Executive Director, Nikki Pieratos gives remarks at Bigelow 75th Anniversary,
June 7, 2023
“Doing Philanthropy Indigenously” – means the money going out is the least of what we do. Tiwahe means family in Dakota and our grantees say that Tiwahe means having a relative wherever you go. This means we resource, make connections, and empower Native people in Minnesota to lead with our Dakota and Anishinaabe cultural values and teachings.
Tiwahe Foundation is one of four lead organizations in a partnership called the LinkingLeaders. As a shared effort with African American Leadership Forum, Coalition of Asian American Leaders, and LatinoLEAD, we focus on strengthening connections across our networks in order to increase our shared leadership and solidarity practices so that we can advance powerful systems change work that aims to achieve racial justice and equity. Combined, we represent over 20,000 leaders of color across Minnesota.
LinkingLeaders Partnership is unique in the solidarity movement space. Before I dive deeper there, I wanted to note that we are also unique for the Bigelow Foundation as one of their signature and long funded initiatives (and the nature of the relationship goes beyond funding and includes mentorship and thought partnership). We just met with Ambar and Erik a few weeks ago about our trajectory and what we need to resource the phase of growth that we are now in. This meeting of the minds and hearts is one small act of solidarity.
A few weeks ago, with LatinoLead’s graduating cohort of Avanzando Liderazgo, the four of us (me, Irma, ThaoMee, Shanaya) were asked to share our definition of solidarity. One thing that we have embraced is that we still don’t have a final working definition of “solidarity.” Because we are immersed in how it shows up; the practice of solidarity. But, we do like the textbook definition, which describes solidarity as, “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; also mutual support within a group.”
Our common interest here is that we ALL win. This often feels impalpable when you think of this on the level of national or global systems. In a previous life, I worked for NDN Collective and we did a lot of transnational movement work and that scale is still needed, but real solidarity in practice is place-based. It’s local. It’s deep relationships that can happen by literally being in community together. It’s a completely different dynamic.
At LinkingLeaders, the four orgs show up for each other. For example, when big policy decisions are on the line (like the Ethnic Education for All legislation). Over the last year, we have developed a new organizational model that brings the work in-house so that solidarity is not another project or area of focus but braided into all parts of our organizations.
For that purpose, we launched the Truth-in-History Project in 2023, to gather community stories of place across our populations and geographical areas in Minnesota via video. Our hope is longevity and use by our communities and beyond to understand the rich complexity of culture and experience we share in different locales (including bodies of water) across Minnesota. Solidarity happens when we deeply understand and have empathy for each of our experiences, as well as knowing where we intersect.
For the next 75 years, we envision that other cities and locales adopt a LinkingLeaders model for community-based organizations, that philanthropy sees the value of this work, like Bigelow has, and that Black and brown people develop the social capital and networking that empowers us, gives us what we need for our well-being in dominant culture, and the means to help shift dominant culture to one that is more equitable…for all people and for Nimaamaa-Aki (Mother Earth).