Our Mission

Our mission is to strengthen Indigenous leadership and cultural identity.

We invest in and cultivate Indigenous prosperity and excellence by providing resources including grants, traditional knowledge, and learning communities that foster cultural enrichment, self-determination, and reciprocal relationships. In doing so, we create the conditions that allow our people to generate positive intergenerational ripple effects in American Indian communities.

About Tiwahe Foundation

Tiwahe is more than a Native-run community foundation. Tiwahe is a connector – of people, organizations, resources, knowledge, and opportunity. Tiwahe creates pathways for American Indian people to reach their goals, on their own terms, in this critical moment for defining how Native cultures, languages, and ways of being will live and grow in the coming generations.  

We do this through our flagship micro-granting program (AIFEP) and through our Oyate Leadership Network, a network weaving and leadership development program that is being re-envisioned to center the cultural needs of our Indigenous leaders in Minnesota.  Tiwahe means Native people in Minnesota have a relative wherever they go. 

Tiwahe challenges systemic barriers to the goals our people pursue. The dominant culture approach to philanthropy is one of those barriers. Tiwahe offers a new model for philanthropy that centers Indigenous voices and values in every decision from planning through evaluation, and we help other organizations let go of dominant culture practices that hold them back.

Our Core Values

Tiwahe (ti-wah-hay) means family in Dakota. It symbolizes how we are connected to all living things and one’s personal responsibility is to protect family, community, and mother nature. There is no asset more precious to Indigenous communities than the health, safety, and well-being of our children, youth, elders, leaders, and families. Tiwahe Foundation is located on Dakota and Ojibwe homelands, and we honor Dakota and Ojibwe cultural values. These values help guide our directives and commitment to our relatives — all Indigenous peoples who live in the Twin Cities and Minnesota:

  • Wóčhekįya – (Prayer)
  • Gwayakwaadiziwin (Honesty) To achieve honesty within yourself is to recognize who and what you are.
  • Wahwala / Dabaadendiziwin (Humility)
  • Wičákha / Debwewin (Truth)
  • Wóksape / Nibwaakaawin (Wisdom)
  • Waúnšila / Zaagi’idiwin (Love/Compassion)
  • Waóhola / Manaadendamowin (Respect)
  • Wóohitike / Aakwade’ewin (Bravery/Courage)
  • Wacantognaka / Gizhewaadizi (Generosity)

Board of Directors

Wakinyan LaPointe (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) – Board Chair – Cultural Consultant and Program Officer, Headwaters Foundation

Reid Raymond (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) – Board Vice-Chair – Attorney, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office

Maggie Lorenz (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) – Board Treasurer – Executive Director, Lower Phalen Creek Project

Feather LaRoche (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe) Board Secretary Native American Student Services & Engagement Coordinator, University of Minnesota

Amber Annis (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) – Program Specialist, Minnesota Historical Society

Amber Ruffin (Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa Nation)  Senior Health Equity Program Manager, Be The Match

Kelly Miller (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) – Director, Department of Indian Work, Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul

Nigel R Perrote (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin) – National State and Program Director, MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Micah Prairie Chicken (Oglala Lakota) Licensed Psychologist

Our Story

Tiwahe evolved from origins as a culturally responsive grantmaking initiative of three Minnesota family foundations known as the American Indian Family Empowerment Program. Launched in 1993 initially by the Marbrook Foundation, American Indian Family Empowerment Program was the inspiration of Markell Brooks. It operated as a donor-designated fund with monies from a collaborative of the Marbrook, Westcliff and Grotto Foundations. In 2009, American Indian Family Empowerment Program transformed into a new entity, the Tiwahe Foundation. While Tiwahe Foundation is an independent community foundation with its own board of directors, the original American Indian Family Empowerment Program remains part of the ongoing work.

Our Programs

Our Team

Executive Director Nikki Pieratos

Nikki Pieratos / Waasegiizhigokwe

Executive Director

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Tony Drews

Tony Drews / Chinoodin

American Indian Family Empowerment Program Manager

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Baswewe Gayle - Oyate Leadership Network Director

Baswewe Gayle / Basweweaanakwadookwe

Oyate Leadership Network Director

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Liberty Greene

Learning and Operations Manager

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Tyler Hurley

Strategic Communications Director

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