Native Youth Leadership Alliance

Hau Mitakuyapi! (Hello Relatives)

My Lakota name is Nape Wakan Win, My English name is Kolette Medicine.  I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, a descendent of the Oglala, Hunkpapa, and the Hokwoujou Lakota Nation.

I am honored to say I received my degree from Oglala Lakota College with an emphasis in Elementary Education (K-6) and working towards finishing my Masters degree. Being able to put my degree to work in the same community I grew up has been a tremendous experience.

Knollwood elementary is located in north Rapid City and the demographics are unique because 92% of the students are Native American. Being one of youngest teachers in my school has provided me with the thoughts of the upcoming generation and because of being raised in a traditional background has woken me up to my own genius as a Lakota Winyan (womyn).

This concept came to me as I begun research for my master’s thesis. The topic I wanted to research was Lakota Women’s Leadership and was influenced by being raised by my Ina (mom), who is steeped in Lakota tradition and practices. I’ve also had the benefit of being able to work with other phenomenal female Lakota role models who helped me along my path both as a mother and student.

With the powerful leadership background that many Lakota winyan (womyn) contributed too, I was excited to start my research and see what a Google search would return. When the results came back, it was a little defeating because there was not enough information or books to begin research.

Thinking about the impact many winyan’s (womyn) had in my life and the resiliency they showed when they are told no, this experience empowered me to create my own content so the next time anyone Googled Lakota Women’s leadership, my research and thesis would come up. Not because I want to be the only writing anything on this topic but I wanted to leave a place for future generations to start. 

Using my Lakota’s winyan genius has also helped me think of developing innovative solutions to building better families for upward mobility in my community.

One of the projects I hope to work on is having talking circles for the parents of my students. I noticed my kids want to see more role models and the perfect place to start is right at home within our own values as Lakota parents. The things I was raised with such as burning sage for the purification of our minds and perspective is so valuable because it provided a small promise that everything will be ok regardless of what our family was going through at the time, but this practice is slowly being lost with each generation.

As a cofounder of NYLA, it has been a tremendous experience to see the growth and working with the newer fellows, especially in South Dakota. It’s inspiring to see what other NYLA members are working on in their communities; it gives me motivation to continue to work towards my goals of building stronger families that will ultimately yield stronger communities.

Working within my inner Lakota winyan genius, I know both the project and NYLA will serve as a sustainable model for building a better future our children.


Areas of focus

Education, Cultural Revitalization through Hip-Hop and the Arts, Strengthening Young Women Leaders, Language Restoration

Leadership Accomplishments
  • National Indian Education Association Conference, San Diego, CA, October 2010
  • Young People For Regional and National Summit, September 2010 and January 2011
  • American Indian College Fund Embrey American Indian Women’s Leadership Program Training, March 2011
  • NYLA Intergenerational Visioning Retreat, November 2010
  • Elected to Oglala Lakota College Student Senate Vice President

Achieve PhD in Education, Serve as Superintendent of Rapid City Public Schools