We are a native-led non-profit
Based in San Francisco, California, Turtle Island,
we work in the Americas and the Pacific,
collaborating with communities, organizations and individuals
of all kinds, native and non-native.
Melissa K. Nelson is a Native ecologist, writer, media-maker and indigenous scholar-activist. She is the President/CEO of The Cultural Conservancy, which she had directed since 1993. She is Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. Her work is dedicated to indigenous rights and revitalization, biocultural heritage and environmental justice, intercultural solidarity, and the renewal of community health and cultural arts. For over two decades Melissa has worked in the Native American food movement and since 2006 in international indigenous food sovereignty. Melissa is a Switzer Environmental Fellow and has received awards for films, community engagement, and experiential education. She publishes essays in academic and popular journals and books, and documents Native issues through AV recordings. She edited two anthologies, Original Instructions – Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future (2008), and Keepers of the Green World: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability (forthcoming). She has served on the boards of Earth Island Institute, Bioneers, and the Center for Whole Communities. Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, and Norwegian, she is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
Nícola Wagenberg is a clinical and cultural psychologist, artist, film producer and educator. Nícola has worked for over 20 years with diverse individuals, communities and organizations on personal and cultural transformation. Since 2005, Nícola has been working with TCC directing media projects, developing and implementing arts and cultural health programs and helping with the operations and development of the organization. She is the co-producer of “Traditional Foodways of Native America,” “The Salt Song Trail Living Documentary,” co-directed TCC’s Friendship House Urban Garden Project and is the director of the Native Youth Guardians of the Waters project. Dr. Wagenberg has a private practice in Berkeley, CA. Her doctoral research focused on transformation of historical and intergenerational trauma. She trains therapists and health workers on the impact and transformation of historical and intergenerational trauma.
Mateo Hinojosa is a documentary filmmaker and educator. He has put art on screen and on stage in the US, Bolivia, Argentina, Spain and Cameroon. In South America he has worked teaching at orphanages and in the mountains, leading theater workshops in prisons, and filming everything from neurosurgeries to street art. He has taught high school literature in California, and cross-cultural documentary skills to U.S. college students in Asia. His films explore issues of individual identity in collective struggle; spirituality and health; public space and art; politics and performance. His debut feature documentary, Spectacular Movements, follows young indigenous and mestizo actors in Bolivia as they struggle to embody their people's collective voice to revive the spirit of the recent revolution on stage and in the street. His production company, Woven Path, produces documentaries as well as educational and workshop services. Mateo is TCC’s Media Director.
Sara Moncada Madril began consulting with TCC in 2015. Co-Founder of Wise Women Circles films, Sara manages the daily operations of the organization and has primary responsibility for Production, Post Production, Marketing and Program Development. Sara brings to The Cultural Conservancy a strong start-up background as well as experience working in the not-for-profit sector. She has worked with multiple technology start up companies in the healthcare arena in the areas of marketing, product management, program management, corporate film development and Client Relations. She was previously the Managing Director for the not-for-profit Institute for Staffing Excellence and Innovations and On Nursing Excellence an organization devoted to inspiring and strengthening the effectiveness, recognition and well-being of nurses world-wide. Sara also has a unique background in the arts as an artist and educator. She is the Program Director for Sewam American Indian Dance, an organization that specializes in sharing the music, dance and arts of Native American culture across the country in both education and theatrical arenas. She is also a company member and Project Director for La Tania Baile Flamenco, sharing the art, power and beauty of traditional Flamenco.
Maya Harjo is an organic gardener and educator dedicated to restoring Native food systems through the revitalization of traditional foodways and the practice of sustainable agriculture. Maya grew up in Los Angeles, CA and attended Brown University, where she majored in International Development Studies and wrote a senior thesis on the concept of tribal sovereignty. On the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona, she collaborated with local Elders and community partners to bring a wide range of health and culture programming to tribal schools, community organizations, and the tribe’s organic farm. Her experience in Native youth education, project planning, curriculum development, and community engagement is bolstered by her love of growing food. After many years of working and volunteering for farms and gardens, she became a Farming Apprentice at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) program and recently graduated with a Certificate in Organic Horticulture. Maya applies her experience growing organic food with the direct aim of increasing access to healthy and culturally appropriate food for Native communities. She is Shawnee, Muscogee Creek, Seminole, Jewish and an enrolled member of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.
As co-facilitator of TCC’s Guardians of the Water Summer Internship, Javier applies skills woven together through lifelong engagement of dance, and environment issues, as well as a decade engaging non-profit & arts management, critical cultural studies, and indigenous issues. At Stanford University, Javier majored in Earth Systems and graduated with honors in a minor in Chican@/Latin@ Studies. Much of Javier’s consultant and administrative work supports Indigenous cultural expression and intertribal communities. He volunteers as Secretary of the powwow committee of the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits(BAAITS) Powwow. As a performer and lead admin with Dancing Earth Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations, for the last 6 years, Javier has worked in all aspects of artistic creation, from event production, to social media, outreach, development, and strategic planning. Soon after joining After joining TCC in 2015, Javier co-produced Seeds & Soul: Festival of Indigenous Cultural Exchange and Art, with co-sponsorship from The Cultural Conservancy. Javier maintains a creative performance practice, and is currently developing a two-spirit piece about Motherhood for the Performing Diaspora Artist Residency at Counterpulse, an experimental performance venue in San Francisco.
Kaylena Bray is the former Foodways Program Coordinator (2013 - 2016) and currently serves as a Foodways advisor and consultant for the “Braiding the Sacred” and “Conversations with Maize” network. Over the last 5 years, she has consulted for Indigenous-led and social entrepreneurship organizations including Ashoka, Conversations with the Earth (CWE), Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment, and the California Indian Environmental Alliance. Kaylena has spent her career working to strengthen the role of traditional ecological knowledge on climate change mitigation and agricultural food systems locally in Ecuador, Peru and the Seneca Nation; and internationally with Indigenous leaders and activists at major international events at United Nations fora. Her experience in social media includes marketing and strategy development to bring Ashoka’s Changemakers and CWE increased visibility, audience, and support. She is currently a MSc candidate in Environmental Change Management at the University of Oxford.
Lois Ellen Frank is a a Santa Fe, New Mexico based James Beard Award-winning author, Chef, Native American foods historian, culinary anthropologist, and photographer. Lois has spent over 20 years documenting the foods and life ways of Native American communities throughout the Southwest writing and photographing many articles and papers on the topic. She is presently working on completing her PhD on the discourse and practice of Native American cuisine, which she is planning to publish as her next book, tentatively entitled The Turquoise Plate. Lois is an adjunct professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), where she teaches about the anthropology of food, the ethnobotany of foods and plants of the Southwest and Traditional Arts & Ecology. She is a featured cooking instructor at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, and the chef/owner of Red Mesa Cuisine, a Santa Fe catering company where she cooks Native American, local and sustainably sourced foods and teaches about Native American foods of the Southwest Indian Nations with Diné Chef Walter Whitewater.
Kescia Turner-Harris has over a decade of experience delivering comprehensive financial services that employ solid accounting and business systems. While working in the healthcare industry, Kescia learned the pitfalls of poor financial management and the importance of establishing a solid accounting infrastructure. She applied her innate sense of order and financial acumen to designing accounting systems for businesses that lacked organization and internal controls. Her increasing focus on financial processes and procedures was the catalyst that led to the formation of Multi Business Solutions, Inc. She has a proven track record of partnering with non-profit executives and small business owners to develop robust financial solutions for critical accounting issues. Her commitment and expertise helps each client realize sustainability.
Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden Team
Wendy Johnson is an organic gardening mentor and an ordained lay dharma teacher in the traditions of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and the San Francisco Zen Center. As one of the founders of the organic farming program at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, Wendy has been teaching organic agriculture and meditation for decades. Since its inception in 1995, she has been a mentor and advisor to the Edible Schoolyard Project affiliated with Chez Panisse restaurant. She is a founding instructor and mentor of the College of Marin's innovative Organic Farm and Gardening Project established in 2009. In 2000 Wendy and her husband, Peter Rudnick, received the annual Sustainable Agriculture Award from the National Ecological Farming Association. Since 1995 Wendy has written a quarterly column on gardening for Tricycle Magazine, a national Buddhist review, and she is the author of Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate.
Peter Rudnick, an organic farmer with extensive experience, is the Lead Famer at Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden.
Ben was born and raised in Redwood City CA. He received his BA in American Studies from UC Santa Cruz. After moving to Oakland, Ben then spent 5 years with the Seneca Family of Agencies where he worked as an after school program manager and garden facilitator. After spending some time in New Mexico and west Marin working on farms and ranches and deepening his knowledge of traditional practices, Ben moved back to Oakland to welcome the birth of his son, Isaiah in 2014. Ben has worked as a mentor and educator in Oaklands American Indian community ever since. In addition to his work with the Cultural Conservancy, Ben works with the American Indian Child Resource Center where he facilitates varied cultural, environmental, and agricultural programming for Oaklands native community including "Sovereign Seeds & Starts"-a youth led organic native seed and start company born from our east Oakland garden space/ Chochenyo Ohlone ethnobotanic landscape "Huichin Gardens".
Michelle Honey graduated from San Francisco State University in 2013 with degrees in American Indian studies and Geography emphasis environmental management. Working from intern to apprentice at Indian Valley Organic Farm, she has a strong passion for growing organic food. Her interests include California Native plants, habitat restoration and sustainability.
Board of Directors
Kaimana Barcarse, whose passion is using the wa'a (canoe) as a platform to strengthen Hawaiian language and cultural skills, is the Coordinator of Hawaiian Language and Culture for the ʻĀina (Place) Based Education Department of the Kamehameha Schools. He is a deep-sea voyager and captain, and has instructed at the High School, University, and community levels in the disciplines of Voyaging & Navigation and Ethno-zoology. He is also the Program Director of Alana I Kai Hikina, a Hawaiian Language Radio Show at KWXX-FM, an indigenous focused photographer, and the current co-chair of The Cultural Conservancy's Board of Directors.
Kimla McDonald is trained both as a landscape architect (University of California, Berkeley) and as a midwife, and is currently working in the health care field. She has worked as a producer of documentary films with the Earth Island Institute's Sacred Land Film Project. She has decades of experience protecting sacred sites and working with Native nations in the desert Southwest and serves as a special advisor to our indigenous health projects. Kimla is an original founding board member of the Sacred Land Foundation, the parent organization to the Cultural Conservancy. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.
Pearl Praise Gottschalk is a philanthropist, educator, and indigenous rights activist. She holds a Masters in Conflict Resolution and International Peace Building and an undergraduate degree in International Development with a focus on disability and peace processes. She was formerly the Charitable Givings Ambassador and International Volunteer Trip Leader with LUSH Cosmetics from 2010-2015 where she managed a multi-million dollar fund for grassroots charities. She has worked as a Refugee Advisor and Grants Manager with the Winnipeg School Division, as well as an Environmental Campaigner and grassroots activist with many environmental NGOs in Canada. Pearl has traveled to 50 countries and has lived, volunteered, and worked with myriad grassroots communities, indigenous communities, and NGO's around the world. She currently volunteers for a retreat center in Mexico, is a proud Ambassador for the oceans with 5 Gyres, and loves salsa dancing, making Mexican food, and rock climbing.
Priscilla Settee is a member of the Cumberland House Cree First Nations from northern Saskatchewan, Canada, is a Professor of Native Studies at University of Saskatchewan and a leading indigenous rights advocate locally and internationally. Her many roles include: chair of Saskatoon's only Aboriginal high school, member of the Iskwewak group that focuses on disappeared and missing Indigenous women, board member for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (Canada's leading progressive think tank), Faculty Fellow at the Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research at the University of Alberta, Research Fellow at the Adivasi Academy in Gujarat, India, former board member for the Indigenous Women’s Network, and leader of a project with Andean and Amazonian students at the University of San Marcos in Peru. A frequent speaker on Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Women's Rights and Environmental Rights, Settee’s most recent book is Akemeyimow, Indigenous Women's Stories.
Stefano Varese, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Native American Studies, University of California, Davis. Stefano is an anthropologist, author, and indigenous rights activist. He is the founder of the Indigenous Research Center of the Americas (IRCA) and has authored numerous books, including, Witness to Sovereignty, and Salt of the Mountain. He has received numerous awards to his service to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and advancing the concept and practice of human rights anthropology.
See Melissa's bio above
Dennis Martinez (O’Odham/Chicano), Indigenous Peoples Restoration Network
Jacquelyn Ross (Pomo/Coast Miwok), traditional food gatherer, writer, artist
Kathy Wallace (Yurok/Karuk/Hupa), Basket weaver, educator, museum specialist
Diana Almendariz (Maidu/Wintun), native plant specialist, basketmaker, "the Tule Lady"
Edward Willie (Pomo/Wailaki), California native historian, ethnobotanist, artist
Wikuki Kingi (Maori/Hawaiian), traditional artist, master carver, cultural symbologist
Tania Wolfgramm (Maori/Tongan), cultural psychologist, evaluation specialist, language educator
Marsha Small (Northern Cheyenne), sacred site protector, buffalo restoration advocate, native educator
Malcolm Margolin, Publisher, Heyday Books/News from Native California
Photo credit on this page: Mateo Hinojosa, Melissa K. Nelson