Background image of ILA honoree stands blanketed



Ecotrust elevates the work of regional indigenous leaders during Native American Heritage Month.

We believe a new economy is possible only through authentic engagement with the people who first inhabited the place we call home. Last week, we amplified the work of groundbreaking indigenous leaders from across the region who are laying the foundation for a more restorative society, through two signature events that punctuated the ongoing celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

On Friday afternoon, we honored Annita McPhee (Tahltan), Arthur Williams Sterritt (Gitga’at), Eric J. Quaempts (Yakama), Roy Sampsel (Choctaw/Wyandotte), and the awardee, Roberta Reyes Cordero (Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation) with the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award in a ceremony at the Portland Art Museum. This year’s honorees bring to 58 the number recognized since 2001 as part of the Indigenous Leadership Award.

Earlier in the day, Eric Quaempts, Roberta Cordero and Roy Sampsel joined 2009 ILA honoree Janeen Comenote and Northwest Health Foundation President Nichole Maher on a panel at the Portland City Club to discuss cultural revitalization in urban and rural Native communities across the region.

Yakama leader Eric Quaempts speaks at Portland City Club

Cordero spoke of returning to her native coastal California to revive canoeing traditions, and Quaempts (at right) explained how his approach to protecting First Foods will help Umatilla Tribes adapt to climate change. Comenote, a national expert on urban Indian programs, applauded Portland’s Native American Youth and Family Center as a model for delivering culturally relevant social services to Native urbanites.

Maher delivered some of the most provocative and compelling words of the day just after the 30-minute mark of the hour-long panel; after describing rapidly diversifying youth populations in Portland, she said: “Any issue you might care about, whether it’s an environmental issue, an education issue, a child welfare issue, you mathematically can’t improve outcomes…unless you have deep engagement of communities of color.”

Pictured: Nichole Maher at Portland City Club

Ecotrust and the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) co-developed the City Club panel, as part of a new partnership to elevate the profile of indigenous leadership across the region during Native American Heritage Month.

As an ongoing celebration of indigenous leadership, Ecotrust is featuring the words and images of ILA winners past and present in our second floor display niches at the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center. The featured leaders span the generations, from the late iconic salmon champion, Billy Frank, Jr. to the Heiltsuk councilor, Jess Housty, 26, who has thoughtfully worked to protect British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. The multimedia exhibit is on display through January 2015.