PORTLAND, Ore. – Ecotrust today recognized five of the West’s most innovative indigenous leaders for their efforts to improve conditions in their communities. The recipients were selected by a panel of tribal leaders, and their efforts span the areas of youth advocacy, education, renewable energy, cultural restoration and scholarship.
The Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award has quietly become one of the preeminent programs honoring and supporting tribal, First Nation, and Alaska Native leaders in the West. Tribes and First Nations are more than an ethnic or minority demographic; they are nations and representative governments, major land owners, committed co-managers in natural resources, and they are major drivers of local and regional economies. Tribes, First Nations, and Alaska Natives hold long-range vision, sustainable societal values and a history of the land and marine and terrestrial ecosystems that provide a sense of place in the growing global economy.
Five Innovative Leaders
The award recipients received a total of $45,000 in support, and the grants are awarded with the goal of catalyzing further positive change within indigenous communities. The main awardee, Jim Manion, received $25,000, and four finalists each received $5,000.
Awardee: Jim Manion ($25,000)
James Manion is honored with the 2009 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award for his work representing the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, as the general manager of Warm Springs Power Enterprises, and as the chair of the Deschutes River Conservancy. Throughout his career, Manion has focused on improving the tribe’s economic, political, and environmental strength through creative leadership, managerial skills, and an open form of communication. Manion is of Wasco descent, one of the three distinct tribes that make up the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Manion was responsible for negotiating with PGE for the tribe’s joint ownership of the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project – an unprecedented negotiation in Indian country. Manion’s leadership resulted in a source of renewable energy for the region, economic support for the tribe, and more focus on environmental mitigation, fish and wildlife usage within the Deschutes River basin.
Finalist: Janeen Comenote ($5,000)
Janeen Comenote is honored for her efforts to improve the lives of urban indigenous people. She is Hesquiaht and Kwakiutl First Nation from her mother’s side and Oglala Lakota and enrolled Quinault from her father’s side. She works in Seattle and focuses on street youth counseling, foster home licensing, poverty reduction and research, local coalition building, and development. She is a founding member and director for the National Urban Indian Family Coalition, which represents 24 urban Indian centers in 19 cities, several Native American organizations, and more than 860,000 Native Americans living away from their traditional land base.
Finalist: Allen Pinkham, Sr. ($5,000)
Allen Pinkham, Sr. is honored for his storied career as a community leader, scholar, and advocate for the Nez Perce people and lands. He is the past president of Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and former vice-president of the National Congress of American Indians. Pinkham co-authored Salmon and His People: Fish and Fishing in Nez Perce Culture, among other works. His leadership is evidenced by his role in helping acquire 23,000 acres for the tribe while serving as an elected official. Pinkham is associated with the founding and leadership of the Chief Joseph Foundation, which emphasizes Nez Perce horse culture, youth education, and development.
Finalist: A. Brian Wallace ($5,000)
A. Brian Wallace is honored for his tireless efforts to protect, restore, and strengthen Washoe ancestral homelands, community programs, youth programs, and tribal culture. The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California was removed from the heart of its homeland — the Lake Tahoe basin — during the 19th century gold rush, but it withstood extinction and continues to build strength. Wallace contributed by serving four four-year terms as tribal chairman, all while working to protect cultural and environmental resources at home and abroad through true innovation and a unique type of leadership. In 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell nominated Wallace to serve on the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, and he has served in multiple leadership capacities associated with the environment, social services, child welfare, and cultural resource protection.
Finalist: Patricia L. Whitefoot ($5,000)
Patricia L. Whitefoot is honored for her leadership in tribal, regional, and national efforts to improve Indian education at all levels. She is of Yakama descent and has worked at every conceivable level of Indian education, including: superintendent, principal, consultant, counselor, teacher, program director, school supervisor, Head Start, and visionary founder of many instrumental programs. Whitefoot serves as the Director of Indian Education for the Toppenish School District on the Yakama Reservation. The Potlatch Fund Award for Education Leadership bears her name, and today she serves as president of the National Indian Education Association.
Over nearly 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $60 million in grants into more than $300 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust’s many innovations include co-founding the world’s first environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, food, farms and children’s health, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic and environmental decision-making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it honors and supports the wisdom of Native and First Nation leadership in its work. More on the Web at www.ecotrust.org.