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Kalle Benallie

The National Congress of American Indians has named the former tribal chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Larry Wright Jr., its new executive director.

Wright will manage “day-to-day operations of the organization and create a strategic pathway to long-term success for NCAI and the NCAI Fund,” according to a news release.

“NCAI is excited to welcome and congratulate Larry Wright, Jr. in his new role within the organization,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said in the release. “His experience advocating on behalf of Tribal Nations coupled with his unique understanding of the critical role NCAI plays to protect and advance tribal sovereignty make him the ideal candidate to lead this organization forward.”

NCAI, which acts on behalf of tribes, was without a CEO since early August after dismissing Dante Desiderio. The Sappony citizen was in the role for less than a year. He was put on administrative leave before the organization's mid-year conference in June.

Wright will report directly to the NCAI Executive Committee.

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(Related: Who will be next? ‘One of the hardest jobs in the world,’ leading the National Congress of American Indians)

Wright has held positions that include being the vice president of the Great Plains Region for the NCAI Executive Committee and director of leadership engagement for the organization, a board member for the National Indian Health Board, chairman of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs Board of Directors and chairman of the Nebraska Inter-Tribal Coalition.

NCAI President Fawn Sharp, March 20, 2022. Sharp is also the Vice President of the Quinault Indian Nation. (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)

He is also a military veteran and previously served as a secondary social studies teacher in Lincoln (Nebraska) Public Schools and owned a general contracting business.

“Larry’s appointment is an example of the NCAI Executive Committee’s thoughtful commitment to building a strong organization from within, and we are confident that NCAI will benefit from Larry’s demonstrated history of leadership and ability to address the needs of Tribal Nations,” Sharp said. “We look forward to working together to build a stronger, more responsive organization that will continue to fiercely defend tribal sovereignty just as we have since our inception in 1944.”

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