Organization Unites National Native Nonprofit Organizations to Better Serve Indian Country

Longmont, Colo., March 25, 2020 — Carly Bad Heart Bull (Bdewakantunwan Dakota/Muskogee Creek and a citizen of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota) was named Executive Director of the Native Ways Federation (NWF), Inc., an organization uniting nonprofit organizations to better serve and create awareness of American Indian communities across the United States. She comes to NWF from the Bush Foundation, where she served as the Native Nations Activities Manager working with Indigenous nations and communities since 2014. Her service area encompassed Minnesota, North and South Dakota and the 23 tribal nations within the region.

Carly has a background in law, and prior to joining the Bush Foundation, she was an Assistant County Attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (Minneapolis, Minnesota) in its child protection division. She also taught the Dakota language to early childhood students in South Minneapolis. She serves as vice chairwoman of the board of local nonprofit and indigenous farm, Dream of Wild Health, and on the board of Native Americans in Philanthropy. In 2018, Carly was named an “Unsung Hero” of Minnesota by local media outlet City Pages for her instrumental work on reclaiming the Dakota name of Minneapolis’ largest lake (formerly Lake Calhoun) to Bde Maka Ska. In 2019, she was selected by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as a Community Leadership Network Fellow, a program for leaders across the country working to create transformational change toward a more equitable society for all.
Sarah EchoHawk, Chair of the NWF Board of Directors, and the Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), said, “Speaking on behalf the seven founding member organizations of the Native Ways Federation, we are so pleased to have Carly Bad Heart Bull as our new Executive Director. She has excelled at strategic leadership during her tenure at the Bush Foundation and is well-positioned to lead the Native Ways Federation into the future. Carly has a demonstrated track record in initiating and leading change to effectively elevate the visibility of Native communities within the philanthropic sector. During the board’s search process, her integrity, passion, and commitment to Native people was clear. We are excited by her vision for the organization and are looking forward to all that we will accomplish as an organization under her leadership.”

Carly, whose legal education focused on civil rights, made the transition from law to philanthropy because “My legal career exposed me to the systemic issues that our communities face from a different perspective. I was working within a system that wasn’t set up to serve our people but was in fact intentionally set up to disenfranchise us.” Yet her legal education was vital to her work in the nonprofit sector. “The experience taught me how to speak a new language—the language of law and how to navigate systems of power. I learned how to be an interpreter of sorts.”

Her legal skills and experience enabled Carly to learn “another system and a new language, again with the goal of better serving my people. She added, “These experiences taught me that interpretation is important; however, we also need to be moving toward building a common language. Institutional philanthropy is evolving from a transactional to a relational practice. More foundation leaders and staff are becoming interested in building relationships and engaging with the communities they serve.”

Throughout Carly’s career spanning education to law to philanthropy, she says she has sought opportunities to build and use her skills and experiences to better serve Native people. She sees her new role at NWF as a natural progression toward that end, using the community problem-solving and relationship-building skills she gained at the Bush Foundation.

“As Native people and sovereign nations we have the answers to address the issues our communities face. However, we haven’t always had access to the proper resources to take appropriate action. As a funder, my role has been to build relationships in and with communities as well as to learn how to effectively translate their needs to leaders in philanthropy. As Executive Director of NWF, I will propel both the Native nonprofit sector and philanthropy to best serve Indian Country.”

From education, governance and helping to build a sustainable economy in Indian Country, Carly sees ample opportunities to affect change by empowering and equipping Native communities with the experiences and tools they need to prosper.

“I strongly believe that Indigenous wisdom and ways of being are integral to the vitality of our communities and to this planet. We were all born as whole beings, gifted with numerous strengths and skillsets to contribute to this world. Our experiences and opportunities shape how effectively we can make these contributions. Philanthropy can play an important role in supporting our communities to develop and nurture our individual and collective strengths in ways that will lead to a better future for us all,” she said.

Carly holds a Juris Doctorate degree cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School, a Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota, and an Associate of Arts degree from Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Carly lives in Minneapolis with her husband Jay and their young son Quill.