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Seven representatives from Tribal nations across Indian Country are joining the executive committee and board of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association.

Founded in 1998, AIANTA works to advance cultural heritage tourism in Native Nations and communities across the United States. 

The AIANTA Board of Directors is composed of representatives from 15 designated regions that represent all the Native Nations in Indian Country. Representatives are elected by their regions and serve a three-year term. Representatives are eligible for re-election at the annual AIANTA conference. 

Each member of the Board of Directors brings expertise and resources to the organization. Many of the board members serve on other national advisory boards, state cabinets and commissions that all work to strengthen tourism across Native Nations and communities. 

“As we look to the future of the travel and tourism industry, it’s imperative that AIANTA’s Board of Directors is represented by the best tourism professionals our Native Nations and communities have to offer,” said AIANTA CEO Sherry L. Rupert in a press release. “I’m thrilled to welcome our new board members and with AIANTA President Travis Owens at the helm, AIANTA will remain the expert in Indigenous tourism across the U.S. as we work together to enhance cultural tourism for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-owned businesses.”

Newly elected AIANTA Executive Committee and Board Members include:

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President Travis Owens (Cherokee Nation)
Owens has served in various roles for AIANTA since 2015 before his new appointment to president. A devoted advocate of cultural heritage tourism, Owens began working for Cherokee Nation Businesses in 2008 and currently serves as vice president of cultural tourism at Cherokee Nation Businesses, managing the tribe’s robust tourism portfolio. Spanning 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma, those efforts include six museums, an interpretive site, a welcome center, research center, art gallery, gift shop and more. He also plays an integral part in the Nation’s approach to the restoration and preservation of historic sites, interpretive planning, cultural art, programs, and events.

Vice President Lora Ann Chaisson (United Houma Nation) - Southeast Region Chaisson is employed with Tribal Solutions Group where she is an Associate. Active in her community and throughout Indian Country, Lora Ann has been a member of the United Houma Nation (UHN) Tribal Council since 2005. She currently serves on the Government Committee and Personnel Committee and has also served as UHN delegate to the National Congress of American Indians for 12 years and was the former Vice Principal Chief of UHN.

Secretary Kate Anderson and returning board member (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) - Southern California Region: Anderson is the Director of Public Relations for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and has more than three decades of experience in multimedia, public relations, marketing, film, and cultural heritage tourism. Her work has included developing a cultural tourism plan for the Tribe and working with partners across the Coachella Valley region in Southern California to put Palm Springs on the map around the world for cultural heritage tourism.

Treasurer Brian Wadsworth (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe) - Great Basin Region: Wadsworth works as the Finance Director for Native Public Media, Inc., a non-profit based in Arizona that provides leadership and strategic approaches to successfully strengthen the Native Broadcast System. Wadsworth proudly serves as the Vice Chair for the Nevada Indian Commission, Vice Chair for the Nevada Indian Territory, and a Board Member on the City of Reno Financial Advisory Board. Wadsworth is also a former Commissioner for the Nevada Commission on Tourism.

Board Member Jamey Cagle (Sitka Tribe of Alaska) - Southeast Alaska Region: Cagle has spent his life and career in various roles at Allen Marine Tours including the role as Senior Vice President of Allen Marine, Inc. In 2010, Jamey played a critical role in the conceptualization, development, and launch of small ship cruise line, Alaskan Dream Cruises and continues to be the primary contact and fosterer of all business relationships with managers and executives of cruise line partners, including Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and many more.

Board Member Sarah Kazhe (Mescalero Apache Tribe) - Southwest Region: Kazhe is the Director of Marketing for the Inn of the Mountain Gods Enterprises, located on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in Southern New Mexico and has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years. She holds a degree from New Mexico State University, a certificate in Cultural Tourism from George Washington University as well as a certificate in Hospitality and Service from Cornell University.

Board Member Jimmy John Thompson (Timbisha Shoshone Tribe) - Central California Region: Thompson is a council member for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe in Bishop, California and previously served as the chairman and vice chairman. He is currently the Board Secretary for the Inter-Tribal Council of California, Inc. His Tribe is located within Death Valley National Park, the only Tribe with Trust Lands inside a National Park. The park is the largest U.S. National Park outside of Alaska.  Jimmy John has been working with partners to ensure that cultural tourism and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe are front and center in the park.

Re-elected and returning to the AIANTA Board includes Kate Anderson (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) representing the Southern California region and Brian Wadsworth (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe) representing the Great Basin Region. 

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