Three years ago, the Northland Foundation began a journey to partner more closely with Native nations and Indigenous community. Tribal elected leaders and other leaders in philanthropy, nonprofit, and other sectors shared insights and ideas. An Indigenous-led design team held dialogues and gave critical input. In time, Maada’ookiing (“the distribution” in Ojibwe) began to unfurl.

In late 2020, LeAnn Littlewolf joined the foundation as a Senior Program Officer and worked closely with key staff and a newly formed Maada’ookiing Board. Together, they moved the initiative from an idea on paper into practice.

The nine Board members play a pivotal part in guiding Maada’ookiing forward, including its unique grantmaking component. In June 2021, this group of leaders approved the first 13 grants, up $2,500 each, to Indigenous individuals. It was an exciting milestone.

Baabiitaw Boyd, Misizaaga’iganiing Anishinaabe, is a Senior Advisor on Ojibwe Language Revitalization Initiatives for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Northland Foundation Trustee, and member of the Maada’ookiing Board.

“We have always known there are individual passions and projects happening, and a need for more support,” she said. “I’m excited about Maada’ookiing expanding resources beyond the bounds of Tribes. With every grant we see, I know there is great opportunity for growth.”

Another Board member, Jaylen Strong, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, is the Director of the Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum. At age 24, he is leading while also being inspired by other role models.

“Seeing so many people doing fantastic work gives me something to strive for. It shows how connected Indian Country is, that you are often only one person away from knowing each other. Maada’ookiing is an opportunity to make that network a little bit bigger,” added Strong.

The Northland Foundation, local communities, and philanthropy owe many thanks to Jaylen, Baabiitaw, and the entire Maada’ookiing Board for bringing this innovative program to life.


  • Baabiitaw Boyd
    Misizaaga’iganiing Anishinaabe,
    Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Shane Drift
    District I Representative
    Bois Forte Tribal Council,
    Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
  • Mary Harrelson
    Gichionigaming Akiing Gichigami Anishinabeg,
    Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Alexandera Houchin
    Fellow/Citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Robbie Howe
    District I Representative,
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Leanne Johnson
    Indian Education Program Director, ISD 701
    Couchiching First Nation
  • April McCormick
    Gichionigaming, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Jaylen Strong
    Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum Director,
    Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
  • Melissa Walls, PhD
    Great Lakes Hub Director
    Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health,
    Bois Forte & Couchiching First Nation Ojibwe (1st gen descendent)