2018-02-14 / Top News

Tilsen steps down at Thunder Valley

By Kimberly Greager
Native Sun News Today

Nick Tilsen poses in front of an architectural rendering showing future plans for Thunder Valley. Nick Tilsen poses in front of an architectural rendering showing future plans for Thunder Valley. PORCUPINE — It started as a prayer, a concept. Over the last decade that prayer has grown into a movement that has created revolutionary ideas and caused radical change on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Thunder Valley Community Development Corp. has changed lives in Indian Country and the positive impact is spreading beyond the Oglala Lakota Nation and motivating change.

Last week, Thunder Valley CDC’s founding Executive Director, Nick Tilsen, announced a transition that will be taking place over the next several months. Tilsen will be stepping down as Executive Director to join the Board of Directors, stating a few reasons for the change.

Tilsen said that after dedicating more than ten years of his life to TVCDC, it is now time to “create space for other leadership, to make sure this organization continues to grow and evolve and celebrate the leadership that is here.” The change is also spurred by inspiration to make a broader impact in indigenous communities. Tilsen said that over the last several months, TVCDC has been contacted by more than 27 native-non-profits and 43 Tribes representing over 70 indigenous communities – all wanting guidance on how they can implement a model like Thunder Valley in their own communities. Tilsen said that until now, TVCDC has been able to offer some help but there hasn’t been the vehicle needed to drive real change in other areas.

“About six months ago, I went to the drawing board and started developing a new concept, a new idea, of how to build a capacity in Indian Country. And so later in 2018, I’m actually going to be launching a new organization called The Indian Collective that will help build philanthropic and social impact and capacity and infrastructure for the Indigenous People’s Rights Movement. And so we can build a world where there’s eventually hundreds of organizations like Thunder Val- ley out there in the world,” Tilsen says in the video released by TVCDC announcing the change.

It is expected that around February 15th TVCDC will make an announcement to fill the Executive Director position. While this change is bittersweet for Tilsen, he is excited to see TVCDC continue to grow and flourish and to see where The Indian Collective can foster positive change for others.

In his video, Tilsen talks about his time at TVCDC and the progress he has seen, “When I look out to what Thunder Valley has come from, and the struggle that we have been through to where we’re at today, it’s pretty remarkable. Today, Thunder Valley is an organization that has close to 60 full-time employees, and another 60 part-time employees, who are creating radical change in our communities. They are all contributors to this eco-system of opportunity. Everything from revitalizing Lakota language, to building climate resilient affordable housing, to getting the development of the workforce, to integrating arts and culture into our work. It’s been an awesome, incredible journey. To our community, to our supporters, our staff and to everybody out there whose been a partner in supporting our work, I wanted to take the time to let you know about this transition and to let you know that it’s a positive thing. I’m not going away, I’m just transitioning from one role to the other. It’s a positive thing for this organization, it’s a positive thing for this community…Lastly, I just want to say thank you. For the people that have believed in Thunder Valley, the people who have believed in me, the people who have believed in this work throughout the years. It is your belief and your contribution to us and to our work that has allowed us to create this radical change, this movement, that you’re now seeing in our communities. Thunder Valley is this awesome place of changemakers and innovators and creators. At the end of the day, this has been about meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I feel like Thunder Valley is an awesome example of that.”

(Contact Kimberly Greager at

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