Wayne Ducheneaux II

DrewArrieta 10
Photo by Drew Arietta

I am Wayne Leo Ducheneaux, the second. I am the Executive Director of Native Governance Center. My pronouns are he/him/his. I'm an enrolled citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, where I reside on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in North central South Dakota. Most importantly, I am a husband to Megan, a father to Veda, Aiden, Alexander, and Regina and am just happy to be here. 

My first interaction with Headwaters Foundation was very early in Native Governance Center's (NGC) existence, trying to find people to support our work. What stood out to me in that first grant is the thoughtful way that Headwaters approached us to be a partner in the work.  

It was night and day different from my experience with other foundations. It was way less prescriptive. Headwaters wasn’t trying to decide for us what we needed to do or make us fit in a box. It was about how Headwaters could find alignment with our work and how Headwaters’ grantmaking could support it. 

Headwaters’ idea of giving community the power to do grantmaking is something that resonated with me. After we received that grant, my next thought was, “How do I give back to Headwaters?”  

So, I applied and was accepted into a cohort of the Giving Project a few years back and it revolutionized my thinking. 

I came into the cohort with unique experience, even from other BIPOC participants. I lived my entire life on a reservation being part of the majority population. Everyone around me was Native. Growing up on a reservation, my experience of white privilege and white supremacy was different because I wasn't surrounded by dominant white culture.  

So, in the Giving Project, it took me a while to figure out how my experience fit into our conversations. After our first session, I had a realization that I still experienced white supremacy but through the auspices of colonization, and its effect on our people, especially my tribe here in Cheyenne River.  

While I didn't grow up being directly oppressed by white people on a day-to-day basis like many other BIPOC folks, I am a product of the systems and ways that white supremacy was delivered by non-Native people in the federal government with authority over my everyday life. I also experienced it in the imitation of white supremacy delivered to me from my own people. One aspect of colonization is that Native folks learned from systems that were created to oppress us and can now use them to harm our own people.  

That realization was an “ah ha!” moment for me. After that, I was able to deeply, and in a different way, share my personal experiences with the Giving Project cohort.  

DrewArrieta 4
Photo by Drew Arietta

Another learning I’ve gained from Headwaters is that my attitude toward money has shifted to where I am not trapped by it or afraid of it anymore. When I took this job at Native Governance Center, fundraising was the scariest thing for me because I thought to myself, “how do you go out and ask people for money? That sounds like begging.” 

I now understand that money is medicine. Money is a manifestation of real-life resources which we all share as community. When you think about it in those terms, trying to move those resources to the people, the community, who need them most feels like healing instead of like begging. 

I bring this learning from Headwaters into my work at Native Governance Center through our leadership programming that works with Native leaders to support projects in their nations. In our cohorts, we’ve developed a fundraising curriculum for members that shows why there's the need for resources, how to make a fundraising ask, and the different ways to think about fundraising.  

When people are implementing their action plans on their reservations, we talk about how they’re going to need dollars to do some things, but also how they can tap into the goodwill and abundance that's already embedded in Native community. It doesn't have to be just about money. Things like sharing a meal or leaning on people's volunteerism. For example, Native community will rally around youth basketball, and give up time, money, and resources, so it's simply inspiring them to give that same effort to other kinds of initiatives. I've taken lessons learned from my work with Headwaters and imbued them with values from our work at Native Governance Center. 


Headwaters’ focus on returning the power to community was something that shifted my mindset and how NGC does our work. I think the philanthropy sector is shifting, but when I started at NGC, it felt like in the rest of philanthropic world I had to figure out how to fit into their boxes. The surprising thing about Headwaters is that you throw the box away altogether. Headwaters asks, “How can we move forward together?” 

Knowing that Headwaters is an example of how grantmaking can be done better has helped shape my courage when talking to other philanthropy folks. It’s allowed me to be bolder in my conversations with other foundations and say, "I have an example of how you can do things differently." 

For instance, I was giving a presentation to a group of philanthropic organizations, and I told them, “It's not enough to give seats at the table anymore. You need to take that table, pick it up, and move into the community and let community sit with you directly rather than making us come to the 25th floor of your building and feel uncomfortable. It's your responsibility to make the distribution of your resources comfortable for us. That's the priority.”  

After that meeting, I got emails asking me “Who do you think you are? That type of approach will never elicit a funding relationship with your organization.” I said, “Well, then you're not ready to work with me if you think you have all the solutions. Your foundation isn't ready to work with Native Governance Center. And when you are ready, I'm not going to harbor ill will. The doors will be open, and we'll figure out a way to make sure that you can put your resources to the best use for our community.” 

Headwaters has given me new strength and power in how I talk about money and philanthropy.  

Untitled Design (6)
Photo by Drew Arietta