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:

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:

Spirit of the Sun VISTA Leader

Inquire today about how YOU can inspire others and become the new VISTA Leader at Spirit of the Sun! If interested, please contact

Courtney Kjelland, Resource Development VISTA


Courtney graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies, and with three additional minors in Anthropology, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Geography. After over a year long internship in Emergency Management, Courtney decided to become an AmeriCorps VISTA to help communities achieve sustainability and resilience. As the Resource Development VISTA for Spirit of the Sun, she is incredibly excited to create new opportunities and learn from both the local Denver community, as well as the SOTS national community.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun programs, grants, fundraising, or marketing, please email Courtney at

Desirea Ortega, Youth Program Outreach & Engagement Coordinator VISTA


I am the start of the Red steak, born for the waters edge clan. My maternal grandparents are the folded arms people and my paternal grandparents are the Yankton tribe (Nakota people). I am originally from Cornfields/Navajo station, AZ. My family and I currently live here in Denver.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun youth programs, please email Desirea at

Rose Pejman, Fundraising and Marketing Development Coordinator VISTA


Rose graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science & Technology. She has had field work working on habitat restoration and researching osprey communities, as well as interning as an environmental educator in an office setting. 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