Tiana Wilson-Blindman

Shifting the Power Dynamics

Tiana Wilson-Blindman — ’21 MEM (she/her)
“As a biracial person raised on a reservation by an Indigenous mother, I’m sure my identity contributes to my ease in a facilitating role, professionally. I have a cultural understanding of both sides that I think is critical in serving as a go-between and bringing people together.”

Hometown: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota 
Fellowship host: NorthLight Foundation 
Next step: JD candidate, UC Berkeley School of Law

Key takeaway from the Environmental Fellows Program: “I’ve been connecting NorthLight with people in my Indigenous community and teaching them how to really communicate with each other. These open conversations have changed my life. This kind of work is what I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know what form it would take.”

“In my fellowship at the NorthLight Foundation, I’m helping them shift the power dynamics in their work with grant recipients. The charity model of philanthropy aimed at Indigenous communities has too often been controlling and paternalistic, rooted in a colonizing mindset. NorthLight wants to build more authentic and trust-based relationships with Indigenous organizations that puts their leaders front and center and works in partnership with them.

“Only 0.4% of philanthropic funding by large U.S. foundations is directed to Indigenous communities. I want to raise the profile of my community’s non-profit organizations, so I’ve been working on a landscape analysis of groups in Indian country. I’ve also been helping with everything from writing land acknowledgements to shifting their reporting requirements for grantees.

“The Environmental Fellowship Program has been important to me. It empowers people of diverse backgrounds and opens the door to people who have been historically excluded from environmentalism. One program can’t fix everything, but EFP is a good inspiration in terms of what can be done.”

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