In February of 1997, Richard & Katherine Twiss co-founded Wiconi International. At the time they had moved to Plummer, Idaho, on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation where Richard was working on staff of a Christian organization who started a Native newspaper. After funding unexpectedly ended and so did the position, they were left without a job, savings or a contingency plan wondering, with great alarm, what they and their four young sons were going to do. It was during this time of personal crisis that, as an act of faith and obedience, they launched Wiconi International.
With their sons future and well-being in mind, they moved, later that year, back to Vancouver, Washington so their four sons could complete their high school education and reconnect with their families and friends. With the exception of that year in Idaho, they have lived in Vancouver since 1981.
The international headquarters of Wiconi has outgrown its humble 10X10 spare room with only Richard & Katherine doing everything in 1997, into a multiple staff organization with a 2200 sq. ft four bedroom house on 2 ½ acres as its office. Creator has blessed their simple faith and obedience as Wiconi International has grown into a dynamic national organization that is making a significant impact among First Nations people here and abroad.
As the influence of Wiconi International has rapidly expanded, so has the leadership team and network. Wiconi is honored and privileged to be served by a talented, passionate and loving team of leaders and servants. Richard and Katherine are deeply grateful for the team of men and women who have joined the Wiconi International Tiyospaye “Extended Family.” You can read about each of these staff and board members under the Wiconi staff page.
Richard was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota among his mother's, Winona (Larvie) LaPointe’s, people, the Sicangu Band of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux Tribe. Richard's father, Franklin (Buster) Twiss (deceased) is Oglala from the Pine Ridge Lakota/Sioux Reservation also in South Dakota. As a young boy Richard grew up in Rosebud, a town of 600 until age seven. He has many fond memories as a young boy of “rez life,” especially the powwows and extended family gatherings. However, there was another, underside of reservation life: alcoholism and violence. Not wanting him to grow up in that atmosphere and wanting her family to learn to be successful in the White man's world, his mother eventually moved them from the reservation to Denver, then on to Klamath Falls, Oregon, and eventually to Silverton, near Salem, Oregon. Richard attended the third through twelfth grades there. During those years they made several summer visits back home in order to stay connected with family and culture.
After graduating from high school in 1972, Richard moved back to Rosebud to attend Sinte Gleska “Spotted Tail” College where he later became involved in the American Indian Movement - AIM. In November of that year he was a participant, along with 600 other Native American people, in the armed forced takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office Building in Washington, D.C. It was during this tumultuous juncture and personal evolvement that he strengthened his connection, in a deeply meaningful way, with his relatives and Lakota culture.
After D.C. Richard wandered aimlessly, ending up in jail in Washington State. After a drug possession and DUI conviction he moved to Hawaii in order to avoid a court mandated alcohol rehabilitation program. After moving to the island of Maui, and the witness of two Christian men, late one night, all alone on a deserted beach, Creator responded to Richard’s desperate prayer and made Himself know to him; from that night in 1974 till now, Richard has been on a spiritual journey to live a meaning life as Lakota follower of Jesus.
Meanwhile, Katherine, during a time of personal crisis, committed her life to Christ in 1973 in Seattle, Washington. In the Creator's plans, they met while living as members of a “Christian hippie commune” or training center called Gospel Outreach International in Wasilla, Alaska in 1975. Later that year they became engaged, and married on January 31st of 1976. In November of 1981 they moved to Vancouver Washington where they live today.