Collective decision making began in the Americas long before the deliberations that produced the Mayflower Compact. In research done for the Kettering Foundation, Ruth Yellowhawk showed that a legacy of tribal deliberation has carried over into modern day decision making. The foundation wishes to delve more deeply into this legacy and its contemporary applications as part of its study of citizen decision making worldwide. To continue this research, Kettering has established the Ruth Yellowhawk Fellowship.
Fellows are selected on the basis of letters of interest. The fellowship seeks grassroots researchers who propose experiential and participatory work in communities in which they are already active. The work should focus on the stories and experiences of either historical or contemporary decision making within American Indian indigenous culture. The work should include accounts of how problems were identified, issues were framed, decisions were made, and actions were taken.
Fellows will be provided a stipend and funds to cover expenses. If appropriate, fellows may be in residence at the foundation for a minimum of three weeks and a maximum of three months. If there are mutual interests, fellows may also participate in the foundation’s Public Scholars Program for faculty in tribal and historically black colleges.
Ruth Yellowhawk was codirector and cofounder of the Indigenous Issues Forums and a well-known advocate of community forums. The Indigenous Issues Forums is made of a team of folks in solid relationships who dedicate themselves to creating safe and respectful family centered environments to talk through tough issues. A mediator/trainer, she wrote discussion guides and curriculum for films, books, and other community based forums.
Ruth worked often with Harley Eagle (Dakota) to design and facilitate restorative justice workshops that go beyond a mechanical nuts and bolts understanding of restorative practices. They are working to recall and reclaim indigenous understandings and lifeways that can allow people to walk in balance today and for future generations. Both believe that in order to facilitate justice, one must first practice where it matters most—within ourselves and within our families.
Ruth and Harley conducted workshops with the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking in Minnesota, with a Tribal Judges Symposium in Montana, with the Black Feet Tribal Courts, with the Sicangu Lakota community at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation, with the Center of Restorative Justice in Rapid City, and many other organizations that invited them to cojourney.
A Former WYSO radio personality, Ruth Yellowhawk worked as program director and on-air personality from 1984 to 1996. She and her family moved to South Dakota in 1996, embracing a lifestyle closer to their Native American roots.
Ruth was an Ohio Native of Huron/Wyandot/German ancestry and lived in the Black Hills with her husband Jim, a Lakota/Iroquois artist, and their son Gabriel. She passed away in August of 2010, at the age of 50, after a battle with metastatic lung cancer.