T. Lilly Little Water | Women Vision SC

CEO of the SC Indian Affairs Commission

T. Lilly Little Water began her life’s passion of advocating for Indigenous People at age seventeen.  “It’s something intangible and inexplicable that drives me.  It feels like there are also a 1000 ancestors in my heart that are constantly giving me a nudge in this way or that way. They always give me direction.”  That direction has led T. Lilly Little Water to 30 years of conducting social justice campaigns for Native Americans. She is CEO of the SC Indian Affairs Commission, where she organized the Indigenous Women’s Alliance Committee. She has also supported veterans, families and children. She focuses on human rights and challenges arising from poverty. From organizing Pow Wows to preserving and strengthening the Native American culture to lobbying, her love of culture has developed into a keen sense of humanity. She did not receive her undergraduate degree until she was 32.  Later she pursued a post-graduate degree in clinical psychology and entered a PhD program at the age of 60. 

About the Honoree

T. Lilly Little Water is Mne Conjou Oceti Sakowin and Irish. Though she is very connected to her Native American roots, she recently traveled to Dunfanaghy, Donegal to visit her ancestral Irish homeland for the first time. She made friends with many people in the village and met many of her Mulligan relatives.

She is a typical TCK: Third Culture Kid, which is defined as a person raised in a culture other than their parents' or the culture of the country named on their passport (where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years. Because her father was in the United States Air Force, she has many homes rather than just one hometown. She lived in Tehran, Iran as a teenager and considers Iran to be one of her homes, as well as Kyle, South Dakota, Donegal, and the South Carolina Sea Islands.

She speaks Lakota, Farsi, Arabic, and Hebrew as well as bits and pieces of other five other languages. At this time she is teaching herself Turkish, which started by watching Turkish soap operas. She has no idea why she chose Turkish, she just loves learning new languages and one of her favorite cities to visit is Istanbul.

Like her father, she loves to fly and visits as many countries as possible. She deeply believes in the sanctity of other cultures and belief systems. She also believes in the protection of the eco-systems of the Natural World and all spaces that are Sacred.

She was taught that everything that carries a life energy is Sacred and is her Relative. She has spent her life operating on the values taught as a Lakota:

Praying. Finding Spirituality by communicating with your higher power. This communication is between you and Tunkasila/The Divine without going through another person or spirit.

Wa o’ hola
Respect: For self, higher power, family, community and all life.

Wa on’sila
Caring and Compassion: love, caring and concern for one another in a good way, especially for the family, the old ones, the young ones, the orphans, the one in mourning, the sick ones, and the ones working for the people.

Honesty and Truth: with yourself, higher power and others with sincerity.

Generosity and Caring: helping without expecting anything in return, giving from the heart.

Humility: we have a spirit, we are not better or less than others

Wisdom: practice with knowledge becomes wisdom.

She began her life’s passion of advocating for Indigenous Peoples at seventeen. Though it is oten frustrating, hard work she feels it is a Spiritual compulsion that she gives her life to her People in order that they may thrive and grow. She has been a first hand witness to the heart ache and destruction of Indigenous families and their ways of life.

She worked against the stereo-type, first by educating herself. She did not receive her undergraduate degree until she was 32, taking eight years to complete two degrees in biology and psychology. Later she pursued a post graduate degree in Clinical Psychology and entered a PhD program at the age of 60.

She considers her job to be the best example of her tribal values she can be along with using those values to heal the multi-generational trauma Native Americans suffer. She has had the privilege of working with South Carolina’s original historical tribes for the past 30 years. They have become her family and she is proud of all that they have accomplished.

She has one daughter, Skylar Angela Novack, and three wonderful grandchildren: Elliott Ictomi, Ethan Gnaske, and Penelope Wana Jaske who all enjoy Unci’s furry children whom she has rescued.

At sixty-two she knows life is precious and short. She will do all she can, as best she can, for as long as she can. Leaving this world knowing I’ve made a difference is my gift to my family, my tribe, and the world at large.

About Women Vision SC

Women Vision SC is a program that focuses on issues affecting women throughout the state and the nation and a new generation of young people pursuing public service for their communities and the state at large. The program is produced and hosted by former SCETV president Linda O’Bryon.