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Wokini Challenge Grants

Six Wokini Challenge Grants Awarded for FY 2020

1. Project Director: Michele Christian

Title of Project: Growing the Digital Footprint of American Indian Records: American Indian Student Assistants in the SDSU Archives

  • Building upon the success of its 2018-2019 Wokini Challenge Grant (which allowed for the employment of American Indian students to digitize the papers of Ben Reifel, a prominent Lakota politician), Archives wishes to again hire American Indian student assistants to organize, preserve, and digitize original source materials related to its American Indian collections. Students will learn new analytical, technical and archival skills.
  • They will prepare the materials for digitization, scan the materials, and add the new digital items to the Archives’ public digital collections. Students will work to preserve and digitize the records of the Oak Lake Writers Society, the SDSU American Indian Student Association, and the SDSU AISC. The students will determine with their supervisor a work schedule that is considerate of their class load and other responsibilities.
  • Morgan Catlett-Ausborn, the Program Coordinator/Retention Advisor at the AISC, has agreed to assist with reviewing the aforementioned collections to determine completeness of the collection, recommend if more items are needed and where to locate them, and advise in the selection of appropriate records for public dissemination.


2. Project Director: Kristi Cammack

Title of Project: The Maka Program - Native American Approaches for Earth and Community Sustainability

  • Native Americans are underrepresented in higher education and have lower rates of college entry, retention, and graduation. Maintaining cultural connections is an important factor in the success of Native American college students.
  • Our objective is to create a sustainable agriculture, natural resources and leadership certificate program that honors and incorporates Native American traditions and practices. This program – aptly named the Maka Program in reference to the Lakota term for Earth – will be delivered annually by SDSU faculty in partnership with the Indian University of North America (IUNA) in the Black Hills, an area rich in Native history and culture.
  • We will use a blended approach that includes culturally-enhanced coursework and hands-on activities to engage students in problem-based learning. The semester will culminate in a cooperative field experience that partners students with regional Native American professionals to apply knowledge learned to address complex issues in Native communities. Students will reside and take coursework at IUNA to impart a Native American immersion experience.
  • The Maka program will offer Native American students a connection to their heritage and culture during their college experience, creating an opportunity to improve retention and graduation rates - a goal of SDSU's Wokini Initiative.


3. Project Director: Christi Garst-Santos

Title of Project: Contested Sites; Retelling and Rewriting Tribal Histories at Pipestone National Monument

  • Geographical sites play an important role in the construction of historical memory and cultural identity. These sites, which are often denominated as public lands, have been protected precisely because of their contributions to national identity and cultural heritage.
  • In “Sustaining Geographies of Hope: Cultural Resources on Public Lands,” Sandra B. Zellmer argues that, for many American Indian tribes, “[t]he land has represented an unparalleled bulwark against the otherwise inevitable effects of colonization—tribal eradication and assimilation. American Indian cultural interests in the public lands deserve special consideration, given their unique associations with the land and its resources, and the political and legal obligations arising from the historic treatment of tribes, their treaties, and their continuing sovereign status” (414). Although Zellmer uses the land-culture connection to argue for legal intervention, this project uses the land-culture connection to argue for cultural intervention.
  • Project participants seek funding to retell and rewrite tribal historical memory and cultural identity at the Pipestone National Monument. In particular, we seek to work with tribal elders and students from the Oceti Sakowin on a project to gather oral histories that will be used to create new, culturally authentic park materials in English and Lakota as well as French, German, and Spanish.


4. Project Director: Joshua Reineke

Title of Project: Interface of American Indian Storytelling and Scientific Communication Summit

  • The proposed project is to host a kick-off summit and initiate a professional development program at the interface of American Indian storytelling and scientific communication. There are many existing threads of commonality between indigenous storytelling and effective scientific communication practices. An American Indian student cohort will participate in oral history and communication professional development, provide input on summit organization, assist in program/summit assessment, and lead tribal outreach storytelling activities.
  • The summit will include speakers with expertise in indigenous storytelling, scientific communication, and at least one speaker working at that interface. Through these activities the proposal seeks to gain engagement of a broad campus community with American Indian culture while fostering American Indian student development and cultural pride. During the summit the invited speakers will be engaged in a brainstorming session with key personnel and students to develop future programs.
  • A post-program/summit assessment and strategic meeting will provide a blueprint for the development of a future professional development program where American Indian students are developed as effective storytellers and communicators that will then have a leadership opportunity in assisting facilitation of scientific communication professional development activities for students broadly in the science fields.


5. Project Director: Jenn Anderson

Title of Project: #MyCommunityMyStory: Wokini Scholars and College Hopefuls from Oglala Sioux Nation Tell Their Stories through Photovoice

  • The “#MyCommunityMyStory” project connects college hopefuls from the Oglala Sioux Nation (OSN) with Wokini Scholars from SDSU to create a traveling photovoice exhibit that will visually share the stories they choose to share. Everyone involved with the project (faculty, participants, community leaders) will share expertise and experiences to learn more about storytelling, photography, photo-editing, the OSN, and the Wokini Initiative. The Wokini Scholars and college hopefuls will determine the focus of the storytelling and choose how their work is shared.
  • Project leaders from SDSU will lead workshops in the areas of photography and photo-editing. OSN leaders and/or elders, in partnership with SDSU project leaders, will provide guidance and wisdom related to storytelling. SDSU leaders will focus on visual storytelling through photos; OSN leaders will focus on unique features of OSN storytelling, celebrating their cultural identity. Photovoice exhibits at SDSU and at the OSN will feature the work of participants who want to share it.
  • Through the learning activities, the informal conversations, and the exhibits/celebrations in this project, we hope everyone involved will come away with not only with enhanced photography skills and a greater understanding of the OSN and Wokini Initiative, but also with a new circle of friends.


6. Project Director: Mark Freeland

Title of Project: American Indian Leadership in Higher Education

  • This project will fund two American Indian Research Assistants during the 2019-2020 academic year. These positions provide leadership opportunities for American Indian students as they develop the professional skills for their future careers.
  • One student will provide leadership in the Lakota Language classes (LAKL 101 and 102) as a facilitator of class time. This student will also plan and facilitate a Lakota language-speaking group for other students interested in Lakota language.
  • The other positions will be an American Indian Studies Program Research Assistant. This student will develop and execute a research project under the guidance of American Indian Studies faculty.
  • They will also help to plan the Indigenizing Spaces Fall Symposium and Spring Summit. At the Spring Summit, they will present their research to the South Dakota State Community.

Wokini Challenge Grants FY 2020

Request for Proposal (RFP)

The Wokini Initiative at South Dakota State University (SDSU) seeks proposals for innovative research and/or practices that align with the goals and objectives outlined in the *Wokini Five-Year Plan. All SDSU employees are eligible to apply for these highly competitive challenge grants. Grants are limited to one PI per employee; however, employees may serve on more than one grant project. Grant proposals are due May 1, 2019 by 5PM CST.  They may not exceed $10,000 or be used for indirect costs, student travel/lodging, or food items. 

We encourage applications for projects that 1) provide opportunities for American Indian student 1engagement and student mentorship; 2) promote meaningful 2partnerships with South Dakota tribes; 3) foster collaboration across campus departments and colleges; and 4) demonstrate project sustainability beyond FY 2020.


1Student engagement are activities that allow students to assist with project protocols and could include opportunities for mentoring, data collection, input/feedback and other active involvement. Students should be compensated for any time and effort they contribute to the project.

2The RFP should identify tribe(s) you will be partnering with and list a specific person’s name, title and role along with letter of support from tribal partner identified.


Six Wokini Challenge Grants Awarded for FY 2019

1. Project Director: Annaleena Parhankangas

Updates on Designing Native American Entrepreneurship Curriculum for SDSU

Title of project: Designing Native American Entrepreneurship Curriculum for SDSU

  • The purpose of this project is develop a plan for a state of the art entrepreneurship curriculum at SDSU to educate the future Native American entrepreneurial leaders.
  • The developed plan will detail courses to be taught, their modes of delivery, targeted student population, extra-curricular activities, partners participating in the course delivery and potential funding sources.
  • The Native American entrepreneurship curriculum will help recruit and retain American Indian students and these students will become change-makers and impact economic development in their communities.


2. Project Director: Marjoanne Thompson

Title of project: Science@SDState Mini-Camp


  • Expanding a pilot program funded by Bio/Micr and scheduled with Cheyenne-Eagle Butte on May 14-15, 2018 this Wokini funding will allow us to expand the Science@SDState Mini Camp to 4 additional schools in 2018-2019.
  • The Science camp will provide hands on science lab experiences at SDSU, to tribal schools with limited high school lab resources. (e.g. presentations by faculty in areas like local food production, healthcare, economics, etc.)
  • Goal: increase American Indian student recruitment at SDSU, interest students in the science field and overall pursing an interest in higher education.


3. Project Director: Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head

Title of project: Financial Capability = College Success

  • A financial education workshop, Financial Capability = College Success (FC=CS), will be conducted weekly by Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head which will complement the program offered by the Office of Financial Aid to teach students various aspects of money management & develop skills to deal with financial issues. Approx. 28-week program 2018-2019
  • Beginning the second semester, the cohort will develop short videos about information that incoming students would benefit in knowing. The videos will be developed through SDSU Extension and made available to Tribal & Native American serving High Schools.

4. Project Director: Michele Christian

Title of project: Experiencing a Lakota Collection: American Indian Student Assistants in the SDSU Archives

updates on Experiencing a Lakota collection: American Indian Student assistants in the SDSU archives

  • This project digitizes original source material from the Ben Reifel Papers held by the SDSU Archives &Special Collections (Archives).
  • Using the materials they digitized, the students will create an exhibit about the collection to present at the 25th Annual American Indian Cultures and Histories Conference at SDSU. Duplicates of the students' exhibit will be sent to TCU libraries.
  • This proposal also financially supports the SDSU AI Cultures conference.
  • Goals: 1) develop students' professional skills and 2) grow campus partnerships with tribal college and university (TCU) libraries and tribal historic preservation offices, 3) enhance AI research and provide materials that can be used by TCUs and researchers worldwide.

5. Project Director: Mary Emery

Title of project: What is working for Native American Students: Research to Determine What We Are Doing Well and What We Can Do Better to Support Native American Student Success

Updates on What is Working for Native American Students: Research to Determine What We Are Doing Well and What We Can Do Better to Support Native American Student Success

  • This project will conduct interviews and focus groups with ten current SDSU Native students, ten past SDSU Native graduates, and key stakeholders to inquire how and to what extent they developed a feeling of belongingness and to better understand why some Native students leave SDSU and others stay.
  • The information gained will assist SDSU in identifying institutional policies, practices and cultural components that support or detract from Native American student retention at SDSU.

6. Project Director: Greg Heiberger

Title of project: Science@SDState: Engaging Tribal serving High School & Tribal Colleges and Universities faculty in the 2019 Mobile Summer Institute (MoSI) for Scientific Teaching, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Updates on Mobile Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching (MoSI)

  • The HHMI Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching has impacted thousands of faculty, but very few SDSU faculty and no SD TCU faculty have participated. Data indicates increased student engagement and persistence in science when trained faculty implement Scientific Teaching at high levels.
  • SDSU's Biology & Microbiology Department was selected to host an HHMI Mobile Summer Institutes (MoSI) for Scientific Teaching in 2018 and 2019. The MoSI includes a week of teaching pedagogy workshops, strategic planning and concludes with meetings with key administrators to continue to build a culture that supports active learning & Scientific Teaching.
  • Engaging tribal faculty in the 2019 MoSI will also promote positive relationship building and set the stage for future collaborations.
  • Goals: 1) assist with the professional development of TCU and Tribal serving HS faculty to strengthen students’ engagement and interest in the science field, 2) strengthen our partnership and outreach to TCU and Tribal serving High Schools.