PORTLAND, Ore. - When you talk to Lyn Dennis it's all about sovereignty and
empowerment and economic development in Indian country. Member of the Lummi
Nation and Tahltan Band in British Columbia with 10 years in public
relations and policymaking experience, Dennis came on board as executive
director for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians late last summer.
She considers the five-plus years she served as executive director of the
Northwest Alliance of Gaming (now called Washington Indian Gaming
Association) where she advocated at regional and national levels on behalf
of the tribes a milestone in her career.
Since Dennis has been in Portland at the ATNI office she has been
acclimating to her new position. At the request of Mike Marchand, the
co-chair of the ATNI Economic Development Committee, Dennis organized an
economic development retreat in Spokane, Wash., prior to the holidays.
There leaders discussed how a unified front will work to further the goals
of tribes throughout the Northwest, a region Harvard's Kennedy School of
Government has noted as one that is distinguishing itself as far as tribal
economic growth. Satisfied with the initial planning phase, tribal
representatives will come together to address further details in early
February 2005 at the first of ATNI's yearly conferences.
Dennis has also taken time to acquaint herself with other tribal
organizations in the Northwest so ATNI can continue its cooperative
relationship with groups focused on specific activities including fishing
rights, child welfare, health, business and gaming. "It was informative to
go down and meet the executive director of the Portland area Indian Health
Board," said Dennis. "I toured the facility and came away with a better
understanding of their resources and priorities. That enables us at ATNI to
assist in addressing the issues that are key to tribes."
The mission of ATNI is to cultivate unity amongst the Indians of the
Pacific Northwest. More, a key goal is to make it easy for tribes to stay
informed. Hence the annual conferences - three each year.
In preparing for this February's conference Dennis has been following the
lead of ATNI president and chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Ernie
Stensgar. She's organized panels for various committees and scheduled
speakers for topics of current interest. Robert Whitener of the Squaxin
Island Tribe, for example, will talk about his tribe's cigarette
manufacturing business. And in the same venue, Danny Jordan will describe
the 70 Indian-owned businesses in his northern California homeland of the
Hoopa Valley Tribe.
Lest the ATNI start sounding like Indian, Inc., Dennis pointed out that 15
committees focused on sovereignty, education, health, natural resources,
telecommunications, among other things, will meet. And representatives from
the U.S. Forest Service along with the senior tribal liaison from
Department of Defense, Paul Lumley, will be at the conference to discuss
sacred issues related to funerary sites in the region. Finally, Dennis has
planned a fashion show featuring clothes from Lady Palouse Creations, an
Indian-owned business in eastern Washington state.
Once the conference is over, Dennis will be back at the drawing board
working to implement the decisions of tribal leaders as articulated at the
February meeting. In particular, she will work on what's termed as the ATNI
think tank concept, a plan by which tribal leaders are committed to
unifying themselves and taking proactive stands on issues of importance in