Seeking New Leadership October 18 2023

When I last wrote over a year and a half ago, Seven Fires Art was embarking on a couple of very exciting projects on the Pine Ridge reservation: Opening an office, and supporting the development of the Stronghold Gallery and Art Center. I won’t mince words. Doing business on the reservation is very difficult. Neither project panned out. I’d be glad to share more information about what happened with anyone who inquires.

And so, as has happened many times in the history of the nonprofit, my focus returned to the website as the single most efficient way to benefit the most artists, and the reality is, that despite the setbacks, there is more momentum than ever!

Now with the following assets and more, Seven Fires Art is brimming with possibilities for the future:

  • well-established online presence and store

  • over 3000 followers on social media

  • growing list of customers and supporters

  • more artists served

  • new ways of bringing income to artists

  • greater connections with state and local agencies

  • sales and payments to artists steadily increasing

  • solid history as a South Dakota-based 501c3 corporation since 2013

However, after having done nearly all the work myself all these years, I am significantly burned out, eager to pursue other interests - and even if I wanted to, this thing has grown to be more than I can manage alone! And so it is time to find another organization or group of individuals willing to take on the Seven Fires Art Mission!

Ideally, the group to merge with Seven Fires Art would be a Native-run organization with a similar focus and mission. 

Having had some experience with churches that try to do good on the reservation, I also think it would be a great opportunity for a larger church to take an alternative and significant approach to helping.

Another possibility is that a team of professional individuals located anywhere in the country could do it, since most of the work is already done virtually (except  the physical inventory really requires that product photography, inventory, and order fulfillment all be in the same location).

Seven FIres Art has a proven model of generating an additional stream of earned income for Indigenous artists and assisting with their art businesses. In the right hands, Seven Fires Art might become something similar to the successful online shop for the Southwest Indian Foundation.

I am not a business person. If I can bring the nonprofit this far, I know that a group of ten volunteers who know what they’re doing could do great things! 

Here is a link to an outline of the jobs required to fulfill our current Mission. I invite you to consider how you might contribute and I welcome your input!

If you know of a Native-run or other organziation whose mission coincides with ours, or if you think you might be the person to assemble the group to continue the mission, or if you'd just like to discuss this further, please give me a call at 515 231-8192 or email

I am grateful for the experience and for the opportunity to serve the Oyate. I am grateful for each one of you, our wonderful customers and supporters! And I hope together we can build on the momentum and find the best path forward!


Go Big or Go Home April 22 2022

Like our member artists, I love creating things. When I founded the nonprofit, I first sat at my desk just planning, researching, and willing it into existence. Bringing beautiful things to the world is what we do here at Seven Fires Art.

There have been ups and downs, but the overall positive momentum of our mission has always prevailed. Our online sales doubled in 2020 and continue to rise. We are proud that our model of bringing income to Native artists through online sales has been proven through the pandemic and thankful that we could continue to generate business for artists when other sales venues closed.

Because of that momentum, we were awarded three small CARES Act grants from the South Dakota Arts Council in 2020 and 2021 totaling $12,500. This money was all earmarked for paying artists and generating sales. And by the way, we have also generated $28,500 in grants for individual artists since 2020!

And now this year we will be receiving an American Rescue Plan grant of $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts! Although not huge, it’s a true game changer for Seven Fires Art! Part of this two-year grant will be used to continue buying art and for marketing, but the majority is budgeted to pay a small director’s salary as well as providing a small salary for hiring an operations manager to help handle the increasing workload!

It would be easier and a lot less expensive to hire someone to work out of my home in Iowa, but creating jobs on the reservation has always been our core goal. It's the right thing to do. I also believe there is more potential for growth and recognition for the organization by being situated on the reservation.

And I am very happy to announce that Miranda Red Cloud has accepted the position! Miranda is a charter member of Seven Fires Art and her beautiful traditional artwork has been a mainstay of our online store since the very beginning. I have known Miranda over the years as trustworthy and hard working. She has employment experience at Red Cloud School, Big Bat’s and Prairie Wind Casino and she has completed courses in business administration at Oglala Lakota College. Miranda lives in Pine Ridge with her partner Jerrod Cordier and their three children.

But the next hurdle was finding office space! The good news is that we found a great space in a secure building next to the Pine Ridge Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. This location brings the unexpected potential for visitors – including tour groups – so we will also be setting it up as a gallery and will surely generate some in-person sales!

To carry out our work, the office will be set up with shipping, photography, and computer stations and we plan to make these resources available to our member artists as well. The space will surely help us increase our membership and our inventory with in-person buying and mentoring. It will give us a place to sit down with artists to discuss their work and their businesses.

The bad news is that we have no funds set aside to furnish or rent the office! In addition to rent, here are some of the things we need:

Tables ~ Chairs ~ Shipping Scale ~ Shelving ~ Security System ~ Printer ~ Computers ~ Camera & Photo Equipment ~ Window Shades ~ Insurance ~
Marketing Collateral (signage, business cards, flyers, stickers, etc) ~
Display Fixtures ~ Office Supplies ~ Fridge ~ Microwave ~ Coffeemaker

I missed the deadline for the most promising grant for us this year (see reference to increasing workload above) but will apply for it next year and keep looking for others. In the meantime, we could really use your help. The more of these expenses that can be covered by our supporters, the less that will come out of income from our sales. That money has always gone back to the artists – and we would like to keep it that way.

Donate on our Facebook fundraiser or visit

Have more time than money to give?
We are in desperate need of volunteers.
Please visit and consider how you can help. 

It’s time to go big or go home!

A Wing and a Prayer November 16 2020

Faith is not exactly the right word. I’m not sure there is a word for the way this nonprofit has operated for the past six years. It’s run on faith, yes, but also other things, like hope, sweat, and stupidity. It has meant taking a lot of leaps, setting aside preconceived notions; doing things without expectation of what might be received in return. And so there have been difficult days and there have been really difficult days. And then there have been days that have seemed downright miraculous: Countless times when I said yes to an artist when there weren’t enough funds in the account, only to have an order or donation come in later that day to cover the cost. Many days when we have been blessed to be able to truly help someone, at least for the moment, not with a handout, but by providing income that they have earned through work they love to do. Perhaps the phrase “wing and a prayer” describes it best.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit experienced some setbacks and you could say that we found ourselves face to face with the harshest of harsh realities of the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is tempting to give up when you are not only faced with a situation that seems hopeless, but also have people actually telling you to quit, some of them because they don’t want you to succeed and some because they themselves have given up any hope of seeing real change for the people.

But isn’t it at exactly those times when we have to dig the deepest - reach the farthest to find the way out of the pit of despair - squint the hardest to see the light at the end of the tunnel? And isn’t it also during difficult times when even the smallest kindness can seem so profound?

And so, imagine how moving it was for me to receive not one, but four calls out of the blue from people who saw what Seven Fires Art is doing and asked to get on board: Four strong, educated, experienced women leaders who recognize the need and our Mission to respond to that need.

First, Maretta Afraid of Bear sent a message saying she would love to fill the spot on our board. Then Tamara LaPlante called to say she saw what we’re doing and wanted to help. Then two others, Bethany Reed and Guneeta Singh-Bah called within days of each other from opposite ends of the continent, with similar stories of how they recognized the need, thought about starting their own nonprofit, but instead did a search and found in Seven Fires a Mission they could support.

I couldn’t be more grateful, encouraged and excited about the future of Seven Fires Art. Thank you all for your continued support. Watch for announcements highlighting our new members … and for news of our growth … in the days and weeks to come. It is truly exciting to think where we can go from here!

Lovingly and gratefully ... and hopefully submitted,
Natalie Hilleman

20-20-20 in 2020 August 07 2019

Our purpose has become better defined and our model has proven successful, but there is so much more to do. And so we are reaching out to our supporters and friends to ask you to include Seven Fires in your charitable giving this year and next. We are also asking you to reach out to your friends, coworkers, employers, as well as businesses, churches or other organizations that might have an interest in being part of our Mission. 

A New Name and Wider Reach for the Art Center October 05 2018

We have renamed to Seven Council Fires Native Art. And today we are very happy to announce that we are ready to roll with a new web address, new Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages … and an expanded mission!

A New President and a New Start for the Art Center! December 01 2017

It is with great excitement and optimism that we announce our new President and Director, Brendon Albers!
Brendon is already bringing new life to the Pine Ridge Art Center! 
Click the title above to read our entire statement.


So Much In Store! July 21 2017

New Summer 2017

We're becoming a fast-growing online source for authentic Lakota goods!
Shop our expanding range of Oglala Lakota art and 
Meet our growing membership of Artists who are making it happen!


Quickly approaching our third anniversary, we have not lost sight of our founding Mission.
Your support can help us bring revenue to the Reservation and expand our vision ...

Watch for news on our ART FOR SHELTER campaign coming soon!

What is Happening? January 29 2017

2017 is going to be a monumental year, of that we can be sure. As a non-profit, we are expected to not express political views, but when executive orders during the first few days of the new administration are bringing enormous threats to Native American lands, National Parks and Forests, water sources, sacred grounds and natural resources, it is time to take a stand. The health of our Unci Maka, our Mother Earth, is directly linked to our own health and it is time to speak out against actions that will cause irreparable harm to our children and grandchildren.

One of the underlying passions behind the Pine Ridge Art Center is to bring to the world stage the deep connection between art and nature - between Creator, Unci Maka, and ourselves - that is woven into every aspect of the traditional arts of the Lakota people.

In light of the alarming events of the past few days, we at the PRCAC strengthen our resolve to do our part to instruct and guide people everywhere in the vision of our Native ancestors, to protect our sacred water and air, and to defend our Mother Earth


The Time is Now May 18 2015

To get started, the PRCAC is in desperate need of funds and people to help raise those funds and organize for these goals and events.... So, if you’re interested in what we’re doing and would like to donate or get involved, please let us know. The need is urgent and the time is now!

2015 - The Year of the Pine Ridge Center for Artists and Crafters March 23 2015

2015 seems to be getting off to a slow start for the PRCAC. Our Board is scattered across the country and several issues make it difficult to do business on the Reservation, especially from a distance. However, big things are happening under the surface! We should receive a response from the IRS regarding our application for tax-exempt status any day! There are numerous opportunities for sponsoring events and supporting artists in the meantime. Plans are underway to sponsor booths at both the Sturgis Bike Rally 75th Anniversary and the Arts Festival at the Custer Buffalo Roundup 50th Anniversary to showcase Lakota art and artisans at these events. Meetings with all interested parties and photo shoots are planned on the Reservation April 24-25. There are retailers and museum stores to contact...Kickstarter video to make...grants to apply for! So much to do. And the need is urgent. The time is now. Take some time to consider how you might get involved. If you have business, accounting, marketing or fundraising experience, we need you! Or perhaps you know someone who has been looking for a deeper purpose or a faith-based group interested in starting a ministry to a Native community? Please contact us at or call 515/231-8192.

Need for Art Center in Pine Ridge September 21 2014

Launching the Pine Ridge Center for Artists and Crafters is the realization of a dream and the answer to a great need. It is the result of merging and opening up and seems to be gaining a momentum of its own with the affirmation and support of so many people. We hope to make this web site the hub of education and support for Oglala Lakota artisans living on and from the Pine Ridge Reservation; please check back often for more products, news and events!