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Fawn Sharp was re-elected to serve as president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the largest national American Indian organization in the United States, on Wednesday, October 13, during the virtual NCAI 78th Annual Convention.

The biennial election was conducted over Zoom.

Sharp ran unopposed and was re-elected by unanimous consent.

During her speech to delegates, Sharp referenced the difficult time Indian Country experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic and how NCAI helped secure unprecedented funds of $30 billion for Indian Country.

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She talked about the need for the NCAI to work with tribal nations as the federal investigation of Indian boarding schools is underway.

Even with the difficult days, Sharp says Indian Country should rely on the spirituality found among tribal communities.

“We have the light from our Creator, we have our prayers, and we have the light of justice and truth,” Sharp said.

After beign sworn in on Thursday, Sharp said she is honored and humbled by the faith entrusted in her by tribal leaders, elders and youth from every section of Indian Country. 

 “We have been through so much the last few years, and the challenges on the horizon seem even greater, but we are the generation of leaders our ancestors were waiting for. Thanks to the infinite grace and mercy of our Creator, I believe that together we will make the coming years an era of reconciliation, restoration, and healing for Indigenous peoples here and around the world," Sharp said.

Sharp is the current vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington. She previously served as president of her tribe. Other past positions Sharp has held include managing attorney and lead counsel; staff attorney for the Quinault Indian Nation; administrative law judge for the Washington state Department of Revenue – Tax Appeals Division; Quinault Tribal Court Associate Judge; and Counsel for Phillips, Krause & Brown.

A human rights attorney, former judge, and intelligence officer, Sharp has earned degrees from Oxford University, the University of Washington, and Gonzaga University. Sharp has served as both president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and vice president of NCAI.

The office of first vice president of NCAI was the only competitive race this year. Three candidates ran for the office. They are Juana Majel-Dixon (Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians); Mark Maccaro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; and Lance Gumbs, ambassador of the Shinnecock Nation.

The winner for the office of vice president was announced early afternoon on Thursday during the fourth general session of the convention. 

Maccaro won over 50 percent of the votes. The breakdown of the votes were: Maccarro with 5,313 votes (51.6 percent); Gumbs with 3,022 votes (29.4 percent); and Majel-Dixon with 1,955 votes (19.0 percent).

“I’m deeply grateful for the support, trust, and confidence from Indian Country. I especially thank Lance Gumbs and Juana Majel-Dixon for their candidacies and voices,” Macarro commented. “I’m ready to get to work with NCAI and look forward to serving Indian Country in protecting and advancing our tribal sovereignty and communities.”

For the office of recording secretary, Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, ran unopposed and was therefore declared the winner of the office by acclamation. He most recently served as first vice president of NCAI, but was term limited out from that position.

“I pledge to advocate for your tribe as strongly as I fight for my own to uphold the treaty and trust responsibility…I have been a strong voice on advanced appropriations, and mandatory and full funding,” Payment said during his acceptance speech. “I have testified in Congress including the Senate Indian Affairs Committee three of the last four times on behalf of NCAI in advocacy of all tribes everywhere regarding federal appropriations.”

Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, was elected treasurer for a full-term. She has served as treasurer of the organization after the previous treasurer resigned last year. Holsey ran unopposed.

“This pandemic taught us about resilience and fortitude, but also about adaptation,” Holsey said. “As we move forward, it is critical as the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization to realign our priorities to meet the enormous needs of our Tribal Nations with inclusion, transparency, and mindfulness as our organization continues to help build a stronger and brighter Indian Country.”

Originally planned for Sacramento, NCAI decided to conduct this year’s convention virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The NCAI Executive Board Officers are joined by Regional Vice Presidents and Alternates from the 12 NCAI regions. Elected by their respective Regional Caucuses, the Regional Vice Presidents and Alternates serve alongside the Executive Board Officers for a two-year term. The 2021-2023 Regional Area Vice Presidents and Alternates are listed below:

Alaska Vice-President: Mike Williams

Alaska Alternate: Rob Sanderson, Jr.

Northwest Vice-President: Melvin Sheldon, Jr.

Northwest Alternate: Leonard Forsman

Great Plains Vice-President: Harold Frazier

Great Plains Alternate: Kevin Killer

Western Vice-President: Stephen Roe Lewis

Western Alternate: Bernadine Burnette

Southwest Vice-President: Joe Garcia

Southwest Alternate: J. Michael Chavarria

Southern Plains Vice-President: Gonzo Flores

Southern Alternate: Nita Battise

Midwest Vice-President: Rebecca Crooks-Stratton

Midwest Alternate: Shelley Buck

Eastern Oklahoma Vice-President: Norman Hildebrand

Eastern Oklahoma Alternate: David Woerz

Pacific Vice-President: Jack Potter

Pacific Alternate: Erica Rae Macias

Northeast Vice-President: Lance Gumbs

Northeast Alternate: Rodney Butler

Southeast Vice-President: Reggie Tupponce

Southeast Alternate: Lora Ann Chaisson

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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].