Vanessa Goodthunder

Lower Sioux Indian Community
AGE: 23

Vanessa believes that language can be used to heal from historical trauma and has dedicated her life to learning and teaching her languages. Vanessa works with a nonprofit organization called Dakota Wicohan (Dakota Way of Life) as both a youth participant and later, a language instructor supporting Dakota language curriculum development. She teaches at youth leadership programs, community language nights, schools, and through a community program centered on youth engagement and horse culture.

As a Generation Indigenous Youth Ambassador, Vanessa also started the Daunkotapi group, which connects youth from the four Dakota communities in Minnesota to talk about issues facing Native youth today, discuss solutions, and provide peer support. The group meets regularly and includes tribal leaders, program staff and youth.