Five Native leaders honored with the 2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award
Release Date: 09-01-2011

PORTLAND, OR — Ecotrust announces today the five native leaders chosen by a panel of senior tribal leaders and key staff to be honored at the 2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Awards (ILA). The award ceremony and celebration is scheduled for November 2, 2011 at the Portland Art Museum. These visionary leaders were chosen for their dedication to improving the social, economic and environmental conditions of their homelands and people. At the award ceremony, four honorees will receive $5,000 prizes, and Delores Ann Pigsley, who was selected as this year’s Awardee, will receive $25,000 to continue their work to enhance their communities.

The five leaders include:

Nora Dauenhauer, member of the Tlingit tribe in Alaska. With her first language of Tlingit and second of English, Nora has dedicated her life work to transcribing, translating, preserving, and resurrecting her native language. Now as an elder, she is looked to locally, nationally, and internationally for her expertise of the Tlingit language. Her books, articles, and plays are read and performed both near and far. Her work has earned her numerous awards and an honorary Doctor of Humanities from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Wayne Warren Don, member of the Cupik/Yupik tribes in Alaska. A former army officer raised on Nunivak Island, Alaska, Wayne received both a Western and cultural education. While serving as tribal chairman since 2007, he has brought the tribe into financial profitability, created new programs, and grown the tribe’s assets more than eightfold. He is also a true leader in his ability to act as a social and cultural bridge between the youth and elders, and in creating the first-ever cultural, academic, and tourism camp in Alaska. The camp creates a new economic development opportunity for the tribe as well as creating a place for cultural preservation and cultural and academic teaching.

Clan Chief Adam DickKwaxsistalla, traditionally trained leader of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. He was born in 1929 at Tlamataxw (Campbell River), BC. His name, Kwaxsistalla, bequeathed to him by his father, grandfather and previous generations who held the name, means “Smoke From His Fire Reaches around the world.” Chosen by his elders at a young age to be trained as a Clan Chief and Potlatch speaker, Kwaxsistalla never attended Western school nor learned to read or write. Because of his unique training he is widely sought out for his cultural knowledge of the potlatch, traditional naming, social and economic systems, and important ceremonial aspects of life, as well as on the intricacies of the Kwak’wala language and history. Kwaxsistallaand his partner, film director and cultural specialist Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Ogwaloqwa, of the Qualicum First Nation live at Qualicum on Vancouver Island.

Delores Ann Pigsley, member of the Siletz tribe in Oregon. Delores holds the record for the longest time a woman has served on a tribal council in the Northwest, serving 32 of the 34 years since the Siletz tribe won restoration in 1977. Twenty-six of those years she served as tribal chair. In that time, Delores has represented the best interests of her tribe with city, county, state, and federal officials, has testified before Congress in support of adequate funding for native programs, and has worked tirelessly for tribal sovereignty. She also is a strong advocate for developing tribal youth physically, mentally, and culturally to ensure the Siletz’ traditions continue to future generations. Delores was the youngest of eight children of Alfred and Maude Lane, she had four brothers and three sisters. Her father, brother and sister have served on the tribal council and also been in local politics. Delores married Don Pigsley, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, in 1962. They had three children: Timothy, Troy and Quanna. Timothy is employed at Chemawa Indian School, Quanna lives in Siletz and Troy, who worked for the Northwest Portland Indian Health Board passed away in 1998.

Chuck Sams, citizen of the Cocopah Nation with family ties to the Yankton Sioux and Cayuse Tribe in Oregon. Chuck has dedicated his work and board volunteer service to the conservation, protection and repatriation of tribal land and natural resources in the Northwest through both native and non-native organizations. His work helps support healthy, vibrant tribal communities. Through his efforts, he has helped reconnect youth to the way of the salmon and foster an intergenerational sharing of knowledge. Chuck, his wife Lori, and their three children, Rosey, Chauncey, and Clara live in Pendleton, Oregon.

“We had 11 strong nominations this year for the ILA award,” explains Don Sampson, Ecotrust Director of Native Programs. “The first panel of tribal leaders debated for a long time which five should be selected as honorees; and the second panel of senior tribal leaders along with Ecotrust President Spencer Beebe had no easy task choosing Deloros Ann Pigsley as this year’s Awardee. All are exceptional leaders and Ecotrust is humbled for the opportunity to honor them.”

The 2011 ILA celebration and dinner will be held November 2nd at the Portland Art Museum. The event coincides with the National Congress of American Indians National Convention, held this year in Portland. “Each year, the ILA event proves quite inspirational,” says Beebe. “With this group of leaders, the evening should prove very moving.”

For information about tickets and pricing, please visit All are welcome to attend.


Ecotrust’s mission is to inspire fresh thinking that creates social equity, economic opportunity, and environmental well-being. Over nearly 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $80 million in grants into more than $500 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.  Learn more at: