Faith Spotted Eagle
Faith Spotted Eagle is a 70 year old grandmother who lives on Ihanktonwan Dakota Territory (Yankton Sioux) in Southeastern South Dakota. She is a fluent speaker of the Dakota Language and a member of the Ihanktonwan. She has two children. Kip Spotted Eagle is a Dakota Language Instructor and Brook Spotted Eagle is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington in Cultural Anthropology. Her new grandson is Tokana Ikpanajin Spotted Eagle.
In the western world, Faith attended the American University in Washington, D.C., and Black Hills State College in Spearfish, SD, and earned a Master’s in Guidance and Counseling at the University of South Dakota. Her time as a student included an internship for then-senator George McGovern. Throughout her long career she has been a high school counselor/teacher/principal; manager of Human Services Programs and Youth Programs; Indian Child Welfare Worker; Organizational Development Consultant; Teacher in a Psychiatric setting; Peacemaker/mediator; Community College Instructor; PTSD therapist and Community Activist. She is a trained mediator/peacemaker and incorporates traditional peacemaking with western approaches of peacemaking Her priority is the preserve the good medicine of the Dakota Culture for the future.
In the Dakota/Native world, she has been active in teaching the Dakota language in language nest settings; been a 20-year member of a revived traditional Brave Heart Society; comes from a Sundance family; and has helped revive the Isnati Awicadowanpi (Coming of Age Ceremony) for the last 18 years across the Seven Council Fires. Her Red Rage Model has been utilized in the Brave Heart work. She has been active in leading resistance against Tar Sands Development and the KXL Pipeline.
As the Chair of the Ihanktonwan Treaty Committee and Brave Heart Society Grandmother, she helped bring forth the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred against the KXL Pipeline and the Tar Sands. She is the Volunteer Manager of the Brave Heart Lodge on the Ihanktonwan Reservation, which seeks to preserve Dakota cultural beliefs for the future. She has been a delegate of the Treaty Committee NGO at the United Nations. She helped create an important cultural survey of Ihanktonwan lands along the Missouri River in South Dakota and other Treaty lands.
Faith received one electoral vote for President of the United States from a faithless elector during the 2016 presidential election. She is the first Native American to receive an Electoral College vote for President, and she and Hillary Clinton are the first two women to receive an electoral vote for president.
2017 RiverKeeper, Sharon Day champions and protects water in a unique way. Her commitment goes beyond the typical activities of promoting legislation or simply speaking up for issues. She is a lifelong activist whose mission is cultural/spiritual and whose efforts can lead to transformational change. Sharon is a water walker who is carrying forward a new tradition to honor and protect our shared waters.
Sharon has led or co-led fourteen water walks including the Chippewa River, Cuyahoga River, James River, Kettle River, Minnehaha Creek, Minnesota River, Mississippi River, Ohio River, Pokemaga Lake, Potomac River, St. Louis River, Seneca Lake, Mother Earth Water Walk (from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior), and, the longest river in the United States, the Missouri River.
Sharon has been engaged politically for most of her life. She is currently the executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force in Minneapolis, an organization whose mission is to improve the health and education of indigenous people. Their programs include Ikidowin Peer Education Program (youth theatre troupe), and Asemaa (Tobacco) Programs. Sharon is also an appointed member of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Clean Water Council. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother as well as an artist, musician, and writer. Every Sunday, she leads a Water Ceremony on the Mississippi River. She is second degree M’dewiwin (a degree of spiritual leader in the Anishinaabe tradition) and follows the spiritual path of the Anishinaabe people.
Over the years Sharon has received numerous awards, including the Resourceful Woman Award, the Gisela Knopka Award, BIHA’s Women of Color Award, The National Native American AIDS Prevention Resource Center’s Red Ribbon Award, and most recently, the Alston Bannerman Sabbatical Award. She has been named as one of the 100 best-loved women by Yes! Magazine. The state of Minnesota and the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis have recognized Day’s contributions, in part, by declaring November 10, 1998, in her honor.
Representative Mary Kunesh-Podein, a descendant of Standing Rock Lakota, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in November 2016. She is one of four Native American Women who compose Minnesota’s first Native American Caucus in the House of Representatives. She joined the MN ICWA board in 2017.
Mary continues her role as a middle school Library Media Specialist at Robbinsdale Middle School outside of the legislature. She began her teaching career over 20 years ago and continues to make the environment, education, and community her priority.
Representative Kunesh-Podein serves on the Education Policy, Agriculture, and State Government FInance committees. Her bill to incorporate opioid education in schools and the creation of a task force to address the moral crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in MN have both been met with unprecedented bipartisan support and endorse by Minnesota’s Governor Dayton.
Mary serves on the Agriculture Policy and Education Policy committees, State Government Finance and the Select Committee on Technology and Responsive Government, and the School Trust Lands.
Susan Allen is Lakota, Dakota and Anishinabe and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. In 2012 she was the first female Native American to serve in the Minnesota Legislature to represent district 62B in south Minneapolis.
Susan is an experienced tax and tribal law attorney currently working with Jacobson Law. She is a graduate of Augsburg College, University of New Mexico, and William Mitchell College of Law. She is also an active member of various professional and community organizations, including the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, ICWA Law Center, and the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association.
As a Native woman and a lesbian, Susan has faced barriers and overcome discrimination throughout her life. Susan is public-spirited and community minded.
Peggy Flanagan, is a longtime advocate for Minnesota’s children and families, a DFLer, an organizer, and a near-lifelong resident of St. Louis Park. She has served in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2015 representing the communities of St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Plymouth and Medicine Lake. Peggy serves as the DFL lead on the Subcommittee on Child Care Access and Affordability. She also serves on Health and Human Services Policy, State Government Finance and Rules committees. During the 2017 session, she joined with other DFL legislators to form the POCI (People of Color and Indigenous) caucus.
The principle of Peggy’s professional, political and personal life is giving back, particularly to children, families, communities of color, American Indians and low-income and working people. A noted community and political organizer,
Peggy is a partner with The Management Center. She formerly served as the executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota (CDF). She also worked for almost a decade at Wellstone Action, first as director and founder of the Native American Leadership Program, then as director of external affairs. Peggy serves on the board of directors of Native Progress, Sojourners, and the Minneapolis Foundation. She is also running for lieutenant governor joining Tim Walz in the Minnesota gubernatorial election, 2018.
A citizen of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe, Peggy lives in the Bronx Park neighborhood of St. Louis Park with her 4-year-old daughter Siobhan.
Lyz Jaakola is a musician and educator, and an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Ojibwe near Cloquet, MN. She teaches music and American Indian studies at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
She performs and composes in many styles and genres including traditional Anishinaabe music, jazz, blues and opera. She has performed as close to home as Duluth, MN, and as far as Rome for the Rome Opera Festival, while her Native-based compositions have also been heard on radio and television. She has arranged many Native pieces for solo and choral performance.
Lyz is always striving to promote Anishinaabe music and education through her collaborations, performances and composition.
(Photo by MPR/Nate Ryan)
Ruth Anna Buffalo
Buffalo has devoted her education and career to improving the health and lives of the public. She has 20+ years of community work ranging from youth to building community coalitions. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (Si Tanka University), and earned a Master degree in Public Health from North Dakota State University (NDSU), and Master degrees in Management and in Business Administration from University of Mary.
Her background includes health services, research, policy and education in public health. She has worked on several projects in the areas of community wellness, traffic safety, substance use community interventions, culturally tailored breast cancer awareness materials, and maternal and child health. Ruth is also a small business owner, as her family owns a local barbershop.
Ruth’s background in public health and indigenous perspective guide her work. In 2016 she ran for public office as a candidate for ND Insurance Commissioner, and also completed work for the ACLU of North Dakota which focused on Standing Rock. She is a board member to the ND Human Rights Coalition and is an alumnus of several women’s leadership initiatives. Prior consultant work includes the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation’s Summer Youth Employment Program and Sacred Pipe Resource Center. Currently, she is a consultant for Honor the Earth, which focuses on anti-racism work through community capacity building, reconciliation, education and partnerships.
Dr. Carrie Jennings
Dr. Carrie Jennings is the Research and Policy Director at Freshwater. She applies her geology background to the policy that Freshwater promotes in the areas of surface water pollution and groundwater sustainability.
She has mapped the surficial geology of half of the state during a 24-year, field-geologist career. She maintains a strong connection with the University of Minnesota where she did her MS and Ph.D. She is Adjunct in Earth Sciences; chairs their external Advisory Board and is a member of the faculty in the Water Resources Center. She has taught a field-oriented glacial geology course for the last 24 years and always makes sure to bring her students to see this great glacial landscape of west-central Minnesota.
Sara is the founder and artistic director of the Echoes of Peace Choir, a non-audition community choir in Duluth, Minnesota, with a repertoire of world music and a membership of 70+ voices. Thomsen founded and directs the Echoes of Peace non-profit to expand and develop the work of examining critical social issues using music and the arts to build and bridge informed, engaged, and caring communities.
Sara grew up surrounded by a family and community that loved to sing. From listening to her father sing lullabies and onward, Sara’s life has been infused with music. She is a staunch supporter of struggles for human dignity and ecological sustainability. Slowing down enough to see and hear the vibrant wonder of the commonplace is her work and play. All this can be felt in her music. Whether it is a song welcoming a newborn, protesting a policy, depicting night falling or describing a loved one, her music is alive and pulsing.