Board of Directors
Dr. David Tacha, President and Founder, Cheryl Tacha, Treasurer and Founder
In 1973 I read the book Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. As I read through the chapters and the context of the book, I realized that this was a collective of stories of influential First Nations people such as Sitting Bull, Captain Jack, Geronimo, etc. When I finished this book, I couldn’t believe what I had read. I had virtually never heard or read anything in school or in college about First Nations people or learnt anything about their stories. From the very moment I read the last page, my heart and passion for Native people was ignited. I had many conversations with my friends and family about what I had read, and I always recommended the book. I took college courses on Native anthropology and culture. I loved taking my friends and family to their Pow Wows.
In 2008, my wife Cheryl and I were introduced to Native people at the Round Valley Reservation in Northern California. This was our first visit to a reservation. Until then, we had never really known any Native people who lived on or off the reservation.
Over the last 9 years, Cheryl and I have helped support numerous Native individuals and organizations with our finances, food drives, clothing, and have recently sponsored 2 national conferences. We invited First Nations people from all over the United States and Canada to tell their stories. We invited them to tell about what happen to their people; to tell about the boarding schools; and to tell about the trauma of alcohol, drugs and teen suicide. We realized then, how important it is to give First Nation people a voice and a forum to educate non-native people about culture, music, dance, ceremony, and, perhaps most importantly, the real history of our country. At one of the conferences, Cheryl and I were adopted into 3 different tribes, the Mohawk, Cree and Mi’kmaq. During the ceremony they gave us our name, Friend of the People.
Cheryl and I have fallen in love with not only the First Nations People of our own country, but we also have relationships with the Sami Nation in Norway, Fijian tribes in Fiji and the Maori people in New Zealand. It has become our life’s mission, to tell and hear their stories, to celebrate their culture, and to stand with them in friendship. We want to be a friend of the people.
Note: David Tacha, PhD. is currently the Chief Scientific Officer at Biocare Medical which develops cancer diagnostic tools and kits for both humans and domestic animals.
Susanne Abad (Secretary)
I grew up in small town East Germany, in communism, behind the iron curtain. At six years old, I started watching movies about cowboys and Native American people. While most of us Germans watched these films, and most of us therefore had a favorable view of the indigenous people of America, these movies had an impact of a different dimension on me. Iron curtain or not, I decided to one day move to America to be a friend to its Native people.
In 1989, at 13 years old, I joined the weekly protest marches that would eventually bring down the wall, and five days after my high school graduation in 1995, I was on an airplane to be an Au Pair in suburban Detroit. Upon my return to Germany I went to college in Berlin and studied social work. Financially, going to school in the U.S. or simply traveling wasn’t an option, so I utilized cultural exchange programs and internships, to come to this country, and stay for as long as possible. The goal was always to make the move permanent, eventually, but I had to be patient, because I needed it to happen in a good way. In 2003, I married my husband and have since lived in California.
The ultimate reason for moving to America was always to be a friend to its Native people.
Once again though, I had to be patient. Traveling to “Indian” country without invitation immediately created a sense of trespassing within me, so I stopped. Interacting with Native people at art shows and various events, often earned me compliments on my etiquette and respect, but it also made me realize that there was a huge gap to bridge, if I was truly ever to become a friend.
Looking back, I realize that I had work to do within myself. Only if I was whole and content with who I am, would I be able to be a real friend. I believe this to be true in general, but in particular for bridging this gap between me, a white immigrant, and the people whose ancestors had lived here long before we started calling it America.
Professionally, throughout the years, I mostly worked as a social worker or substance abuse counselor.
In 2006 I first became a mom, and in 2008 my second daughter was born. Raising my daughters and taking care of my family was my full time job and main focus for a few years.
Somewhere throughout those years, I returned to my original quest of finding friends among the Native people of America, and this time, the doors opened. I found Native-run organizations and started to relentlessly and unconditionally support them, the best way I knew how. In the midst of that, I finally found friends. At this point, I have dear friends among several different Native tribes, and I support organizations on various reservations.
As I continue to travel down this road, more and more often people ask me about the work that I do with First Nations people. While I understand what they’re asking me, my reaction is always the same. I don’t “work” with them! I’m just a friend! Today, as I was writing this, I asked my daughter what she would say, if someone asked her about the work that we do with Native people. She looked at me, puzzled, and said “We don’t work with them. They’re our friends.”