Self-Determination Self-determination empowers those who are most affected to be in the driver’s seat of policy-making decisions. For example, if an oil company wants to run a pipeline through Indigenous land, Indigenous communities themselves would decide based on their values and the impact on their families, water, air, and land. NDN collective works to restore self-determination through three pillars: defense, development, and decolonization. Decolonization European colonization was a system of white supremacy that annihilated complex Indigenous populations, cultures, languages, beliefs, land, and governing systems. The work of decolonization includes dismantling white supremacist systems of economic extraction and governance; education about the totality of colonial history; and the revitalization of Native languages and ways of being. Reclaiming Indigenous heritage is also an act of healing past traumas from colonization. Land Back A key tenet of self-determination and decolonization is the “land back” movement. Theft of Indigenous lands was one of the fundamental ways Europeans colonized America. Stealing land and extracting its resources decimated both the land and the people who lived on it. The land back movement aims to right this wrong by returning public lands, like National Parks and National Forests, to the care of Indigenous People. Land back does not mean removing Americans from their homes. Instead, it means returning the land to Native stewardship focusing on preservation and rejuvenation. Find out more: Nick Tilsen is the President & CEO of NDN Collective, and a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Tilsen has over 18 years of experience building place-based innovations that have the ability to inform systems change solutions around climate resiliency, sustainable housing, and equitable community development. He founded NDN Collective to scale these place-based solutions while building needed philanthropic, social impact investment, capacity and advocacy infrastructure geared towards building the collective power of Indigenous Peoples. Tilsen has received numerous fellowships and awards from Ashoka, Rockefeller Foundation, Bush Foundation and the Social Impact Award from Claremont-Lincoln University. He has an honorary doctorate degree from Sinte Gleska University. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTilsen And you can follow NDN Collective on Twitter @ndncollective
NDN Collective Founder Nick Tilsen talks Building Indigenous Power
The NDN Collective is a new organization, launching on Indigenous Peoples Day, 2018. Here, Nick Tilsen talks about the vision and mission of the NDN Collective, an organization charged with building Indigenous power, and defending, developing, and decolonizing Indigenous Nations. You can learn more about the NDN Collective at www.ndncollective.org.
Nick Tilsen is the current Ex Dir of Thunder Valley CDC and is transitioning into a new venture called NDN Collective. This is a short interview about his personal life and how he approaches his work. Join us in this great conversation.
Nick Tilsen: Reimagining Comprehensive Community Change
Big Ideas for Better Places
Nick Tilsen is the founding Executive Director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation and is now helping build the NDN Collective. During his tenure, Thunder Valley CDC has done some of the most interesting and innovative community building work ever seen. They have been able to remain primarily community activists and organizers even while […]
“We were never afraid to admit what we didn’t know...But we did not fear to dream big...it is your right to dream big bold visions about your future, and your right to pursue those visions.” Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation is doing some incredible work on Pine Ridge. And Nick Tilsen is the Executive Director of the organization. Nick Tilsen, Executive Director of Thunder Valley Community Development CorporationThunder Valley was created after Nick and others were scolded by some ancestors during a sweat. They had been complaining about the way the rez is. The ancestors challenged them: “how long are you going to let other people decide the future for your children. It’s time to stop talking and start doing. Don't come from a place of fear, come from a place of hope.” And with that, Thunder Valley CDC was created, named after a spiritual circle on the reservation. Nick Tilsen is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota. When he was five years old, his parents separated and he moved to Minneapolis with his father. He went from a predominantly Native American school district to a school where no single group made up more than 20 percent of the population. But no matter how long he lived in Minnesota, he knew his home was Pine Ridge. After high school, Nick spent some time in Alaska fishing. Eventually he joined U.S. Trek. He traveled around the country interviewing leaders in their local communities. He saw the impact they had in their communities and was inspired by them. Nick had what he calls “a burning desire to be amongst his land and his people.” Nick returned to Pine Ridge to work like those he had interviewed while traveling. He sought to reclaim his family’s land, living in a tent while remodeling his parents’ house. Eventually he had his encounter with the ancestors and he created Thunder Valley. Where a field once sat, Thunder Valley is now a hive of activity disrupting the status quo. Thunder Valley is creating a 34 acre community from scratch. They employ 30 people. The organization has received significant attention recently, including from President Obama. But the work has been a decade in the making. Nick’s work is changing his community for the better. But Nick views his work and that of Thunder Valley as the stewards of the work. It is really the people who are making these changes.