PORTLAND, Ore. - Ecotrust, a conservation organization, will host its seventh annual Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership ceremony Nov. 29, honoring this year's winner, Roberta ''Bobbie'' Conner.
As the award winner, Conner will receive a $25,000 endowment established by the Howard and Peter Buffett families at a ceremony in Portland where Ecotrust also will recognize four finalists.
A member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Conner serves as the director of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. She received the nomination and award for her work as an author, community and national leader, museum director, curator and speaker as well as help with the Many Nations Many Voices exhibit.
''I'm humbled by the recognition,'' Conner said. ''It's an enormous honor. The Ecotrust organization does great work on behalf of salmon and all salmon people.''
Conner plans to use part of her award money to help create camps, she said.
Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation used to hunt during various seasons in the mountains, and while some of the members continue this tradition, others don't, said Conner, Cayuse/Umatilla/Nez Perce. For this reason, Conner will use some of her award funds to provide this experience to tribal members.
In addition to creating camps, Conner plans to use the award money for continued research related to language and treaty projects.
''The award money is a gift to projects that we already had hoped to find funding for, and this will help fund those projects,'' Conner said.
With the nomination process open yearlong, Ecotrust looks for leadership nominees in a variety of areas such as traditional, tribal, arts, nonprofits and areas of social work and education, according to Elizabeth Woody, Ecotrust's director of indigenous leadership program.
''We recognize all types of leaderships,'' said Woody, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon and also Navajo, born for the Bitter Water Clan.
The closing date for each annual award is announced in February and March.
''We send out a broad mailing to people who want to know and those who have to know,'' Woody said.
Before recipients are announ-ced, the leadership program employs a two-part process in selecting the winner and finalists. The first process involves a reading panel consisting of mostly American Indians who review persuasive documents that provide questions, allowing the nominators to describe the nominees.
''We're more based on the merit of the individual, not the need,'' Woody said.
Part of this process includes support letters and materials that could provide documentation supporting or illustrating the nominee's work.
''The heartfelt expressions by the individual nominators are the most compelling part of the process,'' Woody said.
In the second step, a juried panel comprised of Native peers from the area, along with two Ecotrust family organization members, narrows down the finalists. All juried panelists are American Indians, except for Spencer Beebe, president of Ecotrust, Woody said.
''They say to narrow it down to five is the most difficult process,'' she said.
The juried panel selects the recipient of the $25,000 award from an endowment established by the Buffett family, and the other four recipients receive $5,000 awards from anonymous donors.
''One of the critical aspects of this award is by 2021, Ecotrust will have recognized 100 leaders and established a critical mass of information and linkages network of leadership,'' Woody said. ''That's 20 years of investment by Ecotrust to Native leadership.''
At the end of each year, the recipients will write a letter to Ecotrust explaining how they used the money and how it helped them, Woody said.
For many of the recipients, the money is used to help them begin other projects, and some recipients say they are grateful that someone helped and believed in them, she said.
''Some of them say, 'I'm stunned,''' Woody said.
The other four finalists in the 2007 program include Carol Craig, Alfred ''Bud'' Lane III, Michael Pavel and Lillian Moyer.
Craig, Yakama, serves as the public information manager for the Yakama Nation Fish and Wildlife Resource Management Program in Zillah, Wash. She received a nomination for her public education work about salmon recovery, tribal treaty rights and environmental protection.
Lane, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and vice chairman of the Siletz Tribal Council, received a nomination for his work in restoring the Siletz tribal culture.
''It's a great honor, and it's really surprising. I never thought I'd be selected for something like this,'' said Lane, of Siletz.
Lane has taught the Athabaskan language in schools and community classes to all ages since 2003 as well as basket weaving, regalia-making and traditional foods gathering and preservation.
''The purpose of the language program is to revive the language and get it into use again,'' said Lane, who learned the language as a young adult and who has been speaking it since then.
In addition to working for the tribe, Lane serves on the Northwest Native American Basket Weavers Association board of directors.
Pavel, Skokomish, is a Salish tradition bearer, environmental conservationist and community leader. Also a researcher and author, Pavel serves as an associate professor in the department of educational leadership and counseling psychology at Washington State University - Pullman. This year, a book Pavel co-authored, ''The American Indian and Alaska Native Student's Guide to College Success,'' was published.
Moyer, Tahltan, is president of the Tahltan Elders Society of Dease Lake, British Columbia. Moyer has worked to protect the watersheds of the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Skeena and Nass wilderness river systems and was nominated for her work in this area. Moyer also serves as a family support worker for the Tahltan Band Council, having served in that position since 1996.