus on building a carving shed and Haida Healing House, starting construction of the foundation in spring 2024. He will begin to execute design plans, hire a contractor and lock in design plans, expediting the building of this necessary carving shed and community gathering space.


Honorable Mentions Recognized

With support from the Henry Luce Foundation, First Nations also awarded honorable mentions to 13 candidates who demonstrated a strong commitment to generate, perpetuate and disseminate Indigenous knowledge.

The 2024 Fellowship Honorable Mentions and knowledge fields are:

  • Maile Arvin, Native Hawaiian, Hawaiian History
  • Randilynn Boucher, Diné/Dakota, Indigenous Education through Language Immersion, Land-based, Art
  • Hugh Burnam, Mohawk Nation, Wolf Clan, Indigenous Sovereignty and Education
  • Sarah James, Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government; Arctic Village Council, Neets’aii Gwich’in Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Beverly Kokrine, Village of Huslia, Koyukon Athabascan Language
  • Akilah Martinez, Diné, Futuristic Indigenous Language & Cultural Revitalization
  • Susan Masten, Yurok, Governance
  • Zachariah Mitteness, Anishinaabe, Language/Cultural Lifeways
  • Katrina-Ann Oliveira, Native Hawaiian, olelo Hawaii Language Revitalization
  • Polly Olsen, Yakama, Museum
  • PuaOEleili Pinto, Kanaka ‘Oiwi, Plant Medicine, Childbirth
  • Joni Tobacco, Oglala Lakota, Ecological
  • Richard Two Dogs, Oglala Lakota, College Instructor

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.