Shannon Francis, Executive Director (Hopi/Dineh)

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Shannon Francis is Dineh (Navajo) from Shiprock, New Mexico, and Hopi from Kykotsmovi, Arizona. She is Towering House clan born for Red Running through the Water clan. Her Hopi clans are Massau’, Bear Sand, and Snake Clan. Shannon comes from twelve generations of earth caretakers, ethnobotanists and seed keepers.  Shannon is an active educator and has presented and taught widely on permaculture design. Her passion is instilling reciprocal relationships by connecting people to the natural world through seeds, soil and the elements. Shannon has been a member of the Denver Native community for thirty years and serves on the Winds American Indian Council as Chair and is the Director for the Indigenous Agricultural project at Four Winds. In 2014, Shannon received the Justin B. Willie humanitarian award on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. More recently, she received the 2015 Cesar E. Chavez female leadership award for her work with Indigenous gardening, food justice and community building projects.

Shannon is a certified Permaculture Design Instructor, focusing more on Indigenous Permaculture, the weaving of Traditional Ecological Knowledge with innovative science, and she is one of the few female Indigenous Permaculturists in the Rocky Mountain and Southwestern regions.

In 2009, she started out as a garden volunteer at the Denver Indian Center and led the Indigenous garden project until 2015, beginning from five 5×8 ft beds to what has now expanded over one fifth of an acre. The Denver Indian Center, Inc. exhibited and grew at least one ton of produce on a small area. In 2014, DICI gave out over 1300 packets of heirloom and GMO-free seeds to everyone who visited or attended the garden workshops.

Shannon is also a certified Project Learning Tree facilitator through the Colorado State Forest Service. In 2012 she participated in a pilot program through Cornell University with twenty-six other environmental educators from around the country developing and implementing Civic Urban Ecology EE curriculum for the National Environmental Education Association.

Since 2010 Shannon has presented and attended conferences such as the Colorado and Front Range Bioneers, White Earth Land Recovery, Indigenous Food Sovereignty Summit at the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, and Preparing for the Seventh Generation Conference at Osage Nation, and Dartmouth College. More recently in the summer of 2015, Shannon facilitated an Indigenous gardening workshop at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center with Trees, Water, People organization on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Shannon is deeply embedded in the Denver native community and continues to build pro-active reciprocal relationships between community members and organizations and also between people, animals and the natural world.

Shannon looks forward to bringing her 20+ years of mindful community building expertise, non-profit knowledge, and accounting skills to Spirit of the Sun.

If you would like to contact Shannon Francis about Spirit of the Sun projects, please reach out to her at: sfrancis@spiritofthesun.org.

John Lathrop, Advisory Board Chairman

Before joining Spirit of the Sun, Mr. Lathrop served as the Director of Corporate Learning, Institute for Executive and Professional Development at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. During this time, John served as a Committee Member of the Denver Federal Executive Board’s Methamphetamine “Call to Action” Task Force and worked with Northern Arapaho tribal leaders and federal executives to develop a Prevention Through Intervention Center on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Also while at Daniels, Mr. Lathrop developed a combined Native American and Others Advisory Board to design and create a Tribal Institute for Marketing Management related to the marketing of American Indian Casinos in the West.

Prior to his work at Daniels, Mr. Lathrop was Technical Director and Senior Consultant at ORI/Macro International Inc., an international consulting firm located in Calverton, Maryland (near Washington, D.C). There, he was one of the lead consultants working with the U.S. Special Trustee on the Reform of the American Indian Trust for the Office in Trust Funds Management.

In his earlier career, Mr. Lathrop was associated with the University of Maryland’s University College, the worldwide continuing education campus of the Maryland University system. There he held various positions in the professional development, management practices, and leadership development fields.

John Lathrop holds a B.A. degree from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. He has also completed advanced course work in International Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University and extensive graduate course work in Corporate Organization Development and Business Strategy at the University of Maryland.

If you would like to contact John Lathrop about business ventures, please reach out to him at: jlathrop@spiritofthesun.org.

Spirit of the Sun VISTA Leader

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Inquire today about how YOU can inspire others and become the new VISTA Leader at Spirit of the Sun!

If interested, please contact sfrancis@spiritofthesun.org

Stephen Duphon, Resource Development VISTA

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Stephen earned his Master of Science in Social and Organisational Psychology from the University of Exeter and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He spent his academic career researching implicit bias and prejudice, and is excited to start his year here as a Spirit of the Sun Vista. Stephen plans on providing his talents, skills, and resources to ensure a stronger community for Native and Indigenous youth.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun fundraising or grants, please email Stephen at stephen@spiritofthesun.org

Rose Pejman, Fundraising and Marketing Development Coordinator VISTA

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Rose graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science & Technology. She has interned with the Wildlife Habitat Council and worked as a research assistant at the University of MD as well as in Patuxent River Park. She realizes the importance our natural world has and hopes she can empower the youth to go back to their roots. Rose is hoping to help establish a support network for the Native community in Denver, as well as nationally through her year as a VISTA.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun youth fundraising/marketing or youth programs, please email Rose at rpejman@spiritofthesun.org

David Wright, Youth Program Development Coordinator VISTA

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David graduated from Adams State University where he earned his Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership and holds a bachelor degree in Anthropology from the University of Northern Colorado. David is passionate about serving his community had has worked in the past to support at risk youth in the Denver metro community, refugee populations and the Native American community. David's work is centered in the holistic approach of supporting the academic, cultural, social and spiritual needs of the community. David is excited to bring his passions Spirit of the Sun and for the opportunity to create new innovative programs that will support Native American and Indigenous youth. 

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun youth programs, please email David at dwright@spiritofthesun.org


Jackson Infante, Youth Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Intern

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Jackson was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, and spent time growing up between his hometown and the small towns in Northeastern Colorado and throughout Nebraska that his parents are from. His tribal affiliation goes back several generations to the Hopi reservation in Coconino County in Northeastern Arizona.

He graduated from Poudre High school in Fort Collins in 2017, where he wrestled, and played baseball and football. He is currently a Junior Global Business Studies Major at MSU Denver, where he have worked with Journey Through our Heritage, an outreach and cultural empowerment/education program. His accomplishments, while apart of JTOH, include: the 2018 MSU Denver University Award’s for Community Event of the Year (Dia de Los Muertos Event- coordinator/event planner), and Student Organization of the Year (Journey Through our Heritage- Curriculum Builder, Youth Mentor, Program editor). Outside of work, he enjoys playing Xbox, listening to music, hanging out with his dogs, long boarding,  and spending time with friends and family.


If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun youth outreach, please email Jackson at jackson@spiritofthesun.org



mato wa u hi, summer gardening associate, teacher of lakota language & star quilt design

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Mato wa u hi was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation during The Great Depression. She is a Full Blooded Oglala Lakota and speaks the language fluently. She is proud of who she is. Life was and is very hard on the Rez. Her mother had a small team of mules and a big John Deere Wagon had Horse and Cattle, goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys, and milk cows. They were her responsibilities. Milking her twice a day and taking care of the chickens too. Her mother and aunts and grandmother taught her how to skin and butcher a cow, a lot of sewing and beading and cooking, and working in the garden (5 acres.) She would sell the vegetable and eggs were my jobs. Her brothers had the easy job of hauling wood, taking care of the horses and cows.  Her mom had an iron fist. What we had to do we did every day. In the summer, she would have picked, buffalo berries, chokecherry, Juneberries and dug up wild turnips, she would can, dry meat, dry squash, dry chokecherries and make Wojapi. She still picks these today and she is asked to make Was-na. She left the reservation when she was 21. She told her mother she wanted a better life for her kids. There were no jobs on the reservation.  She went to Wyoming to work construction on Hwy 80 and then came to Colorado and settled in the Denver metro area. She had children, got a license as a cook and would work everywhere, in between selling star quilts. She worked at the Denver Indian Center and Adams County Jail at 4 winds. I retired at 69. She wants to teach someone how to make star quilts, Shannon Francis hired her to teach sewing. It is important to teach others how to make star quilts, this a dying part of my culture.