Background image of Brian Cladoosby of the Swinomish tribe stands with his arm around his father

ILA nominations guidelines

Find past guidelines and processes for the Indigenous Leadership Award here. We are no longer accepting nominations for the awards.

From 2001 to 2014, Ecotrust’s Indigenous Leadership Award was a recognition program with an endowed monetary award. The award recognizes an individual who demonstrates durable qualities of leadership for improvement of the social, economic, political, and environmental conditions in his or her homelands.

Past honorees, a group we call the Indigenous Leaders Council, recently gathered and decided to take a pause from the award in 2015. Rather than continuing to add individuals to the circle of honorees at this time, the council, with our support, will join together and work in common cause on a project that has bioregional impact. While we explore this new area of work with the council, we will temporarily suspend the Indigenous Leadership Award. Thank you for your support over the last fourteen years of honoring and elevating the work of our regional indigenous leaders.

Who is eligible?

Individuals are eligible if they are First Nation or tribal members, over 35 years of age, and work, or have worked, with an indigenous organization or community within the states of Oregon, Washington, California, Western Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Alaska, or the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. We refer to the major part of this geography as the Pacific salmon territory of North America.

The nomination is stronger if the individual has support of his or her tribes or work organization. The nominee is someone who is working on issues which serve to improve the community’s resource base, cultural base, economic security or health and wellness. Previous finalists of the award are ineligible with the exception of the finalists of 2001–2002 who did not receive a cash award, but Ecotrust requires nominators submit a new packet of materials. Current employees of Ecotrust and its affiliates are ineligible.

Specific criteria:

  • Enrolled tribal members, Native corporation members, or someone recognized by a First Nation or tribe are eligible to receive this award. Nomination of un-enrolled members of a tribe or First Nation must provide a letter of endorsement and terms of acceptance of this individual into their community, such as Clanship adoptions or lineal descent of family who are members of the community.
  • The nominee is someone who has been working on issues in his or her community related to conservation-based development — conservation of resources, culture, economic security, or health and wellness.
  • The nominee’s project or goal is of importance to his or her community and to the region as a whole. The individual should demonstrate the support of a tribal government, clan or longhouse for his/her work. Ecotrust respects tribal authority. A letter of support or tribal newspaper article describing the person’s relationship with the tribe will suffice in this instance.

What qualities are valued in this award?

The Reading and Jury Panels use these values in the determination of the finalists and awardee:

  • Affirms traditional cultural values, traditional knowledge systems and natural environment;
  • Strengthens continuity of intergenerational knowledge and experiences;
  • Works for enrichment or increases understanding of conservation of natural resources, culture and economic security;
  • Possesses a global perspective resulting from the experience of exchange, dialogue, and negotiation with indigenous and non-indigenous, regional, and national leadership

How may the fellowship be used?

This award is a cash resource in recognition of outstanding leadership. It also affords Ecotrust the important opportunity to expand its knowledge of and experience with indigenous communities. There is potential to share information, learn and encourage mutual enrichment. The award may be used by the recipient for activities in any combination of the following areas:

  • Professional development and/or skills enrichment
  • Program or organizational investigation and development
  • Personal research and associated expenses
  • Traditional activity or ceremonial participation

At the core of this program is a dialogue about the importance of what is presently happening in indigenous communities, and how others can support these communities and core values.

What will the awardee need to provide Ecotrust?

The one-year fellowship does not represent a grantor-grantee relationship. It is a relaxed mutual exploration of the awardee’s topic and activity. Ecotrust and the awardee will begin with an agreement in principle for the year of the fellowship, and statement of expectations of positive outcome. Completion of the fellowship concludes with a one- to two-page statement of use of funds written to Ecotrust, explaining how the award made a difference in the life and community of the individual.

What happens in the selection process?

Ecotrust typically accepts nominations year-round but announces the specific nomination deadline and award ceremony date in February every year. After the nominations are closed, a Reading Panel, which includes three Ecotrust staff people and at least three outside readers, read all nominations. A majority of the Reading Panel is always Native people, ideally from various locations in the bioregion, who use a consensual process to select five nominations to forward to the Final Jury.

The Final Jury is comprised of eminent indigenous leaders who agree to make the final selection of the awardee and guide the program’s processes and policy. The Final Jury members include Dalee Sambo Dorough (Inupiaq), Alan Parker (Chippewa-Cree), Chief Leah George-Wilson (Tsleil Waututh Nation), Antone Minthorn (Cayuse), and non-voting members, Ecotrust founder and Board Chair, Spencer B. Beebe and Elizabeth Woody (Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama).

About the award

The families of Peter and Howard Buffett founded the Ecotrust leadership award to honor outstanding individual leaders in the indigenous communities of Oregon, Washington, California, Western Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Alaska, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

Get in touch

Lisa J. Watt

Director of the Indigenous Leadership Program


Nominations guidelines Resources