Melissa K. Nelson Ph.D. (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) - President/CEO
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 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 Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability (2018). She has served on the boards of Earth Island Institute, Bioneers, and the Center for Whole Communities. Melissa currently serves on the boards of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and the Sogorea Te Land Trust. Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, and Norwegian, she is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
Sara Moncada (Yaqui) is a Native educator, dancer, filmmaker, author and cultural arts advocate. As the VP of Programs for The Cultural Conservancy, she works closely with the President/Chief Executive Officer and other staff to co-create and implement TCC programs in accordance with the vision, mission and goals of the organization. In addition to her work at TCC, Sara is co-founder of Wise Women Circles a women-owned inspirational media company, and is director/artist/educator with Sewam American Indian Dance. She was previously the Managing Director for the not-for-profit Institute for Staffing Excellence and Innovations and On Nursing Excellence, organizations devoted to inspiring and strengthening the effectiveness, recognition and well being of caregivers’ worldwide. Prior to her focus in the non-profit sector, Sara was on the early team of multiple start-up technology companies with a spectrum of responsibilities that supported rapid growth, positive Board and client relationships, and launching successful products and media programs into the market. Sara speaks and presents across the country and internationally on Native American arts and culture. She is producer of the internationally successful film NURSES If Florence Could See Us Now and co-author of The Dance of Caring a newly released bookexploring Native American Hoop Dance as a model for wellness, connection and self-care for caregivers.
Anthony Reese - Chief Operating Officer
Anthony Reese is the first Chief Operating Officer at TCC. This position is the latest incarnation of a life spent building organizational capacity in the nonprofit sector. Anthony is a graduate of UCLA, and the Coro Foundation's Public Affairs Program in Los Angeles. He holds a Master's Degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he specialized in urban economic development. It was there that Anthony was first introduced to the work of nonprofits, joining a group of friends from Harvard’s business and law schools to create City Year, an urban youth corps that grew to international prominence and became a model for the national service movement. Anthony’s deep interest in the nonprofit sector drew him to New York City’s Robin Hood Foundation, where he served as its first Chief Financial Officer and Director of Management Assistance. There he helped channel financial resources, technical assistance and other services to community-based nonprofits. The satisfying experience of helping community leaders build institutions under their ideas led him to serve in a variety of management service organizations from LA’s Center for Nonprofit Management, to Oakland’s National Community Development Institute (NCDI). As Associate Director of NCDI, an intermediary created to provide culturally-based capacity building services to communities of color, Anthony helped build fiscal and administrative systems, provided facilitation, training, coaching and implementation support to community boards and neighborhood collaboratives engaged in comprehensive community change initiatives.
Daisee Francour (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin) - Director of Sustainability
Daisee Francour is Haudenosaunee and joins us as a former TCC development consultant, and much of her consultant work at large included philanthropic advising, capacity building and strategic planning. Prior to consulting, Daisee was a former Program Officer of the San Francisco Bay Area Program at the Christensen Fund, one of our long-term funders. Since relocating to California from the Midwest, her work is dedicated to Indigenizing philanthropy as well as supporting and advocating for California Indian leadership, Indigenous Rights and biocultural diversity across sectors and movements. Her decade’s work of activism has given her the opportunity to attend various UN forums and meetings and invoke change at the local, domestic and international level. Daisee’s former work also includes working with transitional at-risk youth, immigrant and refugee families, families with special needs, domestic violence victims and victims of police brutality. She received her MPPA with a concentration in Human Rights Advocacy from Adler University in Chicago, Il. and also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside with double majors in Sociology and Criminal Justice.
Mateo Hinojosa, M.A. (Mestizo Bolivian-American) - Media Director
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, and he also works with Te Ha and the Mino Niibi Fund.
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.
Nícola Wagenberg, Ph.D. (Colombian/Jewish) - Senior Program Associate
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.
Ben Schleffer (Blackfeet) - Native Foodways Farmer
Ben Schleffer 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."
Alejandra Cano (Mestiza - Colombiana)
Alejandra Cano is a PhD student in the Native American Studies Department at UC Davis. Her work focuses on the intersection between Culture, Food Sovereignty, Land Stewardship, and Native Science. She has been farming with TCC for the past years as part of the Native Foodways Team. She is passionate about growing food as it is a key to greater resilience, autonomy, and well-being. Alejandra graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies with a focus on Agro-Ecology. Since graduating in 2011, she has applied her skills as part of the Food and Environmental Justice movements in the greater Bay Area as well as abroad. Her experiences as a migrant, mestiza woman, farmer, Native American and Indigenous Studies scholar inform her efforts toward hemispheric unity of the indigenous people of the Americas. Alejandra is fluent in both Spanish and English and is excited to learn the Embera language.
Pearl Praise Gottschalk - Mino-Niibi Fund consultant
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.
Wendy Johnson - Organic Farming Teacher
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.
Cynthia J. Frank (Kiowa/Jewish) - Fundraising and Capital Campaign Consultant
Cyndi Frank is a consultant to nonprofit organizations by helping them raise the potential of their fundraising capacity to support the wonderful but critical programs that help our communities. Although she has worked with many important causes over the years, including environmental, animal, hunger, rare disease and cultural causes, her personal passion lies with being a patient advocate and a long-standing member of several rare disease communities. Over a 40-year span, she has participated as a Gaucher disease patient in many clinical trials and research studies to help bring treatments to market. She acts as a mentor and advocate for Gaucher patients in the community and raises awareness through speaking at patient educational events and conferences, Gaucher and rare disease symposiums and pharmaceutical patient and educational meetings. She has served on multiple boards and committees for many rare disease organizations, including Global Genes Advocacy Leaders Group, Corporate Alliance Committee and Patient Education Committee; the National Gaucher Foundation’s Gaucher Advisory Group and as a patient advisor to Sanofi Genzyme, Shire, Pfizer and Blue Turtle Bio.
Teo Montoya (Apache) - Special Projects Associate
Teo Montoya is a Native and Ancestral Health Educator, Music Producer, Photographer, and IT Specialist. Graduating from UCSC in 2013 with a degree in Medical and Food Anthropology. His graduating thesis explored the effects of Colonization on indigenous peoples; bodily, culturally, and spiritually. Teo is the owner of Primal Natives, a lifestyle initiative focused on assisting Indigenous peoples in reclaiming their health, fighting and potentially reversing; type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and auto-immune diseases by following a decolonized, fat-based diet. He has also worked extensively in the tech world. With TCC, he is sharing his expertise in Indigenous TEK, dietary science, alternative medicine systems, information technology and media/art. As the 2019 Media Apprentice, Teo is honing his skills with all things audiovisual by working on TCC media projects. Additionally, he is providing creative and IT solutions for our multifaceted programming.
Luke Reppe - Media and Administrative Assistant
Luke Reppe is an editor and media consultant. After growing up in Minnesota and graduating from Carleton College with a degree in Cinema and Media Studies, he moved to San Francisco to experience urban intentional communities. Currently, he lives in an eleven-person co-op near San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. In addition to his work with The Cultural Conservancy, Luke acts as a musician/artist assistant and freelance editor. His current project, Leo Harold and Paul: Three American Soldiers in World War II, examines the lives of 90-year-old former infantrymen and their memories of combat. Luke supports TCC’s media and administration teams.
Lois Ellen Frank, PhD (Kiowa) - Foodways Educator/Chef
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.