Tiwahe Foundation’s Mission:

To invest in and honor American Indian people in Minnesota by supporting them to reach their goals in the areas of education, economic independence, cultural traditions and language, health and wellness, and leadership – grounded in sovereignty and Indigenous worldviews.

About Tiwahe Foundation

The Tiwahe Foundation is a place for giving — and giving back — that benefits the well-being of American Indian people and communities in Minnesota. We are a community foundation of friends and supporters — Native and non-Native — who have resources, time, and talents to share. Together, we all work to unleash more philanthropy and generosity that are not only held within every person but also embodied collectively.

We think of this as the Circle of Giving — a continuous cycle of success grounded in indigenous culture that recognizes that giving benefits both giver and receiver. The Tiwahe Foundation is a trusted community partner, connector and resource.

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)


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

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

Mary Kunesh (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe descendant)  – Minnesota State Senator

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

Alyssa Terleski (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa)  American Indian Cancer Foundation, Operations Director

Our Story

The Foundation 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.

The Linkingleaders Partnership

The LinkingLeaders Partnership is a cross-racial, cross cultural partnership that brings together four networks of leaders in the Indigenous, Black, Asian, and Latinx communities. A shared effort of the African American Leadership Forum, Coalition of Asian American LeadersLatino LEAD, and Tiwahe Foundation, LinkingLeaders focuses 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.


Nikki Pieratos, Executive Director

Nikki Pieratos, Executive Director of Tiwahe Foundation and previous board member and donor, is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. She has over ten years of experience in community development finance, most recently providing financing and capacity building for large-scale Indigenous regenerative development projects. Nikki also is also a recognized thought leader, speaker, and writer on changing systems within philanthropy and impact investing to align and support racial justice, social justice, economic justice, and climate justice. Nikki holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. She currently serves on the board of CommonFuture and previously served for four years on the board of Mni Sota Fund (a Native CDFI). Her past work includes chartering and running the Northern Eagle Federal Credit Union to serve the Bois Forte community, research and engagement on Indian Country’s access to capital at the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis, and creating new models for resilient and regenerative lending and investing at NDN Collective.

Tony Drews, American Indian Family Empowerment Program Coordinator

Tony Drews has worked in the Native American community his whole professional career. As Tiwahe’s Program Coordinator he leads the American Indian Family Empowerment Fund. Tony comes to Tiwahe as a recent grant recipient. Tony used his grant to develop board and hand games in traditional Anishinaabe language to foster cultural knowledge for youth and adults.

Tony has spent the last 5 years working with Anoka-Hennepin Schools as the Indian Education Advisor. In addition, Tony also worked as the Residential Director of two Native American Youth Homeless shelters, and as Vice President of Operations for a Native American owned elder care organization.  Tony attended the University of Minnesota and studied Sociology and American Indian Studies. He is from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and has studied the Anishinaabe language for over 15 years.

Baswewe Gayle, Oyate Leadership Network Director

Baswewe Gayle is an enrolled member of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. For years, she has dedicated her work to partnership and collaboration for the betterment and benefit of our future generations. Baswewe’s experience included specialization in diversity, equity, inclusion, culture, and identity.

Baswewe’s career has included mentoring, instructing and facilitating her work through restorative and trauma-informed practices, photography and systems change. Above all, Baswewe has made a lifelong commitment to living in a good way according to her Anishinaabe teachings and the way of the heart.

As the Oyate Leadership Network Director, Baswewe is leading the Oyate Leadership Network (OLN) and providing critical support for the LinkingLeaders Partnership.

Baswewe will lead outreach and redesign through a community-based process to create and deliver leadership programming and grantmaking. In her role, she will nurture and expand our existing network of Native leaders and organizations across Minnesota.

The second part of her role includes working alongside our LinkingLeaders partners. Baswewe will collaborate to create connections and strengthen linkages amongst leaders of color, leadership networks, and programs across cultures and sectors.