Spring Leadership News from Tiwahe Foundation
A Message from the Executive Director:
We are proud to announce Brook LaFloe as Tiwahe Foundation’s new Program Director. Brook comes to Tiwahe with deep connections to the Tiwahe community and a strong track record of social entrepreneurship and leadership on Native issues. She will lead the relaunch of the Oyate Leadership Network and help Tiwahe expand programming to Greater Minnesota. Contact Brook for new partnership development or other questions about the Oyate Leadership Network.
Tony Drews, Tiwahe’s current Program Director, is transitioning to a part-time role where he will continue to focus on administering the American Indian Family Empowerment Program. Contact Tony for questions about AIFEP grants or community engagement opportunities for Tiwahe.
This work will be supported and guided by the Tiwahe Wisdom Council, an advisory body of our founders and early board members who share their experience and expertise in Native ways of leadership and community-based decision-making. Together we are co-creating a new model for Indigenous philanthropy, one that is rooted in culture, tradition, and holding all our relationships in a good way.
Wisdom Council 2022
- Lemoine LaPointe (back row, second from right)
- Kelly Drummer (front row center)
- Carrie Day Aspinwall (back row center)
- Juanita Espinosa (second row, second from right)
- Kathy Denman-Wilke (second row, first on right)
- Jackie Dionne (second row, first on left)
- Yvonne Goodsky (not pictured)
Zaagibagaa-giizis. It is May. The budding moon. As leaves finally emerge from the trees, we are so pleased to see all the ways that Tiwahe is also blooming. We are fortunate to take part in nurturing a caring and thoughtful team with deep roots in the community, and we look forward to helping you get to know Brook, Tony, and the Wisdom Council over the coming months.
A Message from Program Director Book LaFloe:
It is with great enthusiasm that I am returning to Tiwahe Foundation in such a prominent role. I can still recall the first time I heard of Tiwahe, nearly 20 years ago, as a young child growing up in the Twin Cities. Over the years, Tiwahe has often been a source of support and guidance in my life and career.
Tiwahe supported my journey to visit colleges and universities to plan my education. Tiwahe supported my work bringing the Macalester College Powwow back after 20 years of its absence. Tiwahe supported me as I completed my Master’s in Education and launched the Niniijaanis Collective.
I know Tiwahe’s impact firsthand, and I am honored to stand on the shoulders of the many giants that built this amazing community foundation that has helped so many of us thrive. I could not be here today without Tiwahe. Upon my return home to the Twin Cities, Tiwahe offered me one of its first internships, and then a special projects contract in 2018. Now it feels as if I am coming home again with greater skillsets and many experiences to guide my work as Program Director.
What excites me most about returning is the relaunch of the Oyate Leadership Network, which I will help redesign to meet community needs statewide. Tiwahe has had a strong presence in the Twin Cities Metro, and I believe we can have that same presence and impact as we grow to support urban, rural, and tribal communities across the state.
It is time for us to do more to support the next generation of leaders everywhere we can. Much of this work aligns with my passion for creating and organizing collective efforts as I have with Niniijaanis One of Ones, my social enterprise for Indigenous children. I have the honor of serving as an early childhood educator, curriculum developer, artist, basketball coach/aunty/sister coach, organizer and advocate. I hope to bring these skills to this position in a good way to listen, learn, and serve all our community members to the best of my ability.
A Message from American Indian Family Empowerment Program Coordinator Tony Drews:
I came to Tiwahe following a career working in Indian Education in the Anoka-Hennepin school district and with Native youth as the Residence Director of the Ain Dah Young Center. I started as Tiwahe’s Program Manager in September, during a time of transition for Tiwahe as well. Left in my care was the American Indian Family Empowerment Program, also known as AIFEP. As a past grant recipient, I was aware of the program, but I was unaware of its full history or standing in the community.
Shortly after I started, it became apparent that Tiwahe’s history, culture, and mission perfectly matched my skills and passions. While the pandemic created challenges for the program, the support I received from the new leadership here at Tiwahe, including our Executive Director, Nikki Pieratos, helped us overcome these challenges and bring wonderful new growth to fruition over the last 6 months.
We have been able to get back out in the community and re-establish old relationships and build many new ones as well. We have extended our community engagement beyond the Twin Cities into the full 7 County area that we support. It has been a joy for me to represent Tiwahe in community and hold conversations with our relatives that are looking for support in the areas of education, health and wellness, economic stability and culture and language. We have also expanded those conversations to include non-Native organizations that serve Native people such as the Angel Foundation and the Children’s Hospital.
Tiwahe is all about impact. We hope that AIFEP grants will not only impact our grantees in a positive way, but also create ripple effects that will create positive impacts throughout the community. Our emphasis on community engagement has had a ripple effect on our programming. We have seen a direct increase in grant applications received. Since I started, applications have grown threefold, in turn this has allowed us the opportunity to invest so much more into our community.
Tiwahe has had a significant impact on my life. Particularly as I see the impact Tiwahe has in our community, and I have felt a sense of family from the start. Unfortunately, I have recognized, my work here at Tiwahe has also pulled me from my own family. I’ve been so fortunate that my family at Tiwahe has supported my need to spend more time at home and has also allowed me to continue to be a part of the Tiwahe family. This is why I am transitioning to a part-time role as AIFEP Program Coordinator. This will allow me to continue my heartfelt work with AIFEP and within our community, but also allow me more time with my family as I step back from my managerial duties.
I hope to be with Tiwahe for the next 20 years, as I am so honored to have a small part in the positive impact that AIFEP creates for our community members, and in turn our collective Tiwahe.