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American Indian Jodi Gillette Receives Prestigious Honor

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The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF),in collaboration with espnW and Women in Cable Telecommunications, recently released its 40 FOR 40 list of forty women who made a significant impact on society after playing sports in high school or college during the forty years since the enactment of Title IX in 1972. Representing Indian country, Jodi Gillette, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota and South Dakota, was honored for her government and civil service work.

Gillette played college hoops for Dartmouth College and in April President Obama appointed her as White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs. As a member of the Domestic Policy Council, Gillette will advise the President on issues impacting Indian country. Previously she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs for Policy and Economic Development in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Prior to joining the Assistant Secretary’s staff, she served as Deputy Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Director of Public Engagement, where she was responsible for the communication and interaction between tribal nations and the White House. She played a key role in the White House Tribal Nations Conference in 2009 and 2010, where the President hosted tribal leaders from across the U.S. Prior, Ms. Gillette had served as executive director of the Native American Training Institute in Bismarck, a non-profit offering technical assistance and training to tribal, state and local governments in the area of human service delivery systems. She also had served as an economic development planner for her tribe in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Ms. Gillette holds a bachelor of arts degree in government and Native American studies from Dartmouth College and a master of public policy degree from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“Jodi Gillette will be an important member of my Administration’s efforts to continue the historic progress we’ve made to strengthen and build on the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal nations,” said President Obama in April. “She has been a key member of my administration’s efforts for Indian country, and will continue to ensure that Native American issues will always have a seat at the table."

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires schools and colleges receiving federal money in any education program or activity to provide the same opportunities for girls as they provide for boys. According to WSF, Title IX has resulted in growth of girls participating in high school sports from 1 in 27 in 1972 to about 2 in 5 today. Title IX has not only made its impact felt in terms of athletic participation, but in educational opportunities for girls and women. According to several studies, the combination of the two has produced significant long-term educational, health and economic benefits for women.

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“We are proud to recognize [Gillette] and the positive role that the passage of Title IX has played in the lives of countless women and girls,” said Kathryn Olson, Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King. “[She] has used participation in sports as a step toward making a very significant contribution to society in a wide variety of fields.”

Laura Gentile, vice president, espnW, said of Gillette’s and the other women’s efforts: “The inspiration they provide and the battles they fought for access, respect and recognition paved the way for all who follow.”

Gillette was recognized at the 40 FOR 40 gathering on June 21. The event featured keynotes and a Power Panel comprised of top honorees. The panel explored the impact of Title IX as well as the role sports has played in helping them overcome obstacles and forging new opportunities. 40 FOR 40 will be part of a range of activities each organization has planned surrounding the anniversary of Title IX, including programming, social media activation and additional educational outreach.

Congratulations to Gillette for receiving this honor, which will be the first of many as she continues to work for Indian country in her new role at the White House.