Who We Are
Meet Our Governing Council
With extensive experience in language revitalization, plant knowledge, food sovereignty, star knowledge, decolonization practices, political activism, natural building, and sustainable living, the Makoce Ikikcupi Governing Council is composed of talented members who all have a vested interest in the recovery of Oceti Sakowin (Seven Campfires) homelands. These seven members guide our project with their accumulated wisdom as well as their fervent commitment to practicing our traditional spirituality, recovering traditional knowledge, and living ancestral ways of being.
Joe Bendickson, also known as Sisoka Duta, is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in American Indian Studies. Sisoka’s undergraduate work focused on Dakota language. After graduating he worked with two fluent speakers for four years to improve his language skills. He also was a Dakota Language Instructor for three years at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Sisoka did not grow up speaking Dakota so he recognizes the need to acknowledge the real speakers of the language and to always keep improving his own skills so he can pass those on to the students. Sisoka is not a cultural or spiritual leader of the Dakota life ways. He teaches Beginning and Intermediate Dakota.
Linda Black Elk (Korean/Mongolian/Catawba descendant) is an ethnobotanist and food sovereignty activist specializing in building relationship with plants. Linda works to build an understanding of the uses of plants as food, medicine, and materials, and she conducts research into the ways these plants improve the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of Indigenous peoples. Linda currently works as the Food Sovereignty Skills Educatorat United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, and spends her time standing up for Indigenous peoples and our Mother Earth for the sake of her three Lakota sons.
Luke Black Elk (Thitȟuŋwaŋ Lakota) is a storyteller, grassroots activist, and traditional spiritualist. He has conducted research in water restoration, sustainable building design, and food sovereignty, and he hopes to use these techniques to encourage a more traditional way of life among his people. Along with his duties as a Sundance leader and practitioner of the seven sacred rites of the Lakota, Luke is currently a student of environmental sciences at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota.
Karen Ducheneaux (she, her), a Hohwoju Lakota tribal member, was born on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota where she resides with her four children. While still a child, Ducheneaux’s family joined the freedom fighters occupying the Black Hills at Yellow Thunder Camp and that has led her to a lifetime of activism in the struggle of the Lakota people. Being raised in a tipi, without electricity or running water and living close to the earth, has given Ducheneaux an understanding that has led to a commitment to sustainable living through traditional wisdom in present day circumstances. To achieve this balance, Ducheneaux has helped found the Tatanka Wakpala Model Sustainable Community where she and her tiospaye, or extended family, reside in tiny homes around a Tiyospaye Center designed for communal living, such as eating, educating children, meeting, cleaning and food preservation. This community serves as an example of sustainable living with non-conventional housing–powered entirely through wind and solar renewable energy–food sufficiency, and water security using environmentally responsible, alternative techniques. A product and proponent of homeschooling, she and her tiyospaye have chosen the same path for their children and live and work with Lakota language and cultural immersion. Ducheneaux believes the path for human survival in the future is learning from and embracing our past.
Dr. Roxanne Biidabinokwe Gould (Grand Traverse Band Odawa/Ojibwe) currently serves as associate professor of Indigenous education in the College of Education at the UMN-Duluth and Environmental Education. Roxanne’s work includes projects and research with a focus on Indigenous education, land justice, traditional ecological knowledge and environmental sustainability. Her research includes restoration of Indigenous sacred sites, Indigenous food sovereignty, Indigenous women’s water traditions and examination of Bolivia’s agreement with Mother Earth and Living Well model. Roxanne’s international work includes facilitating a three-year agreement with Bolivia’s Ministry of Decolonization and the Phillips Indian Educators to work collaboratively on issues of; climate change, education, health and well-being and culture. Her community work includes the co-founding of the Bdote Learning Center, where Roxanne led the development of the place-based Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion school. She also serves as elder emeritus for Dream of Wild Health, a Native food sovereignty project, the Indigenous Round Table for the Science Museum of MN, the Indigenous Educational Institute and on the governing council of Makoce Ikikcupi.
Drew Brockman or Hinazin Duta (Comes to a Stand on Sacred Ground) is from Pezihutazizi K’api Makoce (The Place Where They Dig for Yellow Medicine), or the Upper Sioux Reservation. Drew is an Army Airborne veteran , serving for eight years in the military, two and a half of those years in Iraq. Since returning to Upper Sioux, Drew has worked for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office conducting Traditional Cultural Property (TCP)surveying and monitoring and serving as the THPO assistant. Drew is raising four children with his wife in Granite Falls. He enjoys everything to do with the outdoors, especially exploring our Oceti Sakowin homeland. He is committed to reviving our cultural practices and walking the path back to who we once were.
Jim Rock (Dakota) has a Masters Degree and has taught Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy for forty years at reservation, urban and suburban high schools, colleges, tribal college and universities. He is the Director of Indigenous Programming for the Planetarium and Physics and Astronomy department of Swenson College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He teaches an astronomy course called Native Skywatchers: Indigenous Ethno- and ArchaeoAstronomy. Rock lived, travelled and still works globally. Rock decolonizes science using a travelling inflatable 30 x 15 feet StarDome to “Indigenize and Digitize the Skies” for Indigenous community collaborative outreach and storytelling settings. He advocates for Dark Sky preservation, light pollution reversal, sacred site and wetland restoration and land return and Indigenous interpretation at all sites of Turtle Island. He has published on snake effigy mound symbolism and eclipse prediction methodologies. In 2011, he was the principal investigator and designed the first Native American experiment aboard STS-135 Atlantis, the last NASA space shuttle which also involved Native students from the American Indian OIC high school, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and Dream of Wild Health Native youth gardening project. He taught science education courses to a cohort of Indigenous teachers in two master’s degree programs at the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg/UMD. As a member-consultant on NASA’s Beautiful Earth Team, he worked with the Chemawa Indian School in Oregon, as well as the Onandaga Nation Tribal School and the MOST Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York.
Meet Our Executive Director
Since Makoce Ikikcupi was founded as a nonprofit, Waziyatawin has served as its Executive Director.
Waziyatawin is a Dakota writer, teacher, and justice advocate from the Pezihutazizi Otunwe (Yellow Medicine Village) in southwestern Minnesota. She earned her PhD in American History from Cornell University and has held tenured positions at Arizona State University and the University of Victoria where she also served as the Indigenous Peoples Research Chair in the Indigenous Governance Program. In addition, in recent years she worked for Upper Sioux’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office, conducting traditional cultural property surveying and monitoring work, serving for a period as the THP Officer and NAGPRA representative, and most recently, compiling a history of her community. Waziyatawin is the author or co/editor of seven volumes, including What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland (Living Justice Press, 2008), For Indigenous Minds Only: A Decolonization Handbook (SAR Press, 2012), edited with Michael Yellow Bird, and her history of Upper Sioux, Pezihutazizi Oyate Kin: The People of Yellow Medicine(Living Justice Press, 2019). Waziyatawin has always been engaged in Dakota community projects. In 1999, in her home community of Upper Sioux, she established the first Indigenous language immersion program in Minnesota and the first Dakota language immersion program anywhere. This program helped launch the Indigenous language immersion movement in Minnesota that continues today. From 2002-2008, she was also a co-founder and co-organizer of the Dakota Commemorative March, a seven-day, 150-mile walk to honor and remember her Dakota ancestors who were force-marched from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling in 1862. In her personal life, she is committed to the recovery of traditional Dakota practices and ways of being, especially those rooted in sustainability and simplicity. She lives part of the year at Upper Sioux and part of the year in a Dakota earthlodge at Toka Nuwan.
Meet Our 2021 Apprentices
We are delighted to introduce Zani Otuwe’s 2021 Apprentices. Realizing it is essential to begin to train the next generation of leaders, Makoce Ikikcupi solicited applications to a four-month apprenticeship centered around earthlodge building and community development. We were looking for young adults interested in all aspects of cultural revitalization, including traditional housing and teachings, language, ceremony, food-sovereignty, and simple-living. In addition to earthlodge building, during their time with us, these apprentices will be learning about permaculture design and implementation, how to make garden sunlodges, about traditional plants, foods, and medicines, history, language, land justice, and traditional governance practices in today’s world. In June 2021, we selected four outstanding young people who are now living on-site at Zani Otunwe. After completing the apprenticeship, it is our hope that these young people will be the earthlodge builders and sustainable living advocates of the future.
Haŋ mitákuyepi, čhaŋté waštéya napé chiyúzapi! My name is Jodi Gregerson and I’m from Standing Rock, though I currently live on Anishinaabe land near Detroit, Michigan. In addition to language reclamation and traditional ethnobotany, I love taking pictures, reading, traveling, movie and game nights with friends, and hanging out with my siblings. I’m so grateful for this apprenticeship opportunity, and I’m looking forward to learning and experiencing everything that I can and helping to provide more opportunities to future generations of Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people.
Hello, I’m James Allen Jones. I’m 19 years old. I am both Hunkpapa Lakota and Santee Dakota. I’m proud to say I’m a part of Makoce Ikikcupi or Land Recovery. The reason I’m here at Zani Otunwe is to try and reconnect in a way to those who came before, reconnect to my ancestors. Coming from Standing Rock, I was always taught two things: how to identify and use plants because of my mom, and how my people lived. This opportunity to be at Zani Otunwe is to reconnect to my people in a way. Some of my interests are art (all kinds), traveling, napping, and having all the fun I can.
Hau mitakuyapi, Mikey emakiyapi!
The biggest gain I have from the first couple weeks at Zani Otunwe is realizing how artificial life is. People live so close to nature everyday but never walk in the grass barefoot. Standing on mother earth is different than standing with Unci Maka. Walking down a sidewalk feels foreign to me now. Houses with electricity and air conditioning makes me feel very disconnected from my ancestors. I feel like I don’t belong in the towns. Too many conflicting emotions are present in daily lives when we should all just breathe and listen to the zintkada oyate. Wopida!!
Hau. I am Justin Barse, currently enrolled on the Lake Traverse Reservation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. I was born in Wheaton, Minnesota and am of Wahpekute descent. I was raised in large families and through the years have done a lot of moving around. I am 25 years old and I know I have so much more yet to learn. I hope to learn, understand, and pass on the ways and culture as they were passed on the countless years before me. Tunkasina k’a Wakantanka, wopida!