Spirit of the Sun

Denver, CO

Improving tribal economies and Native communities, one youth at a time!


Spirit of the Sun is an incorporated nonprofit charitable organization currently located in Denver, Colorado. We were founded in 2002, on the belief that effective and sustainable community development must acknowledge the intersections of culture, community, economy, and health. Our founders, Brian Wilkerson, and John Lathrop saw that previous attempts at economic development in Native American communities were often unsuccessful, as they did not take into account the cultural needs of the community. At the start of Spirit of the Sun, Mr. Wilkerson and Mr. Lathrop worked primarily on reservations, helping to revitalize Native American communities through economic development consulting.

In 2010, Spirit of the Sun identified a growing need for programs designed for Native elders and youth, specifically recognizing the need to focus on Native youth in the Metro Denver region. The increasing number of Native families moving from reservations to urban areas had continued to accelerate the number of youths who felt disconnected from both their Native culture, as well as modern American society. Furthermore, many of the Denver area Native organizations were no longer providing programs specifically for youth empowerment and skill development. At this time, we shifted our primary programmatic focus area to Denver and became an IRS certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Mission and Vision Statement

Spirit of the Sun’s mission is to work in partnership with Native American communities in urban areas and on reservations to boost the resilience of Native people, especially youth and young adults.

Our vision is that the Native youth of today become the next generation of Native leaders, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals who will help guide their communities toward wellness, prosperity, and cultural revitalization.

Our mission includes understanding the realities of the modern Native American identity through the historical context of indigenous narratives in Colorado. We can create a safe space for youth to develop social and emotional tools needed to transform their perspectives. We provide real world analysis of socioeconomic inequities as key to creating social and environmental justice in urban and rural Native American communities.

Our Actions

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