First Nations’ Dr. Raymond Foxworth & Others Collect Honors

Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D.

In October 2015, our own Raymond Foxworth, Ph.D., vice president of grantmaking, development and communications, was selected as one of 12 outstanding leaders from Independent Sector’s member organizations for the 2015 American Express NGen Fellows Program. In its seventh year, this selective fellowship program continues to build the next generation of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders as part of Independent Sector’s NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now initiative.

The American Express NGen Fellows program builds the leadership skills of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders ages 40 and under to tackle society’s toughest challenges. Over the course of a year, Fellows participate in a range of activities that deepen their individual capabilities, expand their collective knowledge, and grow their professional networks. Learn more here.

Also in October, Raymond was named to the 2015 class of “Native American 40 Under 40” award recipients by The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. This prestigious award is bestowed upon individuals under the age of 40, nominated by members of their communities, who have demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication and made significant contributions in business and their community. You can read more here.

Our hearty congratulations to Raymond!

Further, several of our top people were selected to participate in the American Express Leadership Academy/Center for Creative Leadership training in New York City. They are Raymond; Sarah Dewees, Ph.D., our senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs; Jackie Francke, who is vice president of programs and administration; and Marsha Whiting, one of our senior program officers.

The academy focuses on building the personal, business and leadership skills needed to run a successful nonprofit organization. It is tailored to fit cultural nuances and different nonprofit niche needs, and it includes the following core elements:

  • A focus on high-potential, emerging leaders through a competitive nomination and selection process that seeks to build a diverse cohort of nonprofit managers who represent a range of experiences, backgrounds and industries.
  • A curriculum blending personal leadership skills with business skills. 
  • An assessment-based approach, including one-on-one coaching and formal follow-up activities


The program serves only 48 participants per year at the American Express headquarters in New York.

Our hearty congratulations to Sarah, Jackie and Marsha, too!

A-dae Romero: A Happy Success Story for Native Agriculture

A-dae at home in Lanai, Hawaii

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is always happy and proud when our grantees and the various projects we have supported achieve good success and begin to make positive ripples in Indian Country. We’re happy and proud a lot because we have many of these stories, but one of the recent ones is about our good friend A-dae Romero.

A-dae first flew onto First Nations’ radar in 2011 when we provided her with a USDA Community Food Projects travel scholarship to attend our L.E.A.D. Conference. At the time, A-dae was thinking of starting a nonprofit organization related to food.

That thought soon became reality with a new organization called Cochiti Youth Experience, Inc. at Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. (A-dae was born and raised in Cochiti Pueblo. She is Cochiti and Kiowa.) She co-founded this nonprofit so it could create positive opportunities for Cochiti’s young people, and it has a special focus on strengthening Pueblo agriculture as an economic, political and social anchor for the community. First Nations provided a grant to assist Cochiti Youth Experience in 2012 under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, then another grant in 2013 under our Native Youth and Culture Fund.

Since then, A-dae has continued to accomplish good things, both personally and professionally. She recently received important honors and achieved major milestones that recognize her growing impact, especially in Native American agriculture.

A-Dae (front and center in gray suit) at The White House for the "Champions of Change" honors.

In July 2014, The White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture honored A-dae as one of 15 local “Champions of Change” leaders from across the country “who are doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching. These champions are leading in their industries and communities, inspiring others who want to find careers and a life on the land, and providing food, fiber, fuel, and flora around the world.”

Then, she was recently named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, a very prestigious academic accomplishment. She will use it to study the Maori people of New Zealand. Then Agri-Pulse, a national agricultural news source, included her as one of the most influential rural agricultural advocates in its “50 Under 50” report.

Further, A-dae recently completed her LL.M. (master of law) degree in agricultural and food law through the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law. A-dae was the initiative’s first student to complete this multi-disciplinary research, service and educational opportunity, and the initiative itself is the first of its kind nationally. This advanced law degree comes on top of her J.D. (juris doctorate) degree from Arizona State University’s College of Law, and her degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (her focus was on public policy and economic policy).

A-dae now acts as a consultant with First Nations Development Institute on several of our Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative efforts, plus she walks in two worlds by farming with her family in New Mexico – raising blue corn and varieties of Pueblo corn – and farming with her husband’s family in Hawaii, growing taro. She also serves on the board of Native American Farmers and Ranchers through New Mexico Community Capital, and on the board of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA). And, she was just named a legal researcher for the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), for the new Global Network on Legal Preparedness for Achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

After earning her LL.M. degree, First Nations honored A-dae at our offices in Colorado. Left to right are Jackie Francke and Marsha Whiting of First Nations, A-dae, and Sarah Hernandez and Raymond Foxworth of First Nations.

It’s no wonder A-dae is becoming a leader in Native agriculture. According to the Agri-Pulse article, her grandfather was a leader among his people. When construction of the Cochiti Dam flooded agricultural land used by their tribe, A-dae was just a child. Yet she remembers playing nearby as her grandfather and other leaders discussed the loss of the land for farming, which was vital to the pueblo’s livelihood.

A-dae said it was “very intimate and powerful time” in her life, as the community, dependent on agriculture, struggled with the question of who they would be without farming. As she began to develop an interest in a profession that could help her to be a voice of her culture, she found a mentor who encouraged her to pursue her dreams of law school. Since then she has found a fertile and fruitful field of endeavor at the intersection of law and agriculture.

“After all,” she said in the Agri-Pulse interview, “farming is about getting our hands dirty, and there is a simple kind of happiness in that.”

By Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer

18th Annual L.E.A.D. Conference a Huge Success

First Nations President Michael Roberts opens the conference and introduces the first keynote speaker.

In early October 2013, First Nations held its 18th Annual L.E.A.D. Institute Conference at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota, at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.  It attracted a record number of attendees – almost 200 – who journeyed to the event from numerous Native nonprofits, tribal governments, businesses and other entities across the U.S.  It also attracted foundation and corporate executives, many of whom presented at workshops or on panels during the conference.

Lori Watso of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community talks about renewable energy and sustainability efforts.

Although the group was diverse, they all shared one common purpose: they are deeply interested in building, rebuilding, growing and improving Native American communities and economies.  This is a purpose that aligns directly with First Nations’ own goal and mission.

L.E.A.D.  stands for “Leadership and Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Development” program. It is a First Nations effort designed to provide training, mentorship and networking opportunities to emerging and existing Native American leaders and other professionals, particularly those engaged in nonprofit work but also for those involved in Native businesses and governments.

The conference kicked off with intensive pre-sessions that included the areas of agriculture and Native food sovereignty, financial capability, and urban Indian programs. Co-sponsors of these pre-sessions included the Shakopee Farm, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Northwest Area Foundation and The Kresge Foundation. The pre-sessions ended and the main conference began with a networking reception sponsored by Comcast|NBCUniversal.

The Funders Panel draws lots of interest and questions.

The next day and a half featured keynote presentations and breakout workshops on a variety of topics related to First Nations’ focus areas of asset-building, nonprofit capacity-building and Native food systems. Among the keynote speakers were Lori Watso, secretary/treasurer of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, who spoke about some of the tribe’s renewable energy and sustainability initiatives; and Bill Black, vice president and executive director of the Comcast Foundation and director of community investment for Comcast Corporation, who addressed why and how his company is supporting organizations in Indian Country. The breakout sessions covered areas such as marketing, communications and social media, financial and investor education, good agriculture practices, nonprofit incorporation and board development, Native food policy, and financial management.

Comcast Foundation's Bill Black keynotes about why and how Comcast is supporting Indian Country.

The conference ended with the ever-popular Funders Panel comprised of representatives from foundations that support Indian Country. They provided insights, guidance and tips on dealing with their foundations in seeking support for projects and initiatives. Panelists included representatives from Northwest Area Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, CHS Foundation, Bush Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and First Nations.
By Marsha Whiting, First Nations Senior Program Officer


Open House Celebrates Permanent Home of First Nations

Some of First Nations' staff members at the Open House. L to R are Montoya Whiteman, Marsha Whiting and Lisa Yellow Eagle

On Sept. 6, nearly 100 people came together to celebrate First Nations Development Institute’s new permanent home and office building in Longmont, Colorado.  The occasion was an open house featuring good food, friends, supporters and, of course, lots of fun.

First Nations actually moved into the existing building in the north part of Longmont back on April 26, but it wasn’t until early September that we were ready and able to pause and celebrate.  We had to get everything situated and make a few updates and repairs (and we’ll continue to make improvements in the future), plus we had to do our regular work in the meantime.

John Emhoolah Jr. (Kiowa and Arapaho) offers his song

Some of the attendees included Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs and other local elected officials, state officials, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, area business people, the professional and business tenants in our building, some of the funders, foundations and individual donors who help sustain us, and numerous representatives from other American Indian organizations in Colorado and New Mexico such as the Native American Rights Fund, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the American Indian College Fund, the Denver Indian Center, and Native American Bank.  We even had a few of our Facebook friends and Twitter followers drop by for the event.

Besides ample and delicious food and the chance to reconnect with many friends and professional Native connections, the highlights of the observance were remarks and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting by First Nations President Michael Roberts (Tlingit), and a Kiowa song and blessing by noted Colorado Indian leader John Emhoolah Jr. (Kiowa and Arapaho).  Then we celebrated with cake!

John EchoHawk, left, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, chats with First Nations President Mike Roberts

We’re planning to call our building the “First Nations Professional Building.” It’s located at 2432 Main Street in Longmont, Colorado.

As the chairman of our board of directors, B. Thomas Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo), noted in our recent annual report, “First Nations purchased its own headquarters building after years of leasing space and dealing with seemingly endless rent increases. It became obvious that First Nations needed to seize control of its own physical space. The building is now a key asset of the organization, providing operational space as well as rental income from other tenants. I believe it’s a sign of the continuing growth and maturity of the organization, and is testament to its growing presence, impact and credibility in Native communities.”