Tribal Professionals Cohort

The Native Nations Institute's (NNI) Tribal Professionals Cohort (TPC) is year-long professional development program designed to equip Native leaders with knowledge and tools for Native Nation Building. With a focus on Nation Building principles - sovereignty, capable governing institutions, cultural match, strategic orientation, and public-spirited leadership - participants will explore how to strengthen these critical elements of their nation as they work to lead change in their communities.

The TPC was created in 2016 to respond to the realities, challenges, and opportunities of Tribal Professionals serving Native communities, the TPC program aims to deepen participants' commitment to growth, innovation, and networking. Participants will strengthen their leadership skills, build their advocacy skills, cultivate a network of Tribal professionals who support each other's career growth - all while advancing their own professional, personal, and political capacity to tackle community challenges.

TPC members will receive:

  • FULL registration for three January In Tucson (JIT) continuing education courses on Indigenous governance, law and policy. (2022 courses are both online and hybrid.) The NNI TPC will participate in the University of Arizona's distinguished Indigenous Governance Program's JIT event. JIT is possible through a partnership between University of Arizona's Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program and the University of Arizona's Native Nations Institute. Completion of three courses garners them credit towards a Continuing Education Certificate in Indigenous Governance.
  • FREE registration for quarterly seminars on Native Nation Building.


APPLICATIONS FOR TPC 2023 will open Fall 2022



  • Darrien Benally (Navajo Nation)
  • Laverne Dallas (Hopi Tribe of Arizona)
  • Richard Di Valentino (White Mountain Apache Tribe)
  • Lydia Locklear (Lumbee Tribe)
  • Heather Mars-Martins (Narragansett Indian Nation)
  • Daraxa Mattice (Tolowa/Maidu/Yurok)
  • Alli Moran (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe)
  • Crystal O’Grady (Monacan Indian Nation)
  • Thor Peterson (Pueblos of Acoma/Laguna)
  • Marie Zephire  (Oglala Sioux Tribe)  


  • Elizabeth Drost (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe-Grand Portage Band)
  • Jeffrey Harris (Catawba Indian Nation, aka Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina)
  • Marnella Kucate-Yepa (Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation)
  • Danielle Mayberry (Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada)
  • Cynthia Naha (Hopi Tribe of Arizona)
  • Natalia Sells (Navajo Nation)
  • Kim Zahne-Tacheene (Hopi Tribe of Arizona)


  • Levi Brown (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe), Tribal Affairs Director, Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Greta Conica (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe), Cannonball District Chairwoman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe/Cannonball District
  • Devery Fairbanks (White Earth Ojibwe), Faculty, Red Lake Nation College
  • Daniel Guzman (Oneida Nation), Councilman, Oneida Nation
  • Shandiin Herrera (Navajo Nation), Policy Analyst & Project Consultant, Lead for America Hometown Fellowship/ Oljato Chapter of the Navajo Nation
  • Candida Hunter (Hualapai Tribe), Senior Director of Tribal Affairs, First Things First
  • Jamie Navenma (Hopi Tribe), Executive Director, Northern Circle Indian Housing Authority
  • Chastity Sandoval (Navajo Nation), Victim Advocate, Nambe Pueblo Healthy Families Services
  • Melissa Tso (Navajo Nation), Social Worker, Albuquerque Public Schools Title 1 McKinney-Vento Program


  • Cesar Alvarez (Three Affiliated Tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation), Intergovernmental Affairs, Three Affiliated Tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
  • Melissa Borton (Chignik Lagoon Tribe), Tribal Administrator, Chignik Lagoon Tribe
  • Thomasene Cardona (Yavapai-Apache Nation), Tribal Councilmember, Yavapai-Apache Nation
  • Derrick Leslie (White Mountain Apache Nation), Higher Education Coordinator, White Mountain 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


  • 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 

A Tribal Professionals Cohort Model:

  • Cohort experience with a small group of cross-sector tribal professionals (10 or less) from across U.S. Indian Country who demonstrate a career commitment to serving Native communities, andan interest in finding creative solutions to the most pressing issues in Indigenous governance.
  • Interactive cohort events that include an orientation, JIT courses, seminars with NNI professionals, and networking opportunities throughout the year. In 2022, these events will largely be virtual. (See Course Schedule for dates and times.)
    • Orientation and pre-JIT NNI Nation Building session (2.5hours).
    • Four quarterly seminars (2 hours each).
    • Weekly check-ins with NNI staff/faculty during JIT and monthly thereafter.
  • A first-rate educational experience of instruction on a number of Indigenous governance topics taught by world-renowned professors. This includes:
    • Free registration for three(3)JIT continuing education courses on Indigenous governance = 13 hours of instruction, valued at $2,250. All JIT courses count toward a professional development Continuing Education Certificate from the Native Nations Institute.
    • Free post-JIT NNI Nation Building sessions throughout the year that deepen participants knowledge and skills in Native Nation Building.
  • Guest speakers that include experts and practitioners in tribal governance and tribal leaders.
  • Intentional applicable learning, from the comfort of your chosen location.
  • Discounted CEU registration rates at future JIT sessions.

What You’ll Gain

  • Better understanding of Nation Building principles.
  • Enhanced ability to effect positive change at work and in the community.
  • Enhanced leadership abilities and a suite of leadership tools.
  • Expanded professional networks.

  • U.S. citizens of any U.S. tribe (Federal or State Recognized) who are interested in learning more about Indigenous governance.
  • Individuals who are current tribal government practitioners, community leaders, and individuals who can demonstrate the ability to take the information they learn back to their own tribal communities are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Individuals who are able to attend the orientation/pre-session, three JIT courses and four quarterly seminars. Attendance at all sessions is required for successful completion of the program.

  • Orientation and pre-JIT Nation Building Session (December 16, 2021,from 3-5:30pm AZ/Mountain Standard)
  • JIT Welcome Reception (Date To be Determined in January)
  • JIT Courses including required online Rebuilding Native Nations Intro Course (January 3 to 11, 2022 AZ/Mountain Standard)
  • Quarterly seminars held from 3:00 pm –5:00 pm on:
    • February 16, 2022, AZ/Mountain Standard Time
    • April 20, 2022, AZ/Pacific Daylight Savings Time
    • July 20, 2022, AZ/Pacific Daylight Savings Time
    • October 19, 2022, AZ/Pacific Daylight Savings Time

Course fees waived! Registration of $2,250 for three JIT courses is covered if accepted into the Tribal Professionals Cohort and quarterly seminars are at no cost. A limited number of travel scholarships are available, please inquire if interested.

Questions & Contact

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