Honoring Nations Board of Governors
Board of Governors
Regis Pecos was born and raised at Cochiti Pueblo and is a lifetime member of the Traditional Tribal Council. He has been a Council member since 1978 and has served terms as Governor as well as Lt. Governor.
Mr. Pecos has spent much of his professional life advancing the interests of American Indian citizens at the tribal, state and national levels. Previous posts include Executive Director of the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs (a position he held for 16 years under four governors of the State of New Mexico), Economic Development Specialist and Director of Research for Americans for Indian Opportunity and Instructor at the Institute for the Development of Indian Law. Currently, Mr. Pecos is the Chief of Staff for the Governor of the State of New Mexico.
Mr. Pecos also has served on numerous committees, boards and task forces at all levels of government. At Cochiti, he has been a member of the Economic Development Review Committee, the Environmental Review Committee, the Education Task Force and the Land Reacquisition Task Force; in the latter role, he led the fight to return over 35,000 acres of land to the Pueblo’s control. Beyond his service to the Pueblo, Mr. Pecos has been a member of the Bernalillo Public Schools Board of Education and the Santa Fe Indian School Board, which he served as Chairman for 12 years. He has served the State of New Mexico and U.S. government as a member of the Governor's Council of Policy Advisors on Rural Economic Development, the Planning Committee for the National Indian Policy Institute, the National Task Force on Cultural Resource and Rights Protection and the National Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Prevention Environmental Education Task Force.
In 1996, Mr. Pecos became the first American Indian to be appointed as a member of the Board of Trustees for Princeton University. In 1999, he received New Mexico’s highest honor, as he was named New Mexico’s Distinguished Public Servant.
Mr. Pecos received a B.A. in history and political science in 1977 from Princeton University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the Director and co-founder of the New Mexico Leadership Institute and is devoted to bringing Native people of New Mexico together in forums to discuss the issues challenging the indigenous nations.
Oren R. Lyons is a traditional Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan and a member of the Onondaga Indian Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, or the Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House). He recently retired from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was a professor in American Studies and directed the Native American Studies Program.
Oren Lyons was born in 1930 and raised in the traditional lifeways of the Iroquois on the Seneca and Onondaga reservations in western and central New York State. After serving in the U.S. Army, he graduated in 1958 from the Syracuse University College of Fine Arts. He then pursued a career in commercial art in New York City, becoming the Art and Planning Director of Norcross Greeting Cards. He has exhibited his own paintings widely and is noted as an American Indian artist.
Since his return to Onondaga in 1970, Chief Lyons has been a leading advocate for American Indian causes. He is recognized internationally as an eloquent and respected spokesperson on behalf of Native peoples and is a sought after speaker on topics as broadranging as American Indian traditions, Indian law and history, human rights, environmental issues and interfaith dialogue. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Honorary Doctor of Law from Syracuse University. To mark the Columbus Quincentenary in 1992, he published Exiled in the Land of the Free (co-edited with John Mohawk), a major study of American Indians and democracy.
In 1982 Chief Lyons helped to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, an advisory body to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission and has been an active member in the Working Group. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival and is a principal figure in the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders, an annual council of traditional grassroots leadership of the major Indian nations of North America. In 1990 he received the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor and, that summer, was a negotiator between the Mohawk Indians and the governments of Canada, Quebec and New York State in the crisis at Oka. On April 16, 1991 Chief Lyons led a delegation of 17 American Indian leaders who met with President Bush in Washington. Later that same year, he was the subject of a one-hour PBS television documentary. In 1992 he organized a delegation of the Iroquois Confederacy to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro and was invited by Maurice Strong, Secretary General of UNCED, to address the national delegations.
A lifelong lacrosse player, Oren Lyons was a collegiate All-American in the sport (invented by the Iroquois), and the Syracuse University team had an undefeated season during his graduating year. He is currently Honorary Chairman of the Iroquois National Lacrosse Team, which in 1990, at the World Games in Perth, Australia, became the first Indigenous national team in any sport to compete against the national teams of recognized nation states (such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia). In 1993 he was elected to the Lacrosse National Hall of Fame.
Sherry Salway Black is the Director of the Partnership for Tribal Governance at the National Congress of American Indian. She is the past Executive Director of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and an ovarian and endometrial cancer survivor. Ms. Black's experience includes nonprofit management, health care administration, business and economic development and philanthropy. Prior to coming to the Alliance, Ms. Black served for 19 years as Senior Vice President and on the board of directors for First Nations Development Institute, an international non-governmental organization working with Indigenous peoples in the United States and internationally. Previous work experience includes various positions with the Indian Health Service (DHHS, PHS) and as a researcher for a Congressional commission studying issues affecting American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.
Ms. Black currently serves on the board of directors of the Council on Foundations where she has served as the treasurer, a member of the Executive Committee, the Finance and Investment Committee and a member of the Governance Committee. Other current board positions include the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Trillium Asset Management Corporation, and the Hopi Education Endowment Fund. She also serves on the advisory committee for the National Congress of American Indians’ Policy Research Center. Past board positions include First Nations Development Institute, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, American Indian Business Leaders, Native Americans in Philanthropy and Women and Philanthropy.
Ms. Black has a Masters of Business Administration degree, with a health care administration major, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation and is originally from South Dakota. She and her husband, Ronald Simpson Black, live in Falmouth, Virginia.
JoAnn Chase, Mandan/Hidatsa and Arikara, is a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Fellow and a consultant to several Native and non-Native not-for-profit groups regarding public policy, fund raising, public relations, and management issues. Currently, she advises the Youth Justice Funding Collaborative, a New York based program; the African American Policy Institute, a New York City national center that does policy analysis and community based outreach and education; and, RamScale Productions, a New York multi-media arts center that does both multi-cultural and commercial programming; and, the Media, Arts & Culture Unit of the Ford Foundation. She is the former Executive Director of the National Network of Grantmakers, a donor membership organization devoted to supporting and expanding progressive philanthropy.
JoAnn served eight years as the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, this country's oldest and largest national Indian membership organization. Under her leadership, she tripled the organization's staff, operating budget and tribal membership. Her leadership facilitated unprecedented visibility and viability for NCAI as a strong and credible voice for Native America.
JoAnn has a law degree from the University of New Mexico Law School and a baccalaureate in film theory and criticism from Boston University. Currently, she serves on boards for Harvard University 's Honoring Nations' Program and NAES College . She speaks regularly to private and public audiences regarding Native issues.
Karen Diver is in her third term as Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. This position serves as chair of the tribal government and CEO of the reservation’s corporate boards. The Fond du Lac Reservation is the 2nd largest employer in northern Minnesota with over 2,200 employees. She is currently serving as Vice-President of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT), comprised of six members Bands, and Chair of its Finance Corporation. Karen also serves on the Board of Directors for the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). She has previously represented area tribes on the Indian Health Service Tribal Self-Governance Committee. Karen served for three years as the Director of Special Projects for Fond du Lac and for eleven years as the Executive Director of the YWCA of Duluth. Karen attended Harvard as a 2002 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow. Karen has extensive board experience in the nonprofit sector including six years on the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Board of Directors and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, serving two terms as chair of both boards. Karen was a founding member of American Indian Community Housing Organization, the Duluth Community Action Program, Duluth Family Services Collaborative and the Duluth Human Rights Commission. She was an appointee of President Obama to the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resiliency, and co-chaired the Natural Resources Committee. She has a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
David M. Gipp is President of DM Gipp & Associates LLC and Chancellor of the United Tribes Technical College, Emeritus). He was born in Fort Yates, North Dakota and is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
United Tribes Technical College was founded by fives tribes and their leaders in the late 1960s. It serves an average of more than 300 adults and 240 children and is one of the most innovative residential post secondary educational models in the United States. As President, Dr. Gipp oversees United Tribes' accredited community college, K-8 elementary school and two early childhood centers, as well as a host of additional direct service programs for reservation citizens, including the Sacred Child Program, the ND/SD Business Development Center, a transportation technical assistance center and the Regional Comprehensive Technical Assistance Center.
Since 1972, Dr. Gipp's professional work has been principally in the development of tribal colleges. He was instrumental in developing the first national legislation that assists tribally controlled community colleges. Among other posts, Dr. Gipp was the first permanent executive director (1973-1977) of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and has served several times as the organization's president (1978-1980, 1991-1993 and 1999-2000). He is also the past chairman of the American Indian College Fund. Dr. Gipp's awards include selection as 1995 Indian Educator of the Year by the National Indian Education Association and as 1997 North Dakota Multicultural Educator of the Year; in July 2000, he received the Economic Development Administration's first CP Grant award for service in community economic development.
Dr. Gipp was educated at the University of North Dakota (1969) and holds a Doctorate in Laws, Honoris Causa , from North Dakota State University (1991) for his contributions in development tribal higher education.
Brian Henderson (Apache) is Senior Advisor to the Chairman of Espírito Santo Financial Group. Prior to joining Group Espirito Santo, Mr. Henderson devoted over 36 years to the Financial Services industry, including 22 years at Merrill Lynch & Co. and 14 years at the Chase Manhattan Bank Most of Mr. Henderson's years at both Merrill Lynch and Chase were in international investment and commercial banking, with his last position at Merrill Lynch as Chairman of the Public Sector Group.
Mr. Henderson serves on the following not-for-profit boards: The Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; the American Indian College Fund; National Museum of the American Indian, (Smithsonian Institution); The International Advisory Council of the Manhattan School of Music and Vice Chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States.
Mr. Henderson is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He also attended the University of Barcelona and Edinburgh University. Mr. Henderson is married, has three daughters and lives in New York City.
Andrew Lee is currently a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.
Previously, he was Vice President for New Businesses at Aetna, Inc., a Fortune 100 diversified health care benefits company that serves more than 36 million people in the United States and around the world with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. At Aetna, Mr. Lee was responsible for developing the company’s Accountable Care Solutions business, which works collaboratively with hospitals and health systems across the country to improve health care quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. From 2009 to 2011, Mr. Lee was chief of staff to Aetna’s Office of the President. As a member of Mark Bertolini’s senior team, Mr. Lee was responsible for driving the efficacy of management processes in Aetna’s Business Operations and facilitating the development and implementation of a differentiated business strategy. In addition to his role in New Businesses, Mr. Lee is the co-executive sponsor for ANative, Aetna’s employee resource group dedicated to American Indian and Alaska Native issues. Prior to assuming his chief of staff role in February 2009, Mr. Lee led Aetna’s Office of Public Policy, which works at the intersection of public policy and business opportunity and seeks to advance the company’s thought leadership on health policy issues of national importance.
Prior to joining Aetna in 2005, Mr. Lee served as executive director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, a research and service institution at the Harvard Kennedy School that works on economic and social development among American Indian nations. While at the Harvard Project, he founded Honoring Nations, a national awards program that identifies, celebrates, and shares information about outstanding tribal government programs. From 1996 to 1998, Mr. Lee worked in the Governance and Civil Society unit of the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program.
Committed to contributing to the vibrancy of the nonprofit sector, Mr. Lee serves on a number of national boards. He is the vice-chairman of the board for Smithsonian’s Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian, and is a member of the board of governors for the Harvard Project’s Honoring Nations tribal governance awards program. He also serves on the tribal policy board for Portland State University’s Institute of Tribal Government, on the council of advisors for United National Indian Tribal Youth (a youth leadership organization) and the on the national advisory council for a think tank associated with the National Congress of American Indians. From 2003 to 2010, Mr. Lee was a trustee of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, where he served on the foundation’s investment committee and chaired its governance committee.
Mr. Lee co-authored The State of the Native Nations: Conditions Under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination, published by Oxford University Press in 2008, and he also co-authored a chapter on effective social service delivery in Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2007. Mr. Lee has been recognized for his leadership: In 1999, Americans for Indian Opportunity selected Mr. Lee to be an “American Indian Ambassador;” in 2001 he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and in 2004 USA Weekend magazine profiled him as one of seven “Native American Standouts” nationwide. In March 2011, Mr. Lee was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, which each year recognizes up to 200 of the most distinguished young leaders under the age of 40 from around the world. He is the first American Indian to receive this honor.
Mr. Lee received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College and a master degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where he was a Christian A. Johnson Native American fellow and a Woodrow Wilson fellow in public policy and international affairs.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Lee’s extended family resides on the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in western New York. Mr. Lee, his wife and three sons live in Glastonbury, Connecticut, and in his spare time, he enjoys flyfishing, bowhunting and playing lacrosse competitively.
Michael Lipsky is Senior Program Director at Demos, a public policy research and advocacy organization based in New York. Before coming to Demos in October, 2003, he served for twelve years as a Senior Program Officer in the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program, where he managed a portfolio of approximately 100 grants, creating and then managing initiatives to strengthen government and public accountability in the states. He is one of the founding organizers of the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, a 34-state effort to provide critical data on state fiscal policy.
He has taught at the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, and for 21 years was a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His publications include Protest in City Politics; the award-winning Street Level Bureaucracy; and Nonprofits for Hire: The Welfare State in the Age of Contracting (with Steven Rathgeb Smith). He holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.P.A., M.A., and Ph.D in politics from Princeton University. He is currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.
Heather Kendall-Miller is Denaina Athabaskan and is a tribal member of the Native Village of Dillingham. Since 1993 she has worked as a staff attorney of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), where she practices exclusively in the area of tribal rights and subsistence. In addition to her work for NARF, Ms. Kendall-Miller serves on the Board of Trustees of the Alaska Conservation Foundation.
Together with fellow NARF staff attorney Lawrence Aschenbrenner, Ms. Kendall-Miller served as lead counsel for both appeals (to the U.S. Circuit Court and to the U.S. Supreme Court) of the landmark case State of Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie , which sought to determine the reach of Indian Country and, specifically, whether tribes in Alaska possessed the same broad powers as Indian tribes on reservations in the lower-48 states. While ultimately unsuccessful, the arguments forwarded by NARF laid important groundwork for new legislation, Native Alaskan government development and further juridical work.
Ms. Kendall-Miller received her B.A. from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 1988 and her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1991. After law school, she worked as a Judicial Clerk for Chief Justice Ray Rabinowitz of the Alaska Supreme Court. She then received a two-year Skadden Fellowship to work for Alaska Legal Services and NARF in the area of Alaska Native Rights and was subsequently hired full time by NARF.
Wilson is a citizen of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and an Osage headright holder. He is the Managing Partner and co-founder of Ietan Consulting and a fierce advocate for tribal self-determination. Wilson has dedicated his career to expanding and strengthening sovereign rights across Indian Country. He serves as the chair of the Notah Begay III Foundation and is a member of the board of the Nike N7 Fund and the Close Up Foundation, not-for-profit organizations that provide opportunities for Native youth.
Angela R. Riley is currently the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School. She is also Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and Director of UCLA's J.D./M.A. joint degree program in Law and American Indian Studies. From 2010-2015, she served as Director of UCLA's American Indian Studies Center. Her research focuses on issues related to indigenous peoples’ rights, with a particular emphasis on cultural property and Native governance. Her work has been published in the top legal journals in the field, including Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, California Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Texas Law Review and numerous others. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma and her law degree from Harvard Law School.
After clerking for Chief Judge T. Kern of the Northern District of Oklahoma, she worked as a litigator at Quinn Emanuel in Los Angeles, specializing in intellectual property litigation. In 2003 she was selected to serve on her tribe’s Supreme Court, becoming the first woman and youngest Justice of the Supreme Court of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma. In 2010, she was elected as Chief Justice. She now serves as Co-Chair for the United Nations - Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership Policy Board, which is a commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and calls for its full realization through the mobilization of financial and technical assistance. She is also the mother of two girls.
Honorary Board Members
Duane Champagne is professor of sociology and on the Faculty Advisory Committee for the Native Nations Law & Policy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles . He is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa from North Dakota.
Professor Champagne's research focuses primarily on issues of social and cultural change in both historical and contemporary Native American communities. He has focused on a variety of Indian communities including the Cherokee, Tlingit, Iroquois, Delaware, Choctaw, Northern Cheyenne, Creek, California Indians and others, and has authored and edited over sixty publications, including Contemporary Native American Cultural Issues (1999), Native America: Portraits of the Peoples (1994), The Native North American Almanac (1993) and Social Order and Political Change: Constitutional Governments Among the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek (1992).
Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, was first elected in 1992 and is serving his sixth term on the council and fifth term as chairman. Macarro's vision for the Pechanga people is to see the band strengthen its political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency by developing a diversified economy for the Pechanga Band.
A national leader, Macarro represents Pechanga in the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and on the board of directors for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). As a Gray Davis gubernatorial appointee, Macarro was the only Native American to serve on the California Workforce Investment Act Board. Macarro is the current Chairman of the Riverside County Sheriff Native American Affairs Commission. He also served as a Riverside County Board of Supervisors appointee to the County Historical Commission. Macarro was also elected to the board of directors of Borrego Springs Bank, NA. As a charter board member Chairman Macarro helped found the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS), a non-profit organization, in the early '90s.
Chairman Macarro believes it is critical to maintain and cultivate the Pechanga tribal culture, language, and traditional life ways so that the Pechanga people can preserve their unique tribal identity. Macarro is a traditional Luiseño singer, singing ceremonial Nukwaanish funeral songs at Indian wakes throughout area Indian reservations, and is a practitioner of Cham'teela, the Luiseño's native language. He has also been an apprentice bird singer to Robert Levi, an elder of the Torres-Martinez Reservation; having learned hundreds of Levi's birdsongs.
Macarro served as program manager for the library and museum at the Rincon Reservation from 1992 through 1995, as the director of youth education at Soboba Reservation's Noli School from 1990 through 1992, and began his career in Indian country as a grants/contracts administrator for the Pechanga Reservation in 1988. Macarro also served as a credentialed substitute teacher for grades 7-12 in the Riverside County Schools system, the San Jacinto Unified School District, the Colton Joint Unified School District, and Riverside City School District.
Macarro has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is a graduate of Colton High School.
Macarro was born in San Bernardino, California on October 7, 1963 and raised in Colton, California. Chairman Macarro's father, the late Leslie Macarro, was a Pechanga tribal member and a correctional peace officer killed in the line of duty in May of 1988. He worked for the California Youth Authority. His great-grandfather, Juan Macarro (1851-1920) served as Captain for the Pechanga Band during the first decade of the 1900's and was also a Nukwaanish singer. The office of chairman was formerly called \captain.\
Elsie Meeks, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, is the former executive director of First Nations Oweesta Corporation (OWEESTA), a subsidiary of First Nations Development Institute.
Elsie has over 20 years experience working for Native community economic development. Prior to her leadership and work at OWEESTA, Elsie was active for 15 years in the development and management of The Lakota Fund, a small business and microenterprise development loan fund on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota . Elsie has recently completed a three-year term on the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer Advisory Council. She serves as chairperson of The Lakota Fund and sits on the boards of National Community Capital Association, Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing. She is also an Advisory Council member of Native Nations Institute. She was appointed by former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1999 and was the first Native American to serve on the Commission.
Alfreda Mitre is the Formor Chairwoman of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and has served in previous appointments from 1990-1992 and 1994-1998. hairwoman Mitre has worked toward economic diversity and completing the first phase of the Las Vegas Paiute Resort, which includes Sun Mountain and Snow Mountain golf courses (designed by Pete Dye), a clubhouse, gas station and highway interchange.
In 1999, Chairwoman Mitre received the Nevada Commission on Tourism award on Voluntourism for her work on the Las Vegas Paiute Resort. In addition, she is listed among the First 100, a compilation by the Las Vegas Review Journal of the 100 people who had the largest impact on Las Vegas over the city's first century.
Previously, Chairwoman Mitre served as Director of the University of Colorado’s Upward Bound Program, which provides high school students from targeted communities with the opportunity to experience a college atmosphere before graduating from high school. Chairwoman Mitre was also the director of the Native American Resource Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Susan M. Williams is a shareholder in Williams & Works, P.A., an Indian-owned and woman-owned law firm in Corrales , New Mexico . Ms. Williams, an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation, is a graduate of Radcliffe College of Harvard University (B.A., Magna Cum Laude , 1976) and of Harvard Law School (J.D. 1981). Upon graduation from law school, Ms. Williams joined Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Kampelman, where she worked in the Indian Banking and Law department for five years. She was the Executive Director of the Navajo Tax Commission in Window Rock, Arizona and served as Chairperson of the Commission (1976-1978) and also returned to Harvard Law School as a lecturer in Indian Law for five years and then at Stanford Law School for one year
In addition, Ms. William serves on several Boards of Directors and National Advisory Committees on state-tribal relations, resource development and environmental protection, including the World Wildlife Fund, the American Bar Association, Water Resources Committee, the American Indian Resources Institute, St. Michaels Indian School, Indian Law Resource Center and the Grand Canyon Trust. Ms. Williams also serves on the Board of Directors of the Harvard Alumni Association. As a lead lobbyist in several successful Indian legislative efforts, Ms. Williams has impacted amendments such as one to treat Indian Tribes as states under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Indian Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act. In April of 1989, Ms. Williams successfully argued the Big Horn case before the United States Supreme Court. She represents numerous Indian tribes on their water rights and other matters and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar, the New Mexico Bar, the American Bar Association, and the United States Supreme Court Bar.
Dr. Peterson Zah is a Diné from the Navajo Nation. Zah has worked for over 30 years to defend the interests of all Native American people and is widely respected among U.S. tribes.
In 1995, Dr. Zah was recruited by ASU to help address the education concerns of the growing Native American student population and their respective communities. He currently serves as the Special Adviser to ASU President on American Indian Affairs. During his tenure the university’s Native American student population has doubled from 672 to over 1,400. He is recognized for his efforts to increase retention rates from 43 percent to 78 percent, among the highest of any major college or university in the country. His guidance and support has also allowed for creating one of the largest and most profound groups of American Indian faculty members in the country; totaling 26. Throughout his career he has made education his first priority. In the fall of 2004 he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Indian Education Association.
Zah’s respect for the value of education is rooted in his own story. Born in 1937 and raised in the middle of the Navajo Reservation at remote Low Mountain, AZ. He left his home and family in 1953 to attend the Phoenix Indian School, later enrolling at Phoenix Community College and finally ASU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1963. He returned to his homeland as a vocational educator, teaching Navajo adults the essentials of the carpentry trade, and then as a field coordinator for VISTA Indian Training Center.
Quickly proving his leadership abilities, he is co-founder and later became executive director of DNA-People’s Legal Services, a nonprofit legal services program for the Navajo, Hopi and Apache people. He assisted tribes in legal matters, set up widespread community education programs, and championed native rights.
In 1982, Zah was elected Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council. In 1990, under a new tribal government, Peterson Zah was elected the first president of the Navajo Nation, leading the movement to restructure and modernize their governmental system from a council to a nation. This makes Dr. Zah the last Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council and the first President of the Navajo Nation.
Zah who is considered one of the 100 most important Native Americans in the last century and a key leader in Native American government and education, received an Honorary Doctoral Degree of Humane Letters from Arizona State University in 2005. He is also the recent recipient of the 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. Servant Leadership Award.