In 2018, First Peoples Fund (FPF) supported 15 ABL fellows and 10 CC fellows. Becky Monnens, our Story Tracker/Data Analyst, sorted through the extensive data we collected to help us understand the impact of the fellowship on these 25 artists and culture bearers. Combined with our previously published research on the 6 Resources Artists Need to be Successful, Becky was able to identify not only encouraging data but also the beautiful stories of what our fellows accomplished and experienced throughout the year.
Elexa Dawson is a founding member of an all-female acoustic roots band, Weda Skirts (formerly The Skirts), who have released and self-distributed two albums of original music written primarily by Elexa.
She is a mother, musician, and activist living in Chase County, Kansas, the heart of the Flint Hills. She is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a descendant of the Cherokee Nation with familial ties to the Chickamauga Cherokee. The tallgrass prairie on ancestral Kaw and Osage territory inspires her music and advocacy.
Kevin Locke is an internationally-recognized master traditional folk artist, visionary hoop dancer, indigenous Northern Plains flute player/recording artist, cultural ambassador, and an educator. A citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and coming from the ancestral line of Lakota and Anishinabe, he self identifies as a World Citizen.
Since 1978, Kevin has traveled to nearly 100 countries to educate, entertain, engage, and empower 1,000,000 people. He currently serves as president of the Patricia Locke Foundation.
Gunner Jules (Sicangu Lakota) is an Alternative R&B recording and performing artist. He grew up with his family on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. He currently works in the Sicangu MVP program as a mentor to young males recovering from violence and other trauma.
Gunner is releasing a new song in January 2019 called “Energies,” making it available on all streaming platforms. He is expecting to release his first album this spring.
He is a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership fellow and 2019 Cultural Capital fellow.
Sheldon Raymore (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) is a storyteller, second-generation tipi maker, visual artist, actor, choreographer, cultural consultant, count keeper, and an award-winning grass dancer.
He starred in ABC’s Born to Explore with Richard Weiss “Legend of Dance” where he was the featured grass dancer at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Sheldon was awarded the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Community Arts Fund “2015 Performance Art” Grant. He is a 2019 First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital fellow and resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Matilda “Tillie” Wilson has made traditional Atsugewi Indian Baby Baskets for fifteen years. A member of the Hat Creek Atsugewi Band of the Pit River Tribe, she was born in Redding, California and raised in Central Valley (now incorporated as Shasta Lake City). She has 30 years of work experience in education, health management systems, contract health service and health clinic transportation, and the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Award-winning artist Dana Warrington (Menominee / Prairie Band Potawatomi) was born and raised on Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin. His primary art medium is porcupine quillwork. His art also includes beadwork, bustle-making, moccasins, and cradleboards while adding silver work as a new form in the coming year.
Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer and her mother Lynda Kay Sawyer, both tribal members of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, opened their filmmaking and creative writing class for young students at this summer’s Chickasaw Arts Academy with what seems like a simple question: “What’s the first thing you need to make a film?”
Actors, cameras, lights the students guessed.
“The answer,” Sarah explained, “is a good story.”
Going to ceremony, John Isaiah Pepion sits and watches the movements, the designs. Ideas turn over in his mind, coming up with the images he will use in his art.
A descendant of Mountain Chief, a Blackfeet leader, John does pictographic Plains art, incorporating traditional design elements into contemporary illustrations.