SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Four South Dakotans have been announced as 2021 Bush Fellows for their leading transformative change in their communities:
Patricia Acevedo Fuentes is passionate about equitable community design. She understands that architecture is powerful and permanent but sees that her field often ignores the impact one building can have on an entire community. As an architect, she seeks to make the design and construction of places and spaces more equitable and inclusive. One of the few Latinas in her profession and in the region, she wants to play a leading role in creating communities of justice and belonging. She will expand her knowledge of public policy to better address exclusionary practices and funding formulas that adversely affect rural and remote areas. She will also build connections with leaders engaged in the design and spatial justice movement.
Peter Hill is determined to revitalize Indigenous languages. Over the past 20 years living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, he has observed the rapid decline of Lakota speakers from 6,000 to fewer than 2,000 today. Nine years ago, he launched a Lakota language program that started as an in-home daycare. Today, that program has grown into an immersion language elementary school and a resource library with more than 1,000 children’s books, hundreds of Lakota language learning videos, and dozens of Lakota games and apps. To continue as a leader of this movement and to engage other Native nations, he will seek advanced education in language revitalization and formal opportunities to cultivate leadership skills. He will also develop connections with educators who have led successful language revitalization efforts in other parts of the world.
Kimimila Locke (Dakota, Ahtna Dené, and Anishnaabe) is on a quest to radically improve educational outcomes for Lakota youth. Over the past two decades, she has embedded culture and community strengths in learning to help students achieve significant academic results. Now, with a group of committed colleagues, she has returned to Standing Rock to open a high school that embraces Lakota traditions. She seeks to create safe spaces that reconnect youth to their land and to the strengths of their culture. She also wants to expand this vision to other Indigenous communities struggling with such issues as loss of language, sovereignty and economic inequality. To lead this large-scale change, she will study and learn from programs around the country and world that are successfully building Indigenous sovereignty and revitalizing language and other traditions with youth.
Wizipan Little Elk (Sicangu Lakota Oyate – Rosebud Sioux Tribe) is at the forefront of re-imagining how the Sicangu Lakota create and distribute wealth. As leader of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, he has sparked generational transformation through a successful globally recognized approach that combines business and community-based nonprofit initiatives. He envisions a future where his people and neighbors live in harmony with one another and the land, modeling local solutions to the global challenges of climate change and social inequity. To power this vision, he wants to revolutionize social impact investing in Indian Country, realigning concepts of return on investment with Indigenous values. To lead this visionary change, he will grow his technical skills in impact investing, build professional connections, and improve self-care practices to sustain his leadership.
The Bush Fellowship provides up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months for fellows to pursue educational and learning experiences that help develop the skills and relationships to foster large-scale change in their communities. Fellows can use the funding to pursue such things as education, leadership training, networking and mentorship.
“We believe in investing in people who can address challenges today and who are driven to grow their ability to have even greater impact in the future,” said Bush Foundation Vice President of Grantmaking, Anita Patel. “We see past Bush Fellows at the forefront of solving our region’s most critical issues, and we are excited to see the impact these new 2021 Fellows will have in the coming years.”
Fellows are selected from a diverse group of community leaders across the region, with this years applicants numbering 538. They are put through a rigorous selection process that involves mentoring from Bush Fellows alum, one-on-one sessions with Foundation staff, and interviews with selected community leaders.
More than 2,400 people have received support from the Fellowship, including former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, South Dakota Poet Laureate Lee Ann Roripaugh, and former special assistant to President Barack Obama for Native American affairs Jodi Archambault.
Applications for 2022 Bush Fellowships begin August 10 for anyone 24 years and older who “wants to build their ability to make change happen.” Applicants must live in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, or one of the 23 native nations that share the same geography.
Click here for more information on Bush Fellowships and the Foundation.