Indigenous Visionaries

2022-2023 Cohort

The Indigenous Visionaries program builds upon the American Indian College Fund’s ongoing work of developing Native women leaders through education, mentoring, networking, and storytelling. Indigenous Visionaries connects students at tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) with faculty in their area of study.

The Indigenous Visionaries program builds upon the American Indian College Fund’s ongoing work of developing Native women leaders through education, mentoring, networking, and storytelling. Indigenous Visionaries connects students at tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) with faculty in their area of study.

Diné College
Tsaile, AZ

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University
Hayward, WI

Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College
New Town, ND

White Earth Tribal and Community College
Mahnomen, MN

Community-based Project

Advocacy and Women-Empowerment – To spread more awareness about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic by providing more resources, hosting educational presentations, and gathering data and research.

Nical Glasses
Business Administration

About Nical

Yá’át’ééh shik’èí dóó shidine’è. Shí ‘éí Nical Glasses yinishyé. ‘Ádóone’é nishlínígíí éí Tłaáshchi’I nishlí, Táchii’nii báshíshchíín, Kinyaa’áanii dashicheii, Tó’aheedliinií dashinálí. Ákót’éego ‘éí ‘asdzání nishłį. Ts’’chiłbit’’ déé’ naashá.

Nical Glasses is a senior and a full-time student enrolled in the Business Administration BA program at Diné College, which is located on the Navajo Nation reservation (Tsaile, Arizona). She is also an intern at the Office of the President of Diné College as a Social Media Intern, a position that focuses on the content creation for the college. She has found herself actively embracing various roles on campus, accommodating the community as needed – including special projects, committees, and organizations that help aid the growth of the college. All of these inspired her to pursue this fellowship to learn and embody leadership development, inspire more growth and agility in her professional career, and prepare for graduate education. Off-campus endeavors have led her to take initiative to assist the people on her reservation by assembling and creating care packages to donate to local shelters, as it is her main purpose in life to create and foster positive change within Indigenous communities.

Other than her academic endeavors, Nical has taken keen interest in different creative arts by learning how to bead, paint, and sew patterned skirts. Whenever Nical has extra time on her hands, she likes to visit art galleries and museums. She also likes to read, travel, and most of all, spend time with her family. Ahe’hee.

Crystal Cree
Director of Office of Legislative Affairs and Policy

About Crytsal

Yá’át’ééh shi éíyá Crystal Carr yinishyé. Tó Naneesdizídéé naashá, ákondi Tseehílíídi keehasht’i. Ádóóné’é nishlinigii ei Tsé Deeshgizhnii nishlí, Biih Bitoodni báshíshchíín, Tł’ízíłání da shichei, áádóó Tá Neeszáhnii da shinálí. Ákót’ééhgo Diné asdzaaní nishłí.

Crystal started her higher education at Diné College. After Diné College, Crystal went on to receive her bachelor’s and master’s from Northern Arizona University. She is currently a second year PhD student in Justice Studies under the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. As the Director of Legislative Affairs and Special Projects for the Office of the President at Diné College, Crystal directs and coordinates legislative affairs on behalf of the College with the Navajo Nation government, State Legislatures (Ariz. and N.M.), and Federal government offices. Crystal provides analysis of potential policies and legislation and its impact on the College. She also manages multi-million-dollar projects, Diné College’s social media team, the Warrior Scholarship Fund, the Warrior Protection Fund, and other various funds set up for student support.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College

Community-based Project

Grandmother Moon Ceremony – Bringing the Grandmother Moon ceremony back into the community for local women, including Ojibwe language learning.

Paula Cooper
Human Services

About Paula

Paula “Mashkosiikwe” Cooper (Anishinaabe) is an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe in northeast Wisconsin. She is of the Sturgeon Clan. Mashkosiikwe is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human services at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University in Hayward, Wisconsin where she has earned an associate degree in Native American Studies with a certificate in Ojibwe language.

Mashkosiikwe is honored to be mother to three wonderful children, and they are the best part of her life. It is through the adventures exploring nature with her children that she has found a deep reverence for the earth, Ojibwe language and culture, and the need to reclaim Indigenous teachings to help the next seven generations to come. She is a tribal craftsperson and is passionate about bridging art and healing to help assist others. Her volunteer work with youth, veterans, and elders are a testament to her commitment and dedication to serving her community.

As a student fellow of the Indigenous Visionaries Native Women’s Leadership Program, Mashkosiikwe brings Grandmother Moon ceremony to the community to help empower local women.

Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College logo

Community-based Project

Indigenous Plant Revival Project – Conducting research about cultural uses and methods for growing native plants.

Shadlynn Severance
Three Affiliated Tribes- the Mandan (Nueta), Hidatsa, and Arikara (Sahnish)
Environmental Science

About Shadlynn

Dosha, Maraashi Shadlynn Severance heec. Dibiarugareesh shekowa maawaguc. Cagic mushic. Shadlynn is an enrolled member of the Nueta Hiraaca Sahnish (Mandan Hidatsa Arikara) nation known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. She attends Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. She is also a research assistant under Dr. Kerry Hartman.

Shadlynn has spent ten years working and studying the agriculture/horticulture field. She started very young doing studies and competing in competitions for FFA. All of her work is for the betterment of the environment and finding more ways to slow pollution on Fort Berthold Reservation. Her mentor, Sasha Sillitti, has a great recycling program and they complement each other’s values for the environment very well. She learns from her advisors and their guidance for her various projects is heavily appreciated. In speaking with more community members, she has found more people who want to see a better change for our land.

Outside of academics, Shadlynn loves to paint/draw, be outdoors, exercise, and learn how to bead. Painting and drawing are very relaxing for her and help her express herself through creativity. During the warm months she likes to garden vegetables and flowers. She loves learning about plant care, what plants are used for, and the different stories behind some of the native medicinal plants. Another relaxing activity she does is jogging two to five miles a day. She has a deep admiration for helping the environment around her and giving back to the wonderful, beautiful Mother Earth that we call home.


Sasha Sillitti
Student Accounts Counselor and Accounts Receivable Manager

About Sasha

Sasha Rae Sillitti, a member of the Three Affiliated tribes – the Mandan (Nueta), Hidatsa, and Arikara (Sahnish), and grand-daughter of the Prairie-Chicken and Water Buster-Hidatsa Clans, was born and raised on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Sasha is the current Student Account’s Counselor, Accounts Receivable Manager, and a full-time business administration student at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (NHSC), located on the Fort Berthold Reservation, in New Town, N.D.

Sasha is active in various research projects and programs at NHSC as well, including being manager to the NHSC Recycling Program, engaged in the Cultivation and Research of the Juneberry – A Nutrient and Antioxidant Rich Berry That is a Traditional Nueta, Hidatsa, and Sahnish Diet Staple project, member of the Four-Sisters Traditional Gardens involved in the planting and study of traditional fruits and vegetables, engaged in the Air Quality and Environmental Effects research project in response to the increased oil and gas activity and natural gas flaring on and around the Fort Berthold Reservation, and most recently, engaged in the Aurora Borealis research project in partnership with the UND/NASA Space Grant. She earned her first and second degrees at NHSC – an Associate of Science in Environmental Science in 2013 and an Associate of Science in Business Administration in the Spring of 2022.

Sasha is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business administration at NHSC and then plans to become a certified public accountant. She ultimately intends on utilizing her educational and career accomplishments and experiences in ways that benefit other TCU students by helping improve financial literacy and encouraging and assisting them in successfully completing their own academic goals. Sasha values spending time with family and being outdoors, hiking, gardening, and fishing, whenever possible.

White Earth Tribal and Community College

Community-based Project

Culture and Language-Based Club – Created for student and non-student participants through the seven grandfather teachings, so participants can bring the teachings back to their communities, families, and villages.

Dayna Thompson
White Earth Nation Ojibwe
Associate of Arts

About Dayna

Boozhoo, Dayna Thompson nindizhinikaaz. Gaa-waabaabigaanikaag ndoojibaa. Migizi doodem.  
Dayna Thompson is from the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. She is currently attending White Earth Tribal and Community college pursuing her AA degree with plans to attend a university to continue her education in psychology and/or Indigenous studies. Dayna is an addictions counselor at an intensive outpatient treatment program.  

One of Dayna’s biggest accomplishments was being nominated as the American Indian College Fund’s student of the year for 2021-2022. Another great accomplishment for Dayna was attending Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition: Sexual Assault Advocacy Training and becoming a certified advocate. Dayna is also on a community council board and dedicates her time to volunteering with community work/events. Dayna’s biggest life goal was obtaining her UMICAD level 1 ADC certificate. With that, she attends various training and webinars pertaining to her job as an addiction counselor.  

Outside of professional and academic life, Dayna loves being able to try new things, especially different foods and hobbies. Dayna loves to travel and attend pow-wows during the summertime. She loves to spend her time outdoors, especially fishing. Other hobbies include reading, writing, gardening, and making sweetgrass and willow baskets. 

Raven Freebird
Bad River and White Earth Ojibwe
First Year Experience Coach

About Raven

Raven Freebird is an enrolled member of The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and a White Earth Mississippi Band of Ojibwe descendent. She is Wolf Clan first generation raised on Tongva Lands now known as Los Angeles in California. Raven currently works at White Earth Tribal and Community College as the Student Success Coach helping both first- and non-first-generation students get through college; she has been working in higher education for almost eight years now. She graduated from California State University, Northridge with a degree in English Literature, Political Science, and minor in American Indian Studies. She is a product of the system who beat the odds despite being in a system built against Natives.

Some of Freebird’s highlights include working at Cri-Help, a rehab in California while volunteering her time to raise funds for the organization. She helped co-found the Student of Color Coalition at CSUN. Being a former foster youth herself, she was a part of Resilient Scholars where she advocated for children in foster care to attend college. Raven has been asked to speak at many panels about foster care, incarceration, addiction, forced adoption/ the theft of Native children, and ethnic studies at various Universities including for the American Indian Studies conference in Arizona. 

She was a member of the Los Angeles Youth Commission for Foster Youth and Former Foster Youth, mostly addressing the housing issue after aging out at 18, leading to Los Angeles implementing programs such as TILP (Transitional Independent Living Plan) and SILP (Supervised Independent Living Placement). Raven and other ethnic studies faculty and students co-wrote a California bill called AB1460 that required all state universities to teach ethnic studies as a graduation requirement and eventually did get signed, taking a big step forward in an over 50-year fight for ethnic histories to be taught from our perspectives that also led to a big uproar throughout the US. Other organizations she has been a part of include Revolutionary Scholars, Dean of Humanities Student council (CSUN), Walking Shield, Homeboys Industry, A Window Between Worlds, and USU Cultural Center Initiative.

Currently, Raven is working on learning Ojibwe and being a first-time mom to Matthew Waatebagaa Bowstring. 

Raven’s dream is to change the world into one where Indigeneity is not only recognized and respected but socially and economically stable. She not only recognizes that she is a product of the past but wishes to ensure a better future by using her present actions to touch the future.

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