Indigenous Leadership: Ensuring a future
for Native Peoples, Cultures, and Lands

Four virtual briefings to learn about and celebrate the achievements and impact of Indigenous leadership and leaders, from December 2021 through March 2022.


To inform audiences about the achievements and impact of Indigenous leadership and leaders, the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Program has organized a series of four educational briefings that examine the theme Indigenous Leadership: Ensuring a Future for Native Peoples, Cultures, and Lands.

Through a series of four hour-long, online gatherings eight tribal leaders from across the Pacific Northwest will provide the historical context of issues tribal communities have confronted over time and the ways Native leaders responded. Learn about little-known eras, issues, and subjects, all from an Indigenous perspective, and about the impact of Indigenous leadership on the well-being of tribal communities and beyond.

Join us.

The briefings will be held at 11am PST on the third Wednesday of each month, starting December 2021 through March 2022:

December 15, 2021
Negotiating a Future: Indigenous leadership through the ages

January 19, 2022
Termination: The attempt to destroy and the rebuilding of the Siletz Tribes

February 16, 2022
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: Impacts on Alaska Native communities

March 16, 2022
Breaking the Chains: Transformative federal legislation and Tribal peoples

This inaugural briefing series serves as the run-up to the 2022 Indigenous Leadership Awards, an annual event that celebrates Indigenous determination and survival.

Everyone who is interested in learning more about Indigenous leadership and peoples is welcome to participate. Policymakers, decision-makers, agency representatives, funders, teachers, students, and legislators are encouraged to attend.

Faced with near-constant threats on their sovereignty, cultures, and ways of life, in addition to the theft of their lands and waters, Indigenous leaders through the ages have guided their communities and dedicated themselves to ensuring their collective future. The work and impact of tribal leaders are models of vision and courage. Read more about each segment of the series below, and RSVP for one or all of these illuminating events.

Map of the Oregon Territory. (Source: New York: J.H. Young: Sherman & Smith, 1844)

Negotiating a Future: Indigenous Leadership through the Ages

Wednesday, December 15, 2021


In the mid-1800s, many Northwest tribes signed treaties to reserve an area of their traditional homeland for their perpetual use. Using the Walla Walla Treaty Council as the setting, Roberta “Bobbie” Conner (Nez Perce/Cayuse) will explore the circumstances and significance of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Treaty of 1855. What happened at the Treaty Council? Who was there? What was said? And, most important of all, what did tribal leaders of the 1850s have to consider and negotiate to ensure a future for their people? Next, W. Ron Allen (Jamestown S’Klallam) will discuss the challenges Indigenous leaders have faced over time, the current issues, and what the future might hold for tribal nations.

Roberta “Bobbie” Conner is the executive director of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, the award-winning museum and research institute of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon. Bobbie is a leader in the national museum community, a noted historian, and committed horsewoman. She was the 2007 ILA Awardee.

W. Ron Allen is the CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. He is a past president of the National Congress of American Indians and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. Ron has served on numerous federal and state advisory boards, covering a multitude of issues important to Native peoples. Ron was the 2005 ILA Awardee.

Congressional hearing on the Siletz Restoration Bill in 1976. Pictured from Left to Right: Delores (Lane) Pigsley, Joe Lane Sr., Robert Rilatos Sr., Arthur S. Bensell, Kathryn (Jones) Harrison, Robert “Bob” Tom, Pauline (Bell) Ricks, Alta (Tom) Courville, and Sister Francella Griggs. Courtesy of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

Termination: The Attempt to Destroy and the Rebuilding of the Siletz Tribes

Wednesday, January 19, 2022


The federal policy known as Termination was one of the most destructive policies ever initiated by the United States Congress. Passed in 1953 and signed by President Harry Truman, Termination was intended to end tribal rights as sovereign nations and completely dispossess tribes of their lands. Ed Ben (Siletz) will offer his first-hand account of the reactions and actions of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians as Termination was forced upon them. Our second speaker, Bud Lane (Siletz), will discuss the impacts of Termination and the tribes’ efforts to rebuild itself over 44 years to become a vibrant, culturally-focused sovereign nation once again.

A Navy veteran who served in World War II, Ed Ben was actively involved in the Tribes’ restoration efforts after the Termination Act passed and was elected to the first tribal council post-Restoration. Now an elder at age 93, and following in the footsteps of his father, Archie, Mr. Ben continues to pass on his historical, cultural, and language knowledge about the Tribes to younger generations.

Alfred “Bud” Lane III recently retired from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Tribal Council where he served as its vice-chairman, a position he held beginning in 1987. He is a knowledge holder and teacher of the Athabaskan language and culture bearer of Siletz traditions and basketry. Siletz children and adults are learning the language, songs, and dances of their ancestors through Bud. He is a 2007 ILA Honoree.

Mount Denali on a late September day, by Patrick Federi

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: Impacts on Alaska Native Communities

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


In all of Native American affairs in the United States, the relationship between Alaska Native communities and the federal government is one of the least understood by the mainstream. The passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA) created a new structure and relationships, distinct from the reservation system of the Lower 48. In this briefing, Joe Nelson (Tlingit) will discuss the situation leading up to the passage of the ANCSA, the structures it created, and how Alaska Native leaders responded. Then, Nicole Borromeo (Athabaskan) will describe the contemporary landscape of ANCSA and considerations for the future.

Joe Nelson is the current board chair of Sealaska, a for-profit Alaska Native corporation owned by more than 23,000 Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian shareholders. An attorney by profession, Mr. Nelson works with Sealaska’s leadership and stakeholders to fulfill its purpose of strengthening Native people, culture, and land. Mr. Nelson also serves as the co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), the largest statewide Native organization working to enhance and promote the cultural, economic, and political voice of the Alaska Native community.

Nicole Borromeo is the executive vice president and general counsel of the Alaska Federation of Natives. AFN’s membership includes 168 federally recognized tribes, 166 village corporations, 8 regional corporations, and 12 regional nonprofit and tribal consortiums that contract and compact to run federal and state programs. Ms. Borromeo received her law degree from University of Washington School of Law and is a Doyon shareholder.

Breaking the Chains: Transformative Federal Legislation and Tribal Peoples

Wednesday, March 16, 2022


Federal legislation passed in the 1970s and 1980s transformed the relationship between Native American tribes and the U.S. Government, shifting from a colonialist, paternalistic approach to one that recognized the sovereignty of tribal nations. Law professor Robert Miller (Eastern Shawnee) will provide the history and context of some of the groundbreaking laws that finally protected many of the sovereign rights of tribes and established new ways to work with the federal government. Next, Dave Tovey (Cayuse/Joseph Band Nez Perce) will examine one piece of legislation passed during this era that brought profound economic and social change to some tribes, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Robert J. Miller is a professor of law at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe. His areas of expertise include Federal Indian Law, American Indians and international law, American Indian economic development, Native American natural resources, and Civil Procedure. He is a noted author of numerous books that deepen the understanding of American Indian relations, history, and law from colonial times to the present.

Dave Tovey has a wealth of experience in tribal economic development. He is currently the executive director of the Nixyáawii Community Financial Services, a Native CDFI on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation that provides loans, homeownership guidance, and financial management assistance. In addition, Dave has served in top executive roles with the Siletz Tribal Business Corporation, Cayuse Technologies, and the Coquille Indian Tribe. He currently serves as the board president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Economic Development Corporation (ATNI-EDC).

Top image: A beach in Yakutat, Alaska, by Bethany Goodrich. Images of the briefings speakers, courtesy of the speakers.