Governing Council

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Sisoka

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.

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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.

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Linda Black Elk (Catawba Nation) is an ethnobotanist specializing in teaching about culturally important plants and their uses as food and medicine. Linda works to protect food sovereignty, traditional plant knowledge, and environmental quality as an extension of the fight against hydraulic fracturing and the fossil fuels industry. She has written for numerous publications, and is the author of Watoto Unyutapi, a field guide to edible wild plants of the Dakota people. Linda is the mother to three Lakota boys and is a lecturer at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

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Karen Ducheneaux, 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, will construct homes and a communal education center using environmentally responsible, alternative techniques. This community-in-the-making will serve as an example of sustainable living with non-conventional housing–powered entirely through wind and solar renewable energy–food sufficiency through year-round organic gardening and water security through rainwater harvesting. A product and proponent of homeschooling, she and her tiyospaye have chosen the same path for their children and will 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.

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Roxanne Gould (Grand Traverse Band Odawa/ Ojibwe) received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota in education with her research emphasis on global Indigenous education and leadership, and an MA in Educational Psychology and Counseling and BA in American Indian Studies from the University of South Dakota. Roxanne currently serves as faculty in Indigenous education in the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and College of Education at the UMN-Duluth. As a past recipient of Bush and Kellogg Leadership fellowships, Roxanne was afforded the opportunity to research and work with Indigenous peoples throughout the world. Her passion to create Indigenous global alliances has opened doors to organize Indigenous exchanges to Guatemala, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Basque country, Namibia and most recently to Bolivia where she facilitated a three year agreement with their Ministry of Decolonization to work collaboratively on issues, concerns, and topics of interest such as: climate change, education, health and wellness and culture. Roxanne’s work reflects her commitment to social justice and decolonization.

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HolyElk Lafferty is a fourth generation activist and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Her family established White Buffalo Chief Camp within the Oceti Sakowin Camp in Standing Rock, ND and held ground there until a militarized raid took place on Feb. 23, 2017. Ms. Lafferty took on a leadership role during the final stages of camp and is continuing to carry that responsibility by attempting to establish new legal precedents for all Indigenous People through the charges she carries as a result of her arrest on Feb. 1, 2017 at Last Child Camp. She is also pursuing her heart work by advocating for and empowering indigenous youth, women and men who are working to create societal and environmental change.

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James Rock (Dakota) Jim has a Master’s degree in education and has taught astronomy, chemistry and physics for 30 years to thousands of students in colleges and high schools from urban, suburban, and reservation communities, such as: Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota’s Indigenous Summer Science & Math Program called Andogiikendassowin/ Wasdodyawacinpi (Seek To Know), and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. 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 which is a Native youth gardening project. From 2011-2014, he taught science education courses to an indigenous cohort of teachers in two master’s degree programs at the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg/UMD. He has also 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 as a consultant on the NASA-Beautiful Earth Team. In addition, as a consultant with the MN Planetarium Society, Jim has incorporated Indigenous star knowledge in their ExploraDome presentations which has exposed 100,000 students in the last three years to see Earth from space and space from Earth.

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Waziyatawin is a Dakota writer and teacher from the Pezihutazizi Otunwe (Yellow Medicine Village) in southwestern Minnesota.  She is committed to the pursuit of Indigenous liberation and the protection and reclamation of Indigenous homelands and ways of being. 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 held the Indigenous Peoples Research Chair in the Indigenous Governance Program.  She is the author or co/editor of seven volumes, including What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland (St. Paul: Living Justice Press, 2008), which won the 2009 Independent Publishers’ Silver Book Award for Best Regional Non-Fiction in the Midwest, and the co-edited volume with Michael Yellow Bird entitled For Indigenous Minds Only: A Decolonization Handbook (SAR Press, 2012).  Her most recent publication is Pezihutazizi Oyate Kin: The People of Yellow Medicine (St. Paul: Living Justice Press, 2019). Outside of the academy, Waziyatawin has engaged important projects in the Dakota community.  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.  She was also the founder and co-organizer of the Dakota Commemorative March, a 7-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.  The March began in 2002 and she continued with the march through 2008.  In 2008 Waziyatawin also founded the nonprofit Oyate Nipi Kte (The People Shall Live) where the pioneering reparative justice project Makoce Ikikcupi (Land Recovery) originated. In recent years, Waziyatawin has been involved in identifying and protecting Traditional Cultural Properties through the Tribal Historic Preservation Office in her community.

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