Buffett Award for Leadership honors NFIC staff writer

By Terri C. Hansen
Portland, Oregon (NFIC)

Roberta Conner

Carol Craig, long time staff journalist for News from Indian Country was honored Nov. 27 as a 2007 finalist of the prestigious Buffett Award. The award recognizes Indigenous leadership for her work spanning 16 years in educating the public about tribal treaty rights. She was honored in 2002 as a finalist as well.

But the top 2007 Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership went to Roberta Conner, curator of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Reservation in eastern Oregon. Connor has led the cultural center, which tells the story of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes and the effects of white settlement, since 1998.

Craig, a Yakama Nation member, was information and education coordinator for the Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission; and former public information officer for Yakama Fish and Wildlife. She began reporting for News from Indian Country in 1994. She edited the Yakama publication Sin-Wit-Ki, “All Life on Earth” from 1995 to 2007, and in 1999 she assisted the Makah Nation with media relations as they revived their whale hunting tradition. She continues to educate the public about the whale hunt, and she currently serves on the board of directors of the Salmon Corps.

The Buffett Award recognizes tribal leaders who demonstrate indigenous leadership that improves social, economic, political or environmental conditions. $25,000 is awarded the winner, and each finalist receives $5,000. It has celebrated leaders such as Hilistis Pauline Waterfall, recognized for her work with the Heiltsuk Nation on community health and cultural issues, and John Ward, spokesperson for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation to protect the Taku River ecosystem.

The natural talent and hard won experience of the finalists is simply amazing: David Hatch's effort to recover the sea otter and restore Oregon’s near coast ecosystem through the Elakha Alliance is one; Craig's advocacy in education and outreach programs for native youth at Yakama is another. Phillip Cash-Cash patiently works to help save native languages on the Columbia Plateau.

Billy Frank, Jr. is perhaps the living embodiment of leadership within Salmon Nation. As a result of the Final Jury Panel's consideration of his life's work, the Ecotrust Conference Center now bears his name, the "Billy Frank, Jr.. Conference Center.”

Ecotrust, a Portland-based conservation organization created in 1991 is committed to strengthening communities and the environment from Alaska to California. The organization works in the fisheries, forestry, and food sectors to build a regional economy based on social and ecological opportunities. Ecotrust's Native Programs' projects and services include land repatriation, native youth leadership, education and research, and support of the Elakha Alliance. Its other programs include a youth education and recycling program with the Canoe Journeys, support for Native youth education through scholarships, and innovative research into climate change impacts on indigenous communities.

The Buffett Award was created in 2001 as a three-year commitment by the families of Howard and Peter Buffett. In 2003 Howard Buffett committed to further funding the award with the hope of helping it grow over time. In the next ten years the Buffett Awards will support three generations of Indigenous people. The Fund will ideally underwrite a leadership award for Indigenous youth, as well as a leadership award for Indigenous Elders.

Ecotrust, whose mission is “to build Salmon Nation, a place where economic, ecological, and social conditions are improving, where a ‘conservation economy’ is emerging,” is committed to building an Indigenous Youth Scholarship Program, and a Host Committee of donors and sponsors that will bring leaders together and fund administration and development of the Award.

Elizabeth Woody, director of the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Program, said the awards ceremony provides the opportunity to truly celebrate, experience, and be inspired by these leaders. “It is well attended and anticipated,” she said. “It is held the fall of each year, to coincide with the Annual Ecotrust Board dinner.”

Woody suggests that those interested in attending the invitation-only event check the Ecotrust website, www.ecotrust.org, shortly after the first of the year for the nomination deadline and dinner date. Those interested in attending may contact Woody through the Ecotrust web site for more information.

On the Net:
For information about Ecotrust and the Buffett Award honorees, see www.ecotrust.org/buffettaward.

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