LAPWAI, Idaho -- The past year has seen a number of women rise to top posts
with the Nez Perce Tribe.
The most recent was Yvonne Oberley, who, in early November, was named as
the enterprise executive officer. She joined Rebecca Miles, who was named
to chair the executive committee, and Leslie Hendrick, the first female
chief of the tribal police -- each of whom attained those positions earlier
in the year.
As the EEO, Oberley oversees the management of all tribal enterprises
including the casino, forest products and a tribal convenience store; she
will also work with economic development planners in looking at new
enterprises. She's the first Nez Perce woman to have this responsibility.
Oberley was raised in Wapato on the Yakama Reservation where her father, an
Osage and Comanche from Oklahoma, was with the BIA. She remained there
through her high school graduation, although she's an enrolled Nez Perce.
After graduation, she moved to the Nez Perce reservation and began college
at nearby Lewis & Clark State College. College graduation came with a
degree in business administration and a two-year break from school to work
for the tribe.
She wasn't through with college. She enrolled at the University of Nevada
in Reno, graduating with a master's in business administration with an
emphasis in gaming. "My grandparents helped raise us and always encouraged
us to get an education so we could come back and help our people," Oberley
said. She had spent her early summers with her grandparents near Kooskia,
and she gives them credit for a lot of education by simply listening to
stories her grandmother told as Yvonne drove her around the reservation.
Oberley remained in Reno for six years, getting the experience to
complement the schooling she had received. She worked as a grant writer for
the Reno/Sparks Indian Colony, then in various jobs in casinos untill she
became a shift manager. "I worked all three shifts to learn as much as I
could," she commented. Seeing that her upward mobility was limited, she
quit, returned to the Yakama Reservation and started her own consulting
business which she ran for three years.
The director of games position opened at the Clearwater River Casino on the
Nez Perce reservation. Oberley applied, was hired, and moved back to the
Nez Perce reservation. Her experience in Reno was a big factor in her
selection. "Nez Perce Tribal Enterprise was trying to install an online
gaming system and redo the floor, installing all new machines, but they had
a deadline to meet. They encouraged me to apply, so I did and got the job,"
After just six months, she was encouraged to apply for the EEO position,
the title she now holds. "It's really exciting for me to be here working
with so many tribal members," she said. Her work in Reno had involved
working with many cultures in the casino industry. "It excites me now to
have staff meetings and see so many of my tribal members as managers
sitting around a table helping me make decisions. I don't claim to know
everything and I rely on their experience to help get us through this next
"It's a humbling experience," she continued. "My 60th day was just Jan. 4.
It's going to take a lot of teamwork, and it's a point in my life where I
can really appreciate being given this opportunity. Our primary focus this
coming year will be getting the new casino/hotel up and operating. We're
looking to open during this coming summer."