Karen Mortimer


Karen Mortimer is the director of the Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors (MOA)- currently funded by the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and with previous support from the Bush Foundation.

Karen’s education includes an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and a graduate degree from the University of Arizona. Her career includes broad experience in education within the K-12 sector as well as in higher education, in the areas of teaching, professional development, project development and consulting both within the State of South Dakota and more broadly beyond our state.

Karen’s work in MOA is enriched by her involvement and leadership in a variety of community organizations. These include most recently, the Rapid Public School Foundation and the Board of Directors of South Dakota Public Broadcasting.  Her ability to connect and contribute to the community is enriched by  prior positions in the following organizations: Allied Arts Board; President, Black Hill Community Theater; Volunteers of America Board, and others. She is a spouse to Sam, mother of two fabulous children and grandma to two incredible grandchildren.

The Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors (MOA) project grew from Karen’s desire and passion to see our community come together through building relationships. We recognize that history and place matter. Relationships matter. We started out learning together on a bus for five days nearly three years ago!  We have continued to develop relationships and learn along the way. With this in mind, our group of Native and non-Native stakeholders and community leaders focus on bridging cultures between the Native and non-Native people in the Black Hills region. We as Ambassadors (Native and non Native community leaders) share amongst one another a desire—and personal responsibility—to live by example so that systemic change through leadership can take root in our community.

“This work can create change when we are quietly respectful, yet aggressively authentic. Developing true relationships, appreciating each others similarities and differences, learning about one another and genuinely caring about each other and our communitywill make us better. We do better when we know better. We are proud to call Rapid City, and the Black Hills, our home. Some of us grew up here, others chose to move here, and all of us live here today. Doing something—anything—to make our community better gives us energy."