Last Thursday, August 10, 2017, Lakota Children’s Enrichment hosted a Summer Soiree at a spectacular private residence in a brownstone in Gramercy Park, NYC. Approximately 50 supporters attended the intimate gathering to learn about LCE’s work and to meet our new Executive Director, Autumn White Eyes. Maggie Dunne, LCE’s Founder and Board Chair, welcomed the group and gave the history of LCE’s founding. Autumn followed Maggie’s introduction by speaking about growing up in Pine Ridge, as well as LCE’s impact on her life and the lives of Lakota children. Autumn further set forth her vision of creating more arts, enrichment and mentorship opportunities for youth on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
This event was hosted by LCE’s board of directors:
Cindy Dunne, Esq.
Maggie Dunne, Chair of Board
Timothy Chilson Dunne
Ujju Mahatme, Esq.
Brenda Schad, Choctaw/Cherokee
Anna Elise Walton
Janet Whiting, Oglala Lakota
LCE wants to thank its host committee and everyone who made it the event to support our work. We cannot do this work without our supporters. Executive Director Autumn White Eyes said, “The night was a huge success! I loved meeting new friends and catching up with old friends to share about our work. I am really excited to be leading LCE this year and would love the extra support so that we can grow our team and expand our programs! Thank you to everyone who came out.”
Check out some of the photos from the event in the slide show above. If you were unable to make it to this event, but would like to make a tax-deductible contribution, then please head on over to our donate page.
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We thought that you might want to learn a bit more about our new Executive Director, Autumn White Eyes, so we sat down and asked her some questions. Read all about it!
Can you tell us about your background and how and where you grew up?
I am Oglala Lakota on my paternal side, and Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe on my maternal side. I was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and my family and I moved to Pine Ridge when I was five years old and this is where I call home. I am an alumna of Red Cloud Indian School and this was a very important community in my life for my k-12 education. I went on to college at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire where I studied Native American Studies and English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and received my bachelor’s degree in 2014. I spent the next several years after college doing work in nonprofits both directly with youth and through development. I am recent graduate of Harvard Graduate School of Education where I received my Ed.M. in Arts in Education.
What was the experience or factor that most impacted your desire to continue in education?
At a young age, I saw my parents working diligently in college while also struggling to make ends meet with their four children. I was present for both of their college graduations and this set a high expectation of the importance of education. My father is a Lakota Language teacher and my mother volunteers in our community, so they both would emphasize the importance of education and giving back to our community. This really inspired me to continue to reach for my goals. I also had a few mentors and teachers who helped me along the way and encouraged me to apply to college.
What was the transition to Dartmouth College like?
The transition to Dartmouth College was difficult at first, because I attended a school that was thousands of miles from my home with a very different culture. The reason that I chose to attend Dartmouth was due to its large Native American community. While at Dartmouth, this community helped me to feel at home. I was lucky to also go to a school with a renowned Native American Studies program and was able to learn from Native American role models and mentors.
How were you introduced to spoken word poetry?
I was introduced to spoken word poetry through an opportunity to attend Brave New Voices in 2010 through First Peoples Fund. Before attending this poetry slam competition, I wrote poetry but was unfamiliar with the style of spoken word. Attending this large international poetry slam competition was my first exposure to the world of spoken word poetry. In 2011, I was a part of the first team from Pine Ridge to compete at Brave New Voices. Team Pine Ridge (Dances with Words) is now in its 7th year with Brave New Voices!
Why were you drawn to spoken word as a form of performance and writing?
I was drawn to spoken word because I felt that it was a very powerful artform to learn and empathize with other people. Spoken word reminded me of the importance of storytelling and passing down history through oral traditions, a practice that is a part of Lakota culture. When I performed spoken word poetry, I felt connected to the audience, and empowered to share my story and truth as a Lakota woman who experienced injustices growing up in Pine Ridge. I also felt that spoken word was avenue where I could learn about my personal experience in relation to injustices impacting Indian Country, and find healing through writing.
What do you gain from your work in the arts? Why is advocating for the arts important to you?
Advocating for the arts is important to me because of the impact that it had on my life. I think that the art can be a very important tool for connecting people, as well as learning about oneself and the world around them. I find that my engagement in artwork has been cathartic and thus healing for me. I also find that the arts can be an invaluable tool in education that can help students become well-rounded students and creative thinkers.
What drove you to apply for the position as Executive Director of LCE?
I was driven to apply to the Executive Director position because I was inspired by LCE in my past work through my role as a writing challenge judge. I was really energized by student participation, their artwork, and their writing, and wanted to continue to be a part of this type of work in a full-time capacity. I also saw that it could be a good opportunity to introduce more programming for youth on the reservation.
What do you want to be your biggest accomplishment in the new job? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
In my position as Executive Director, I hope that my biggest accomplishment will be to create more art education programming on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that will bring the community together and centers our Lakota youth as our future leaders. In 5 years, I hope to be growing the work of LCE and reaching more Lakota youth across the state of South Dakota. I also hope grow the team of LCE to make this possible!
Who do you root for? What is your favorite saying?
I am rooting for Indigenous peoples all around the world and support their work towards environmental justice and equal rights. My favorite Lakota phrase is Mitakuye Oyasin, which translates to “We are all related.” I love this phrase because it is a reminder that we are all connected to one another.
What advice do you have for Lakota youth? What advice would you give your 13 year old self– if you could travel back in time?
My advice for Lakota youth is to always remind yourself of your dreams and make that your motivation to continue reaching for your goals. To do this you can you write it down in your notebooks or post it in your locker, by seeing your dream frequently, you are reminded that you have big plans for your family, community, and for yourself. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, because there are people in your community who care deeply about you and know you can do anything you put your mind to. I would give my 13 year old self the advice to keep being creative on the ways to give back to your community. I truly believe that social justice starts at home so that if you feel like that there is injustice or if you want to be heard, just keep speaking out loud and telling your story.
If you would like to support Autumn’s efforts, you may make a tax deductible donation at this link.
Do you have questions for Autumn? Tweet at us @Lakota_Children and use the hashtag #MeetAutumnLCE to submit your questions today!
Can’t join us tomorrow but want to support our work? Please consider making a donation today.
Lakota Children’s Enrichment proudly announces the appointment of Autumn White Eyes as its new Executive Director, effective immediately. After almost ten years of service, LCE’s CEO and Founder Maggie Dunne announced that she is stepping back from her day-to-day leadership position to pursue graduate studies. Dunne will continue to volunteer and fundraise, and will assume the non-executive position of Chair of the Board.
LCE’s new Executive Director Autumn White Eyes is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College and is a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she studied Arts in Education. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Autumn worked with multiple nonprofits in both programming with youth and fundraising. Autumn first became involved with Lakota Children’s Enrichment as a student participant in LCE’s annual writing challenge as the 2014 “Voices of the Land” Grand Prize winner, and then continued to participate in our writing challenge as a judge in 2015 and 2016.
Autumn said on the start of her new position:
“I strongly believe in the work and mission of Lakota Children’s Enrichment and I am committed to serving programs that offer mentorship and art education opportunities to students from low-income backgrounds, especially those from my home community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It always has been my dream to give back to Lakota youth and the community that raised me. In this position, I plan to take LCE in a direction that expands on current programming to center Lakota youth and culture in all that we do. I also hope to strengthen and create new community partnerships, both on and off the reservation. I’ve been impressed with the commitment that LCE has for Lakota youth, and hope that under my leadership, the organization will become a leader in providing resources to empower Lakota children. I hope that you all will join us on our vision towards the future.”
The LCE Board issued the following statement:
Maggie Dunne founded LCE in 2008 and brought it from a small service project to a nationally respected nonprofit and thought leader.The Board respects Maggie’s decision to step back from LCE’s day-to-day operations to pursue her education, and looks forward to continuing to work with her in her non-executive role as Chair of the Board.
We know that donors and supporters will be as excited as we are about this next chapter for LCE. Autumn White Eyes, who won the Board’s unanimous support following a competitive selection process, grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, was the Grand Prize winner of LCE’s 2014 Writing Challenge and then later served as a judge in its annual contest. We are excited and confident that Autumn’s vision and talent will send LCE’s impact to new heights.”
We hope that you are as excited as we are about this new chapter for LCE. Stay tuned for news of opportunities in your area where you can meet our new Executive Director, Autumn White Eyes.
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If you would like to support LCE’s efforts to empower Native youth, you may make a tax-deductible contribution by clicking on the “donate” button below.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Oglala Lakota Nation for the past nine and a half years. When I first visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I was a sixteen-year-old student attending Scarsdale High School, and I never imagined that the trip would result in this journey and ultimately, today’s announcement.
After nine and a half years, I am stepping back from the day-to-day leadership of LCE to pursue graduate studies. I am not, however, stepping away from this organization which I founded from a place of passion, love, respect and community support. I will continue to advise, fundraise and volunteer for Lakota Children’s Enrichment in my new non-executive role as Chair of the Board.
With your help, over the past years: we provided over 100,000 books to schools on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; we provided support to countless families and youth in need of essential services such as medical transport, warm clothing, housing and food; we hosted youth summits and art and spoken word contests that gave Native youth a scholastic platform to express themselves; over one million people viewed the written and spoken word works of our program participants; we engaged Nobel Peace Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners in activities with Native youth; we provided scholarship and grants to children and families as they pursued their educational goals; the majority of our youth participants stayed in school and many received Gates Millennium Scholarships, a Truman Scholarship, and other prestigious National Fellowships, Scholarships and awards; we took a youth leader from Pine Ridge on a global conservation mission to Antarctica to observe the impacts of climate change with the 2041 Foundation; we stood with the Water Protectors on Standing Rock Indian Reservation in ND; and we produced TEDxYouth@DinosaurPark, an annual independently produced TED event which engages Native and non-Native youth in a collaborative educational event and provides a national platform to amplify their voices. Further, we perpetually pushed the national dialogue on issues facing Native Nations to new levels, and helped and encouraged educators to teach culturally competent and accurate Native American history through our outreach and consulting services.
On behalf of Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s Board of Directors, it is my honor to announce that after interviewing numerous candidates, the Board unanimously selected Autumn White Eyes as the new Executive Director of Lakota Children’s Enrichment, effective immediately!
Autumn White Eyes is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College where she was a Gates Millennium Scholar, and is a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she studied Arts in Education. Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Autumn worked with multiple nonprofits in both programming with youth and fundraising. Autumn first became involved with Lakota Children’s Enrichment as a student participant in our annual writing challenge as the 2014 “Voices of the Land” Grand Prize winner and then continued to participate in our writing challenge as a judge in 2015 and 2016.
On a personal level, having worked with Autumn over the years, I am confident that her passion, vision, storytelling and development experience, cultural competence and the research-based methods that she brings to this role are a great match for the community of Lakota Children’s Enrichment, and that under her leadership LCE’s impact will reach new heights. Autumn is an exceptional role model for Lakota youth and will lead Lakota Children’s Enrichment into a stronger future.
We look forward to introducing Autumn to you over the coming months as we prepare to celebrate our 10th year of service to the Oglala Lakota Nation.
Peace & Best Wishes,
Board Chair & Founder, Lakota Children’s Enrichment
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