Portrait of Leslie Mesteth, Oglala Lakota. First Peoples Fund's Associate Director of the Oglala Lakota Artspace.


Leslie Mesteth was born in Pine Ridge, SD and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She grew up in Oregon and Washington State then moved home to South Dakota. She represents the first generation in her family to receive her Bachelor of Business Administration (1998) and Master of Arts in Lakota Leadership and Management (2018) from Oglala Lakota College. Leslie joined First Peoples Fund in November 2021 as the Program Manager for the Oglala Lakota Artspace in Kyle, SD. With twenty-seven plus years in program management, community development and social progress for the Pine Ridge Reservation. Leslie works closely with the studio artists in the Artspace and promotes all programming for the building including sewing, recording studio space, and artistic workshops for the community. She works collaboratively with the Rolling Rez Art Bus and the Dances with Words youth program. Enjoys sewing, singing, being fit-ish, and participating in Lakota ceremonies throughout the year centered on Lakota star knowledge and the seasons of the year.

Prior to joining First Peoples Fund, Leslie worked at Oglala Lakota College for 18 years promoting education and the importance of Tribal Colleges across the country. She served as the President of the Piya Wiconi Okolakiciye, overseeing the governance system of the college for nine years. She also served as an adjunct professor for eight years. Leslie was a founding member of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce promoting local business and tourism. She volunteered her time and community organizing skills for the Big Foot Memorial Ride for 10 years supporting her tiospaye (family) in remembrance of her family members who were buried at the Wounded Knee gravesite. She has traveled to France, Italy, Luxembourg, and Switzerland to promote the Lakota culture and artistic lifeways of her people.

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