SJCC Celebrates American Indian Heritage Month

American Indian Council for Higher Education of SJECCD in celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, honors American Indian women leaders.

Debra Haaland

Congresswoman Haaland grew up in a military family; her father was a 30-year combat Marine who was awarded the Silver Star Medal for saving six lives during Vietnam, and her mother is a Navy veteran who was a federal employee for 25 years in Indian education. She knows the sacrifices made by military families because her family moved throughout the country during her father’s military service; as a result, she attended 13 different public schools.

As a single mother, she volunteered at her daughter’s pre-school in order to afford an early childhood education. Like many New Mexicans, she had to rely on food stamps at times as a single parent, has lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and struggled to put herself through college.

Through hard work and determination, she earned degrees from the University of New Mexico and UNM Law School. Congresswoman Haaland and her daughter, who recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, are still paying off student loans.

For several years, she ran her own small business producing and canning Pueblo Salsa and later became the first Chairwoman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico.

Deb successfully advocated for the Laguna Development Corporation to create policies and commitments to earth-friendly business practices. Deb is a former tribal administrator and has administered a local service provider for adults with developmental disabilities.

She is a 35th generation New Mexican who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage. After running for New Mexico Lieutenant Governor in 2014, Haaland became the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a State Party. She used her experience reaching out to communities who are often forgotten during the electoral process during the two Obama presidential campaigns. During her time as State Party Chair, she traveled to Standing Rock to stand side-by-side with the community to protect tribal sovereignty and advocate vital natural resources.

Starting in 2016, Haaland has served as an Honorary Commander of Kirtland Air Force Base which gives her a better understanding of its missions and effects on New Mexico’s economy.

After a lifetime of organizing communities to stand up for New Mexico families,   Congresswoman Deb Haaland was elected as one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. She will serve in leadership roles as the 116th Congress Freshman Class Representative to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, House Democratic Region VI Whip (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona) and Deputy Whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019.

The author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, a Rasmuson US Artist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.

Dr. Joely Proudfit

I am a descendant of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians. I hold an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science with emphasis in public policy and American Indian studies from Northern Arizona University and a B.A. in political science with emphasis in public law from California State University Long Beach. I am the Director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center (CICSC) and Department Chair of American Indian Studies at CSU San Marcos.

In addition to my academic positions, I was the first special adviser to the Honorable Cruz M. Bustamante, lieutenant governor of California, for California Indian Sovereign Nations in 2002.

I was also appointed by President Barack Obama to the 2016 National Advisory Council on Indian Education. I am the owner of Naqmayam Communications, an independent, full-service, California Indian-owned and -operated public relations, marketing and advertising agency. Also, I and Chris Eyre (Director/Producer) recently formed The Native Networkers, an alliance to promote American Indian representation throughout the film industry

Sharice Davids 

Representative Davids was raised by a single mother, who served in the Army for 20 years. After graduating from Leavenworth High School, she worked her way through Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City before earning a law degree from Cornell Law School.

As a first generation college student who worked the entire time she was in college, Rep. Davids understands the importance of quality public schools and affordable higher education. It is that foundation that allowed her to go on to a successful career, focused on economic and community development, which included time as a White House Fellow under President Barack Obama.

Rep. Davids wants others to have the same opportunities to achieve their goals, which is why she has centered her career on bringing more opportunities to the middle class. In Congress, Rep. Davids is putting Kansans first, working to limit the influence of special interests and fighting to make health care more affordable and accessible to everyone.

When she was sworn into the 116th Congress, Rep. Davids became one of the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. She sits on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Small Business Committees. She is a resident of Roeland Park.

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