Erin Griffin of American Indian College Fund Awarded 2022 Bush Fellowship
Griffin plans to finish doctoral degree in Indigenous language and culture revitalization to work towards dream of having Dakota spoken everywhere
May 23, 2022, Denver, Colo.—Erin Griffin (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of Sisseton, South Dakota), a Program Officer for Indigenous Education at the American Indian College Fund, is one of 24 extraordinary leaders who was selected by the Bush Foundation for a 2022 Bush Fellowship. The Bush Foundation, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, each year awards Bush Fellows with up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue education and learning experiences that help them develop the skills and relationships to foster large-scale change in their communities and region.Erin’s vision, Makoce ataya Dakota Oyate kin Dakota iapi kte, is seeing the Dakota Oyate (Dakota people) speak the Dakota language everywhere in the future. Her work and her dream were born of her desire from an early age to understand and speak Dakota, but it was difficult to find effective learning strategies and opportunities to expand her knowledge. Erin has dedicated much of her work and passion to creating spaces for her community to learn the Dakota language and culture and works to create even greater change while establishing supportive places for people, especially women, to speak Dakota. To ensure she can lead this effort, she is working to finish her doctoral degree in Indigenous language and culture revitalization and increase her proficiency in the Dakota language. Work without creating intentional moments for rest and rejuvenation cannot sustain itself, and Erin is also dedicating efforts to that end.
Erin was one of 468 people who applied for the fellowship this year. More than 2,400 people have received support from the Fellowship over the past 60 years. An in-depth application process includes interviews and mentoring sessions with community leaders, Bush Fellows alumni, and Bush Foundation staff, allowing applicants to name the impact they seek and what they need to get to the next level of their desired leadership.
Erin said the fellowship and her leadership goals connected to the Dakota language are important to her because, “The Dakota language is a significant component to my everyday life; it informs my worldview and understanding and guides my action. The ability to understand and speak Dakota in conjunction with my work, family and friends, gardening, artwork, and moments of silence brings me fullness and feeds my passion on a daily basis. This helps me to achieve my responsibilities as a Dakota woman.” Her interest in working for the American Indian College Fund was sparked during her time as a faculty member for Sisseton Wahpeton College on her home reservation. There she was involved with administering projects funded by the College Fund in the traditional arts and environmental stewardship and creating infrastructure to revitalize language and culture and strengthen cultural knowledge.
“I love the opportunity to engage with tribal colleges and colleagues with a foundation of Indigenous languages. Seeing doors and spaces open where everyone feels comfortable using their languages is inspiring. The ability for us to learn and share our languages through various programming builds on the strengths of each of our tribes that are represented,” Erin said.
Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “It is such an honor to support our team member, Erin, as she continues her advocacy for and participation with Native language and identity restoration. We appreciate the Bush Foundation continuing its commitment to building the capabilities and network of Native scholars and teachers. This opportunity for Erin is a necessary and welcome part of our commitment to Native self-determination.”
The Bush Fellowship is distinctive in its flexibility, allowing fellows to define what they need to become more effective and equitable leaders. Fellows can use the funding to pursue an education, leadership training, networking, and mentorship.
The selection committees for the Bush Fellowship included individuals from a mix of sectors, geography, genders, and racial and ethnic identities to reflect the diversity of the region the Bush Foundation serves, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, or one of the 23 Native nations that shares the same geography.
About the American Indian College Fund—The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 32 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $15.5 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2020-21. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $259 million in scholarships, programmatic and community support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit www.collegefund.org.
Photos: Erin Griffin (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of Sisseton, South Dakota), a Program Officer for Indigenous Education at the American Indian College Fund, is one of 24 extraordinary leaders who was selected by the Bush Foundation for a 2022 Bush Fellowship.
Journalists—The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.