Executive Director of Denver Indian Family resource Center Phyllis J. Bigpond mourned

By Renee Fajardo
Denver, Colorado (NFIC) 10-09

Phyllis J. Bigpond, founder and Executive Director of the Denver Indian Family Resource Center from 2000-2009, passed away Saturday evening, September 26th.

Bigpond a member of the Yuchi tribe of Oklahoma was a known nationally for her 40 years of community service and advocacy of Native American families. During her two year battle with Lymphoma of the brain she maintained her duties at DIFRC until July of 2009.

Recently Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper proclaimed July 30, 2009, Phyllis J. Bigpond Day.  Hickenlooper said, “ Phyllis  has devoted her life to improving the lives of American Indian families and children,”  noting that the  extensive services offered by  DIFRC and the overall success of the Indian Child Welfare Act  programs in the  Mile High City were directly related to Bigponds’ advocacy and hard work.

Recently, Bigpond oversaw a DIFRC survey/ study of the Denver metro area’s nearly 30,000 Native residents representing more than 60 tribal nations. The  “Keeping the Circle Whole,” the study focused on mental health needs in the Indian community.

Bigpond was the former executive director at Phoenix Indian Center and  also a former clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University. She had been a field officer for Save the Children and a coordinator and program development director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona. She was a consultant for Columbia University and for Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity. Her  Master of Social Work  was from Washington University.

Her awards include  the Outstanding Native American Leader from the Association of American Indian Social Work,  Sewanee Hunt Leadership Award from the <http://www.denverfoundation.org/>Denver Foundation,  Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work and the 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award from Metropolitan State College of Denver.

She has also received awards from the Family Resource Center Association , the National Organization of  Black Elected Legislators, Native American Recognition Days and the Arizona State University School of Social Work.

Her lasting legacy DIFR which she founded in early 2000, is a child welfare agency dedicated to meeting the diverse and emerging needs of Indian children and families in the Denver metropolitan area. They assist families to prevent involvement with the child welfare system and to support and advocate for families already involved. A variety of services are offered to build upon the strengths of Indian families, including parenting classes, mental health counseling, and youth programming. DIFRC works with families and other agencies to help promote responsible healing by restoring balance, nurturing pride and recognizing the extended family and community.

Cards and letters for Phyllis J. Bigpond's family can be sent to:

Mrs. Ruth Olney
c/o Denver Indian Family Resource Center
393 S. Harlan St., Ste. 100
Lakewood, CO  80226