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Whisper n Thunder 2023 Winds Scholars

Russ Letica

Editor's Note - This was Russ's last writing

for us before he passed in the Fall of 2023.

This year’s applications for the Winds Scholarship

were impressive and it is a pleasure to be able to

haveparticipated in the application process for the

last decade. Below are the top three (3) scholars

for 2023.

It is an honor to award Stephanie Thompson our Janet L. Bernard Scholarship of $2,500. Stephanie is a member of Bilikj community of the Wolastoqey Nation. In the application process it is asked, what are your plans for the future? Please include school and intended profession.
Stephaine responded: My plans academically are to complete my master’s degree and immediately go into a PhD Program for Indigenous Studies. In the process of obtaining a PhD, it is my interest to begin looking to find a career that will both support my family, and Nation. I would like to work with
Wolastoqey such as Elders Imelda Perley to develop Wolastoqey latuwewakon (language) materials and learning experiences with Knowledge Carriers like my mother and Cecelia Brooks in how they work with plant medicines. Incorporating language learning with practices such as basketmaking, birch bark canoe making and the hand tools to support those activities not only connect us with each other as a community, but also the land where we are relatives with each other.

Stephanie M. Thompson
Bilijk, Kingsclear First Nation
Trent University
Peterborough, Ontario, CANADA
Awarded the Janet L. Bernard Scholarship
Area of Study: Sustainability Studies


Ariel Shirley of the (Dine’) Navajo Nation. Ariel was awarded the $1000.00 Winds Scholarship. Her
application ranked 2nd highest. Ariel is a first-year master student at Dartmouth College in NH. Within the application process it is asked, share with us some ways in which you have demonstrated leadership, creativity, and academic achievement. Ariel states: I have demonstrated leadership, creativity, and academic achievement through my extracurricular and organization involvement. For the past two years, I participated in the Southern Arizona Heart Walk to raise funds for the American Heart Association. This year the walk was on April 22, 2023, and raised over the $425,000 goal. My participation includes completing a three-mile walk to bring
awareness on heart health. According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is among the leading cause of death for men and women among the American Indian/Alaskan Native population.

Ariel Shirley
Navajo Nation
Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire
Area of Study: Public Health


Bailey Kaybah Nez from the (Dine’) Navajo Nation. Biley is our third scholar and was awarded $500. She is a sophomore at Lawrence University in WI. Her major is environmentalscience with geoscience emphasis. In the application process it is also asked, In what ways have you demonstrated a desire to serve your Native community? Include examples of service illustrating your tribal specific work. This question comprises a strong percentage of your overall score.
Bailey replies: In my home community back on the Navajo Nation, I’ve advocated for student athletes while being in the New Mexico Activities Association Student Leadership Advisory Council to ensure that they had equal opportunities even while being rural. I’ve spoken on behalf of my community and school to ask for assistance in getting a new electrical system to ensure we had access to reliable energy. While I’ve been in college, I’ve also taken opportunities to volunteer to pack food for tribal elders to be distributed during the winter. I’ve worked closely with the Menominee Nation, the tribe whose ancestral lands my college is situated on, as they began to make the transition to more sustainable forms of energy by helping to conduct research. I spent time with the Menaekhanekem organization on the Menominee reservation to raise awareness on environmental justice issues in the community. In each of these instances I’ve taken my time to pour back into the community and demonstrate my care for my people and continue to do valuable work to benefit Native communities.

Bailey Kaybah Nez
Navajo Nation
Lawrence University Appleton
Appleton, WI
Area of Study: Environmental Science / Geoscience

The Board of Directors and committee members would like to thank all applicants who applied to the Winds Scholarships 2023. Please join us in Congratulating this year’s Winds Scholars. 
Whisper n Thunder Empowering Native Americans / First Nations peoples through Education, Awareness & Opportunity.