Who We Are

Shannon Francis, Executive Director (Hopi/Dineh)

shannon-bio-picShannon 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

Photo of John Lathrop 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.

Katie Thibideau, Resource Development VISTA

Katie graduated from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in 2015, with her BBA in marketing and strategy. After graduation, she worked in project management for Amerisure Insurance Company, but decided to become an AmeriCorps VISTA in order to fight poverty and gain experience in nonprofit management. As a Resource Development VISTA, Katie is assisting Spirit of the Sun with grant writing, fundraising development, and digital marketing.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun programs, fundraising, or marketing, please email Katie at kthibideau@spiritofthesun.org.

Daryle Conquering Bear, Youth Outreach VISTA (Oglala Lakota)

Daryle is in his junior year at Oregon State University, on his way to receiving his Bachelors in Human Development and Sports. A proud member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, he speaks nationwide about native youth who experience the child welfare system and advocates for the enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Conquering Bear Crow has served on advisory boards for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Resource Center for Tribes now as Capacity Building for Tribes, and Casey Family Programs. He collaborates and has interned with the National Indian Child Welfare Association and currently sits on the North American Council on Adoptable Children board of directors and part of the Capacity Building for Tribes Advisory Council. Daryle was selected as a 2015 White House Champions for Change selected by President Obama and his Administration and was the 2014 Colorado Youth Mentor of the Year. Daryle also is no stranger to team atmosphere as he is head coach for the U17 Rockies Native Elite girls’ basketball program. Coaching has been part of Daryle’s life since 2005 from student assistant on the bench of Northeastern Junior College, Metro State, and Oregon State University. In Daryle’s free time he likes to enjoy the outdoors, sports- volleyball and basketball and coaching/mentoring student athletes on and off the court.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun native youth outreach programs, please email Daryle at dconqueringbear@spiritofthesun.org.


Courtney Kjelland, Fundraising and Marketing 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. Courtney decided to become an AmeriCorps VISTA to help communities achieve sustainability and resilience. As the Fundraising and Marketing Development Coordinator VISTA for Spirit of the Sun, she is excited create new opportunities and learn from the community.

If you have any questions about Spirit of the Sun fundraising or marketing, please email Courtney at ckjelland@spiritofthesun.org