Leech Lakers part of Native Nation Rebuilders program


Benay Fairbanks, Esther Humphrey and Leah Monroe of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe are among 19 people forming the third cohort of the Bush Foundation’s Native Nation Rebuilders Program. The cohort met recently in Prior Lake, Minn.

The participants were selected for the Rebuilders program for their public-spirited leadership and commitment to help their nations achieve their tribes’ unique nation-building goals. They support American Indian nations through youth programs, colleges, health care, nonprofits, tribal administration and tribal councils, and work in fields such as finance, law, environment, education and business.

Fairbanks is a grant writer and researcher who oversees demographic and statistical information to assist with grant projects and community planning. He has also managed LLBO transportation programs.

Humphrey is the program coordinator for Leech Lake YouthBuild, which works with about 30 youth to help them realize their full potential. She also worked for three years as the mental health case manager, working with patients one on one to assist them in living independently. She earned an Associate of Arts degree from Fon du Lac Tribal and Community College and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.

Monroe is the director of the Indian Education program at Northland Community School, where she serves as a resource for students and their parents. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Bemidji State University and owns and operates her own retail business. She also takes part in dancing at powwow and makes powwow regalia for family, friends and community members.

“The Rebuilders are willing to build upon their existing talents and interests to work in their communities,” said Bush Foundation Vice President Jaime A. Pinkham of Nez Perce Indian Reservation in Idaho. Pinkham leads the Bush Foundation’s efforts to partner with tribal nations, including the Rebuilders program.

The Foundation launched the Rebuilders program in support of the elected leaders of 23 Indian nations who said that partnering with other emerging and existing American Indian leaders would be crucial to the long-term success of their nations. Rebuilders agree to participate consistently in ongoing activities during a two-year period, share knowledge with their peers and their nations’ governments and develop and implement nation-rebuilding action plans. Rebuilder teams are led by several regional and national partners with expertise in nation-building, organizing and American Indian issues, including the Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Applications will open in late 2012 for the fourth cohort of Rebuilders.


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