Tribal Professionals Cohort

Indigenous Governance Program Tribal Professionals Cohort

Each year, full funding for three January In Tucson (JIT) courses is offered to a small group of tribal professionals (10 or fewer) who demonstrate a career commitment to serving Native communities, and an interest in learning how they can strengthen tribal governance. 

Completing these courses will earn an individual cohort member credit towards a Continuing Education Certificate in Indigenous Governance from the Native Nations Institute. Additionally, the cohort will receive supplemental educational materials, and an opportunity to share what they’ve learned with one another throughout the year.


  • Free registration for three JIT continuing education courses on Indigenous governance;
  • A travel stipend to help defray the costs associated with attending the courses at the University of Arizona in Tucson;
  • A first-rate educational experience, which includes instruction on a number of Indigenous governance topics taught by world-renowned professors; and
  • The ability to connect with other Arizona tribal practitioners who are trying to strengthen sovereignty in their own communities.


U.S. Citizens of any U.S. tribe (Federal or State Recognized) who are interested in learning more about Indigenous governance may apply to participate in the Tribal Professionals Cohort. Individuals who are current tribal government practitioners and individuals who can demonstrate the ability to take the information they learn back to their own tribal communities are especially encouraged to apply.


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  • Melissa Borton (Chignik Lagoon Tribe), Tribal Administrator, Chignik Lagoon Tribe
  • Thomasene Cardona (Yavapai-Apache Nation), Tribal Councilmember, Yavapai-Apache Nation
  • Pah-tu Pitt (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) Community Engagement Specialist, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
  • Vanessa Vance (Wichita and Affiliated Tribes), Tribal Treasurer, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes
  • Derrick Leslie (White Mountain Apache Nation), Higher Education Coordinator, White Mountain Apache Nation
  • Cesar Alvarez (Three Affiliated Tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation), Intergovernmental Affairs, Three Affiliated Tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
  • Leonard Bruce (Gila River Indian Community), Program Evaluator, Gila River Indian Community
  • Shelly Diaz (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), Commissioner of Administration, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Bradley Harrington (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), Commissioner of Natural Resources, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Bridget Valenzuela (Pascua Yaqui Tribe), MSPI Coordinator, Pascua Yaqui Tribe / Centered Spirit
  • Desirie Wilson (Red Lake Nation), Administrative Officer, Red Lake Nation
  • Valerie Melendez (Northern Paiute, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony), Tribal Economic Development Director, Northern Nevada Development Authority
  • Nicole Charley (Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs), Admin. Assistant, Fish Management, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
  • Carmenlita Chief (Navajo Nation), Research Specialist, University of Arizona
  • Mikhail Sundust (Akimel O’otham, Pee Posh), Reporter, Gila River Indian Community
  • Juanita Francis (Navajo Nation), Faculty Member, Diné College
  • Rachel Hood (Yavapai-Apache Nation), Councilwoman, Yavapai-Apache Nation
  • Eleanor YellowRobe (White Clay Gros Ventre), President, Native Assets Accounting
  • Wayne Martin (Tohono O'odham/Navajo), Vice Chairman for Pisinemo District, Tohono O'odham Nation
  • Rosa Long (Cocopah Indian Tribe), Councilwoman, Cocopah Indian Tribe
  • Adrian Dotson (Navajo) Outreach Specialist for ETD, Inc., and Media Relations Partner for Rez Media 

“When you’re here, you meet people from all different communities...around the world. That’s learning that you can’t get in very many places.”

Joy Cramer (Sagkeeng First Nation), Director of Indigenous Programs, Simon Fraser University