The Native Hope Fellowship Program empowers creativity and leadership in Indigenous Peoples and their communities. The initiative creates and supports opportunities and funding for individuals to develop their vision and improve Indian Country.
Over their 12-month commitment, Native Hope Fellows receive tools, resources, and capital—up to $5,000—to launch or sustain their vision. Additionally, Native Hope will seek opportunities for Fellows to share their initiatives at speaking engagements, conferences, or events.
Native Hope believes a collaborative effort across Nations with relevant and respected Fellows will inspire a positive impact throughout Indian Country while promoting a stronger cultural identity.
Our Fellows' creative wisdom and level of commitment to the betterment of their communities and people will advance a broader understanding of Native cultures, perspectives, and journeys.
Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory is among those working to stop suicides on Pine Ridge. If the reservation's suicide epidemic were a hurricane, she's standing in the eye. DeCory is founder of the BEAR program, which stands for “Be Excited About Reading.” DeCory and her student volunteers—many of them suicide survivors—put on musical and dance skits to help kids struggling with reading as well as the serious issues of life on the reservation, including suicide. Her work has been highlighted by PBS, the BBC, the Huffington Post, and more. Tiny’s Native Hope Fellowship will afford the BEAR program and its mission to expand to other reservations in South Dakota where the suicide levels are equally devastating.
Blake Pocquette, Cherokee from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is a Hollywood stunt performer and coordinator; he lives just outside of Los Angeles. While growing up, Blake rode horses, worked with rodeo livestock, and started riding bulls at the age of 15, so specializing in horse stunts runs in his blood. He got his start in the entertainment business performing Wild West Show stunts at Disneyland Paris at the age of 23. Additionally, he performed for Medieval Times where he performed duties of training and fight coordinating. Over the years, Blake has worked with some of the most talented coordinators in the business and doubled for actors Nicholas Brendan in Buffy and Adam Beach in Hostiles and Cowboys and Aliens. Blake’s Native Hope Fellowship will enable him to design a camp for Native American youth where Blake can utilize his stunt skills inspiring young people to take risks while empowering them to pursue the careers of their dreams. He hopes to take this program across Indian Country.
Waylon Pahona Jr. Hopi & Tewa/ Maricopa grew up on the Hopi Reservation. He spent more than ten years within the Gila River Indian Community splitting his employment equally with the Workforce Investment Act [WIA] as a Youth Coordinator and Gila River Health Care as a Lead Staff Trainer. Waylon, known for transforming his life, is the founder and creator of Healthy Active Natives [HANs]. His HANs social networking group is currently 74,900 Facebook members strong and growing. Waylon’s journey has motivated and inspired thousands across the continent to join the HANs movement. In 2012, Waylon envisioned HANs as a space for Natives of all fitness levels to use positive reinforcement to lift one another even when positive changes seem impossible. Waylon has received the Healthy Innovation Award from Indian Health Services [IHS] for his social media group; additionally, he serves as an Ambassador to Tanka Bar jerky. Waylon’s Native Hope Fellowship focuses on the creation of a curriculum for HANs that Waylon can distribute to tribes, enabling them to develop programs within their communities. Additionally, Waylon will be working with filmmaker Mark Lewis on an episodic series for HANs.
In the world of professional Mixed Martial Arts, Nikki Lowe stands out as one of the few Native Americans competing in the sport today. A fighter inside and outside of the cage, she continually strives to maintain her cultural identity as a Chickasaw Native and is now focused on sharing her life experiences through motivational public speaking engagements across the country. Her story has been highlighted in various news articles and has been made into an award winning short documentary called LEGACY. Recently, being a mother of two has compelled her to further Boys With Braids, a mentorship program for Native youth. In December 2017, she successfully hosted her first Boys with Braids event in Albuquerque New Mexico where she currently resides with her two children Nokose and Mvhayv. Nikki’s Native Hope Fellowship allows her to share her life story in hopes that it will touch some people and push them to become better people in all aspects of life.
Shaandiin Tome, Diné, is a filmmaker from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Recently, Shaadine graduated cum laude from the University of New Mexico with a BFA in Film and Digital Media Production and hopes to continue her career as a filmmaker. She is a 2016 Sundance Full Circle Fellowship alumna and Programming Intern. In May 2017, she was selected for the Sundance Native Filmmaker’s Lab Fellowship. Currently, she aims to bring resonating imagery in convergence with story, illustrating her perspective as a Diné woman. Her short film Mud(Hashtl"ishnii) premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Shaandiin’s Native Hope Fellowship provides her with an opportunity to develop and incubate a narrative film about a young man’s quest for validation between him and his biological mother. The film has deep meaning for Shaandiin as it is based on her father’s story.
Mark Lewis is a tribal member of both the Gila River and Sac & Fox Nations. Already a professional photographer with over 15 years of experience, he recently transitioned to filmmaking with the documentary LEGACY which has played festivals including Taos, Phoenix, and NMWIF. The film was recently distributed by PBS and Vision Maker Media. Originally from Arizona, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he is presently majoring in Cinematic Arts & Technology at the Institute of American Indian Arts [IAIA]. As a filmmaker, Mark is developing several unscripted projects for Native Hope. As a Native Hope Film Fellow, Mark’s project for incubation consists of an episodic series that highlights Waylon Pahona’s work with HANs. The series will be created in conjunction with Native Hope Media and Waylon’s initiative.
Cheyenne Pasha Ziegler, an enrolled member of the Ku Wicasa Oyate, proudly represents not only the Lower Brule Sioux but also recognizes his Navajo and Spanish heritage. It was while living with his grandfather Alfred Ziegler in New Mexico during the 4th and 5th grades that Cheyenne found his love of boxing. When he moved back to Lower Brule, South Dakota, his training continued under Justin Grassrope, Sr. and several other coaches including his uncle. Competition boxing in South Dakota posed many challenges, but Cheyenne prevailed. He graduated Valedictorian and attended Ft. Lewis College in Durango, Colorado where he scaled up and by age 25, Cheyenne turned pro. Over the years, Cheyenne has competed in numerous tournaments all over the country and at every level, from Tuff Man to National Silver and National Golden Gloves Tournaments. Now, Cheyenne is a third-grade teacher on the Pine Ridge reservation and his fight continues. He teaches with the discipline he knows from the ring and his students are flourishing. While Cheyenne continues to train and box, his focus is on training the next generation—someday he hopes to train a world champion. Cheyenne’s Native Hope Film Fellowship gives voice to his journey as a boxer, Native man, and teacher. A documentary film will be developed to highlight his rich experience.