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A young leader emerges

PLUMMER, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Tribe recently elected three council members. Chief James Allan was re-elected tribal chairman, Norma Jean Louie was re-elected to the council, and Paulette Jordan was elected for the first time. Her background and successes in the past year indicate a bright future.

“I always feel the sky is my limit. I never feel anything is above and beyond me or my ability to reach,” she said. “I’ve always been taught that, especially with the supportive mother I have, my grandmothers and my aunts and uncles. Everyone in my life has always been extremely supportive and positive and encouraged me to do anything I put my mind to.”

The granddaughter of Lucy Covington, once the Colville chairperson who fought to protect sovereignty during the Termination Era, and great-granddaughter of Justine Vincent, known as the sweetheart of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Jordan comes by leadership naturally.

The past year alone has been a whirlwind of political activity and successes, but Jordan, 29, takes it in stride. It all started when she attended her first Democratic caucus in her Benewah County town. There, she was unanimously nominated to serve as the Idaho state delegate. It was a surprise, given that much of the county is outside the reservation and friction between tribal citizens and non-Natives is common.

At the state convention in Boise last summer, she was asked to run for the national delegate position. Only one woman would be selected; 50 were running and most had been campaigning for many weeks, but Jordan was selected to represent Idaho. It was during that same period she joined and helped organize the Idaho Young Democrats, an organization that hadn’t existed for many years. That also led to being elected as the Benewah County State Committeewoman and eventually attending the presidential inauguration with five other Coeur d’Alene citizens.

Now, she adds the title of tribal council member to her resume.

Jordan was raised on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation but attended high school at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane. She excelled in the classroom and on the basketball court, and was recruited by several PAC-10 schools and ended up at the University of Washington. She played ball there, but her focus was on academic scholarship, “then moving on into the legislative field because I wanted to find my passion beyond sports.” She credits sports with helping keep her mind off being away from her family through high school and acknowledges the doors it opened for her through scholarships and travel, even to Europe.

At Washington she became active in the First Nations @ UW group and served as co-chair. This provided the opportunity to negotiate with the athletic director, the president of the university, and even councilmen in Seattle to gain improvements for the group. She credits UW for helping aid her professional development.

That feeling is reciprocated as the UW Alumni Association recently nominated her as one of 40 “emerging leaders.” The group gathered in Seattle last month to recognize Jordan and three other Native Americans.