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Kevin Killer

Fellowship: 5 Years Out

Kevin Killer

Kevin Killer

Kevin Killer

Kevin Killer

Throughout a successful career inside and outside of politics, Kevin Killer (BF’15) has worked to amplify and empower Tribal voices. The former member of the South Dakota House of Representatives and Senate is the co-founder of the Native Youth Leadership Alliance. His Bush Fellowship began as a chance to reach leadership goals but evolved into an exploration of self-care as a key to sustain his leadership.

"One of the best things that came out of the Fellowship for me was being able to reconnect to my own spirituality, because of the emphasis on self-care."

Kevin Killer

What aspect of the Fellowship did you find most valuable?  

One of the best things that came out of the Fellowship for me was being able to reconnect to my own spirituality, because of the emphasis on self-care. My mom passed away suddenly a few weeks after the Fellowship application due date. She was an amazing support system that I would rely on for advice, and I was really close with her. I know my mom would’ve wanted me to continue in my leadership journey and reconnect with my spirituality, because she was always encouraging me to grow and learn. I know she would’ve been proud of me becoming a Fellow. 

Where do you find inspiration to lead? 

My inspiration to lead has always been rooted in my family, culture and community. Having the time to learn more about the roots of leadership within my own ancestry has given me a broad sense of wanting to leave a place better than I found it. Whether it’s a legislative body or a nonprofit, this mindset helps set an example for future generations and helps me be more purposeful in my own leadership. 

How has the Fellowship changed you?

The Fellowship has instilled in me the priority of self-care in whatever I do. I just turned 40 and try not to get too stressed out about life, because both of my parents passed away at relatively young ages — my dad at 52 and my mom at 61. Both were sudden, and I think if they were able to prioritize some self-care habits, things may have been different. Self-care can be hard at times because at its core, it’s dealing with the traumas we experience in life, and that is hard! But even if we make a little effort, it will pay dividends because it allows us to grow beyond what we can imagine. 


Berg (BF’00) went to the Museum Management Institute (MMI), run by the American Alliance of Museums, to gain museum operational skills. 

Thao (BF’05) hoped that pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology would increase her clinical skills, but the experience changed her personally as well.

Q&As with past Bush Fellows.