A Lakota woman, Phyllis is proudest of her many contributions to education—starting with raising three remarkable children. Her passion for community education grew over time, where she taught the Lakota language, served as a Sinte Gleska University adjunct professor in mental health, and became a Lecturer and presenter of Plains Indian History through Humanities Nebraska.Embracing her magic as an elder, Phyllis also participated in a grandparent program for foster children where she taught children to read.

Her love of education and teaching excellence manifested new opportunities for community leadership and matriarchal innovation. As Founder, Director, and Coordinator of the Women of Color Organization, Phyllis became an influential community catalyst when society forcefully dissuaded women from leading in these ways.

As a Sundancer of 28 years—perhaps her proudest achievement—Phyllis was meant to rise and dance, and in doing so, invited others to do the same.

Understanding and practicing women supporting women, Phyllis invested in the power of women linking arms and leading. By extension, she served on the Mari Sandoz Society Board and the Lincoln Indian Center’s Board of Directors.

Among her finest achievements, Phyllis raised productive disrupters and change agents! All were raised to be proud of and educated about their Lakota identities while paving exceptional leadership paths. Her eldest son became the only Indian person to be nominated to West Point, then the Air Force Academy. Her second son became a member of the Army Rangers. Phyllis’s daughter leads as a consultant in Indian Education and is a legal assistant and activist for Indian people in Denver, Colorado. An adored grandmother, her granddaughter stands on her grandmother’s shoulders as a powerful journalistic voice across Tribal Nations.

While Phyllis has achieved such broad and deeply reverberating influences across her lifetime, I sense oNe of her greatest gifts shines in the magnified human moment. If you’ve been lucky enough to sit on a soft chair in her living room, you know the power of her affirming gaze, the glowing orb she spins when she drops into a story, the energy that comes from practicing gentle and strong all her life.