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Ecotrust Honors NW Native Leaders in Presence of National Congress of American Indians Convention

PORTLAND, Ore. — Ecotrust celebrated the life and accomplishments of five native leaders chosen by senior tribal leaders for Ecotrust’s 2011 Indigenous Leadership Awards (ILA) that honors committed leadership who improve the social, economic and environmental conditions of their homelands and people.

This year’s awardee is the Honorable Dee Pigsley, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, who received $25,000. Four honorees received $5,000 each. The award money augments their work to enhance their communities.

Pigsley has the longest service record for a woman on a Northwest tribal council. All but two of her 34 years of service have been since the Siletz Tribe in Oregon won restoration in 1977, and 26 of those were as tribal chair representing the tribe with local, state, and federal officials. She’s testified before Congress to support adequate funding for Native programs, works tirelessly for tribal sovereignty, and advocates for tribal youths’ physical, mental, and cultural development to ensure the future for Siletz' traditions.

The honorees are Nora Dauenhauer, Tlingit; Wayne Warren Don, Cupik/Yupik tribes, Alaska; Clan Chief Adam Dick, Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, British Columbia; and Chuck Sams, Citizen of the Cocopah Nation with family ties to the Yankton Sioux and Cayuse Tribe in Oregon. Find their bios and those of past recipients and learn more about the program at Ecotrust’s ILA site.

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The ceremony highlighted their careers and interests, with time to reflect on their leadership. The event celebrates publically the five equally in the presentation, press promotion, and with a gift of a beautiful blanket with invitations to the recipient’s family to attend. “Each year, the ILA event proves quite inspirational,” said Spencer B. Beebe, Ecotrust’s founder and president of Ecotrust.

The families of Howard G. and Devon Buffett and Peter and Jennifer Buffett endowed the award with $500,000. Anonymous contributions increase the funds for honorees. Beebe announced this year that the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation awarded $200,000 for Native programs, and it went into the ILA endowment. He also introduced plans for an Ecotrust ILA Advisory Council of the 48 leaders, to assist in developing ideas for the programs growth and legacy. The Award accepts nominations from anyone on the behalf of indigenous leaders in these states with historical runs of salmon: California, Nevada, Idaho, western Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and British Columbia.

The spectacular and spacious Kridel Grand Ballroom in the Portland Art Museum complex hosted the dinner celebration, timed to coincide with the National Congress of American Indians National Convention October 30 to November 4. NCAI leaders and those from the U.S. region of “Salmon Nation” and First Nations of British Columbia swelled the numbers to 300 of those there to hear the inspirational messages of the recognized leaders. Rick George, Ecotrust’s new director of Policy and Indigenous Affairs led the ceremony. Aggie Pilgrim in traditional dress from Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and co-founder of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers gave the blessing.

Peter Courtney (D), president of the Oregon State Senate opened ‘the floor,’ as the tribal people call the start of major events in their Long Houses of the region. He complimented Ecotrust’s ELI program, and their green economic development and leadership in the field of multidisciplinary applications of environmentalism, and knowledge system tools. He especially enjoyed, he said, providing funding for Ecotrust’s initiative of the Food and Farms Program’s farm to school program. He also noted the forward thinking and unique collaboration and legislative directed intertwining of tribes and state government to government relationship of the State of Oregon.

Pigsley, received recognition October 6 along with Honorable Gretchen Kafoury at 2011’s “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” fifth annual Women’s Leadership Luncheon from The Center for Women, Politics and Policy of the College of Urban and Public Affairs, Portland State University.