Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux entrepreneur creates foundation

The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Twila True: “Changing status quo is difficult." Photo from True Sioux Hope Foundation

Foundation hopes to make a difference
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Staff Writer

IRVINE, Calif. –– After traveling the world, Oglala Sioux Tribal member Twila True has come full circle, bringing with her hope for the most impoverished region in the country.

Last month True, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, launched True Sioux Hope Foundation based in Irvine, Calif., “a nonprofit that inspires unprecedented, permanent, positive change for the Sioux Tribe in South Dakota by providing much-needed funding for education and infrastructure.”

True’s passion, helping those in need, stems from strong connections to her homeland, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota.

As an Oglala Sioux Tribal member, True was raised by her unci, (grandmother) Lillian Bartlette in Southern California. The family made regular visits to Pine Ridge where she learned to appreciate the rich culture of the Oglala Lakota.

“The fun part about me and my story is that I am very unique in that I was able to travel back and forth, live life on the reservation and off the reservation,” the forty-something Native woman said.

While visiting the reservation she said she wasn’t aware of the poverty, “Because when you grow up around it, it just seems kind of normal. What was really wonderful was the culture.”

Living in Southern California in an environment that fostered self-reliance, True became the first in her family to graduate from high school and work her way up the corporate ladder.

“I think inspirationally I was just able to understand the poverty and I got to understand, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t think I am going to wait for the government to help me. I think if I want to have any financial stability, I need to figure that on my own,” she said.

True served as CEO of Synthane Taylor, a manufacturer in the Circuit Board industry with over 300 employees.

“For twelve years I lived out of the country, mostly Hong Kong and China, because we had factories throughout China and corporate headquarters in Hong Kong and sales offices here in the U.S.” she said.

“True built an impressive private portfolio of real estate in Asia and North America. She has worked in the United States, Hong Kong and China in distressed real estate investments where she has managed construction of residential developments in Thailand, China and the United States,” states her online bio.

While in China, True founded the Love Without Boundaries’ - True Children’s Home, because “the children in orphanage situations was very dire. It was a situation that I saw firsthand and I wanted to give something back to that country,” she said.

According to the Love Without Boundaries website, True Children's Home, established in 2010, is devoted to improving the lives of children with cleft lip and palate, plus a variety of other special needs, such as heart defects, prematurity, digestive disorders and failure to thrive through much needed surgeries and health care.

Specially trained nannies nurture the children and provide them with the opportunity to grow, gain strength, receive surgeries, and recover in a safe, loving environment. Working together with China’s social welfare institutions, the True Children’s Healing Home has rescued more than 200 children and placed them with families around the globe.

After meeting her husband, Alan True, also an investment strategist, the couple founded True Investments, LLC., where she serves as CEO and president and is responsible for the firm's “overall strategy, finances, operations, and culture, with a focus on growing assets under management and scaling processes.”

“We are an investment firm, we manage our own private capital and we buy invest and incubate companies,” she shared. After returning to the U.S. in 2012, and envisioning their next philanthropic venture the couple said they overlooked the obvious.

“When I was looking at all these different opportunities and what would be our next foundation, my husband said, ‘Well gosh I’ve been to the reservation with you maybe that’s a good cause, maybe you should just go back home,’” and they did.

The couple spent the next year traveling from their home in New Port Beach, California to the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Their reasons were twofold however, one to lay the foundation for True Sioux Hope and second, to adopt their fourth child.

“I have four children, two boys, ages 13 and 11 and a 7-year-old daughter and we Just adopted our fourth child, who is from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She has been with us for about a year now,” she shared.

True knows firsthand the staggering statistics of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the poorest place in the nation where the unemployment rate hovers around 90 percent, the high school dropout rate is around 70 percent and the average life expectancy for men is 47 years. The average annual household income is $3,500, with the highest infant mortality rate in the world states her foundations website.

“To be honest, the needs are so dire and there are so many, that it is really easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of despair, loss of hope and the needs that are there,” she said. “What I hope to bring back as a tribal member and someone who has had success, is hope and pride and ownership of our problems and to work toward solutions.”

Drawing on her expertise in fundraising, investment strategy and website design, True launched True Sioux Hope Foundation “as a fundraising vehicle to provide grants and funding to highly vetted organizations already in place and well equipped to deliver the life-saving resources needed for the Sioux nation to not only survive, but thrive.”

The foundation will be ready to deliver services by next winter True said and right now they are bringing awareness to the impoverished conditions that exist on Pine Ridge.

“True Sioux Hope Foundation has identified three key pillars to make impactful change: sustainability, education and immediate assistance. Based on these needs, the foundation has identified and vetted its first funding projects, each focusing on one of the three pillars. The efforts include: a school for children on the reservation, a passenger van to transport tribe members to workforce sites, and formula and firewood as an immediate need to save the reservation’s infants and elderly, respectively. The foundation’s long-term goal is to foster sustainability on the reservation by building homes and providing education and workforce training.”

Tim Giago, publisher of the Native Sun News, a man who has published Native American newspapers on the reservation for more than 34 years said, “I can understand Twila’s concerns and enthusiasm, but there is already a school in every district on the reservation, in fact there are four high schools on the reservation, and the tribe initiated a bus running system a few years back that is working very well, and the buses even bring Pine Ridge residents to Rapid City on health and business trips. There has long been an organization that supplies wood to the needy. So many of the things she mentions are already covered. The biggest needs on the reservation are houses and jobs. If those two problems could be solved everything else would take care of itself.”

“And if nothing else, a state-of-the-art drug and alcohol treatment center would also help to solve most of the reservation’s problems,” Giago added.

As an introduction to the community, True Sioux Hope Foundation will be holding a welcome reception at Tamarind of London located at Crystal Cove in Newport Coast this spring.

While her vision and goals for the True Sioux Hope Foundation may seem overly optimistic, True may be just the person for the job. The successful venture capitalist, investment guru and savvy entrepreneur, just recently opened her own Salon, Polished Perfect by Twila True. Polished Perfect promises to brings to Orange County California a taste of the Orient that True experienced while living abroad in China.

For more information visit: True Sioux Hope Foundation.

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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