Vanessa Goodthunder, Sna Sna Wiƞ (Snah-Snah Weeƞ) comes from C̣aƞṡayapi (Chahƞ-shah-yah-pee), which means where they paint the trees red also known as the Lower Sioux Indian Community. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a Bachelor’s in U.S History and American Indian Studies-Dakota Language, and with a Master’s of Education. Her passions are education, revitalizing the Dakota language, and working with Native youth.
Vanessa believes that language can be used to heal from historical trauma and has dedicated her life to learning and teaching her languages (Dakota and Dine). Vanessa has worked with the nonprofit organization called Daḳota Wic̣oḣaƞ (Dakota Way of Life) as both a youth participant and later, a language instructor supporting Dakota language curriculum development. She recently was the Aide to the Chief of Staff and Tribal Affairs Policy Advisor in the Office of Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith. She is a 2016 Champions for Change through the Center for Native American Youth located in D.C where she helps raise awareness of Native Youth issues as well as advocacy. Currently she serves as the Director of the C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi- A Dakota Immersion Early Head Start and Head Start, the first Dakota Head Start in the State of Minnesota.