Category: News

NCAIED Recognizes 40 under 40

The winners ranged from practicing attorneys to business entrepreneurs to medical doctors

MESA, Ariz. – In celebration of their 40th anniversary year, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) will honor 40 existing and emerging American Indian professionals under the age of 40 at the black-tie Native American 40 Under 40 Recognition Reception to be held at this year’s Indian Progress in Business Event (INPRO) in Tulsa, OK, on September 18.

New to INPRO this year, the “Native American 40 Under 40” award winners are young American Indian professionals from across the nation who has demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication to achieve impressive and significant contributions in their businesses, communities, and to Indian Country.

The Native American 40 were nominated and selected based on their demonstration of leadership, initiative and dedication in propelling native businesses and communities towards further progress throughout Indian Country.

The 2009 winners ranged from practicing attorneys to business entrepreneurs to medical doctors. The winners had to be nominated for the award and then selected by a panel of representatives from the NCAIED. This is the first year that the NCAIED has awarded the 40 under 40 honors.

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Spirit Catcher

Belonging to the Badger and Spider clans of the Hopi Tribe has always been a source of pride to Nikishna Polequaptewa ’05, perhaps because he knows what it’s like to be a tribe of one. His mother left home when he was a baby; his father went to prison when he was 3; and he grew up living in foster homes or with relatives on and off the Arizona reservation.“Even though I moved around, I knew my American Indian identity,” Polequaptewa says. “I always felt closely tied to my reservation, my tribe and its customs.”

Today, as director of UCI’s new American Indian Resource Program, he works to instill the same sense of pride and belonging in American Indian students at UCI and in Southern California’s elementary and high schools.

Nikishna Polequaptewa Spirit Catcher

“I want American Indian students to have the kind of role models and resources I didn’t have,” he says.

Established by the Office of Student Affairs, the resource program aims to increase the number of American Indian students at UCI by reaching out to students in kindergarten through community college. Polequaptewa also wants to offer current students and alumni access to campus events that highlight relevant issues and customs. A special graduation ceremony to be held in May, for example, provides recognition to the accomplishments of American Indian students.

Outreach projects focus on preparing young students for university life. The FIRE Mentorship Program encourages American Indian high school students to attend college. Summer academies introduce high school and transfer students to UCI, and an Anteater Bridge program launches sixth- through eighth-grade students on the path to academic success. Polequaptewa manages all of that.

He knows firsthand the importance of outreach. While in high school, he attended UCI’s American Indian Summer Institute in Computer Sciences residential program. He also signed up for the Summer Science Academy sponsored by the California Alliance for Minority Participation. In both programs, he found mentors who helped him gain practical skills, such as how to build Web sites and become a successful student.

“I always knew I’d go to college, even though I had no parents or way to pay for it,” he says. “I did it by doing the best I could at school.”

He enrolled in UCI’s information and computer science program, switching majors to environmental analysis and design to “build things that help people directly.”

He served as American Indian Student Association president all four years, with only a few active members to help him tutor high school students, expand summer programs, stage the annual UCI powwow in June, and present workshops to elementary and middle school children to “let them know the culture’s still alive.”

“Nikishna has never forgotten his origins. His spiritual connection to the Hopi Tribe is a big part of who he is. And he’s a great mentor. He’s inspired a lot of American Indian students to look at UCI. The program he started is so innovative; it’s put UCI on the map.”

– Kika Friend, California Alliance for Minority Participation director

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Program develops leadership skills for Native American staffers

Nikishna Polequaptewa, director of the American Indian Resource Program at UC Irvine, has been selected as the first fellow for the UC Leadership Fellows Program.The fellowship’s goal is to help nurture talented Native American staff members within the UC system for senior-level administration positions, which will help the University of California diversify its leadership to reflect the students and communities it serves, said Joseph Castro, vice chancellor for student academic affairs at UC San Francisco, who is helping to develop the program and is serving as a mentor.

“It’s clear that we haven’t yet achieved that goal,” Castro said. “One area of focus that’s needed is to make sure that Native communities are represented at the highest levels of the university.”

Native Americans are one of the most underrepresented groups among UC staff members. The idea for a fellowship to prepare candidates for top positions was sparked after Castro spoke on a panel in 2010 about leadership at the Native American Professional Development Conference, a statewide event co-sponsored by the UC American Indian Counselors and Recruiters Association and the UC Council of Vice Chancellors of Student Affairs.

One of the things Castro suggested for developing future leaders was mentoring from senior executives, which led to an effort to create a formal mentorship program for Native American staff members at UC.

“That’s why I was interested in designing this program,” Castro said. “(The fellowship) is creating an opportunity for people like Nikishna, talented professionals, to get a broad sense of the university and prepare for leadership positions at an even higher level.”

Polequaptewa was initially reluctant to accept the offer to serve as the inaugural fellow, saying he wanted to help build the opportunity for someone else. But the group organizing the fellowship persuaded him to do it because his exemplary experience, and his background as the NAPDC 2011 Native American Professional of the Year and as chair of the systemwide UC American Indian Counselors & Recruiters Association, could be beneficial in designing the fellowship for future years.

“I’m not just trying to better myself, but to find out how best to operate within the institutional framework to create improve services that actually matter to people and make a difference in their lives,” Polequaptewa said.

Polequaptewa is a 2005 UC Irvine graduate and the founding director of the campus’ American Indian Resource Program, established in 2007 to provide support for students and encourage more Native Americans to attend college. It does outreach to high schools and runs a summer science camp to give students a taste of college.

As a UC Irvine student, Polequaptewa was president of the campus American Indian Student Association, which was active in mentoring Native students. He is an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe of northeastern Arizona and is of the Badger and Spider clans.

For his fellowship, Polequaptewa started monthly visits to UCSF in January to spend a few days working with Castro, who is serving as a fellowship mentor this year. Some of the skills a good leader needs are the ability to work effectively with a wide range of people, to have an open mind to innovations and have an excellent understanding of the financial aspects of leading and managing university programs, Castro said.

“There are few who possess the unique personal experience and the professional background and skills that he brings,” Castro said of Polequaptewa. “That’s a huge asset for UCSF and the UC system and a great benefit of this program. While he’s learning some new things, we’re learning from him. This makes it a mutual beneficial experience.”

So far, Polequaptewa said he’s been getting familiar with different aspects of UCSF and learning about the nuances of administration in the UC system, the importance of having a vision and value of approaching things from a team perspective.

“It’s kind of like being a conductor in an orchestra,” Polequaptewa said. “You don’t have to play every instrument for them, but you have to get the musicians in sync for a concert to be performed.”

To provide more practical experience, the plan is for the fellow to work on a project for a year. Polequaptewa will assist UCSF in developing its new multicultural resource center.

“It’s more real-life experiences,” Polequaptewa said. “This is what really happens, the how, when, why and the complexity … I get to ask a lot of questions about the circumstances surrounding senior management decision-making processes.”

The fellowship has the support of the UC Council of Vice Chancellors of Student Affairs, which Castro chairs. If everything works well in this pilot year, the plan for 2013 and beyond is to have a formal application process and have the fellowship move to a different campus each year.

“We’re trying to create a pool of qualified individuals who bring a unique perspective to problem solving,” Polequaptewa said “The goal is to have people ready to be considered for these management positions.”

– By Harry Mok, UC Office of the President, Wednesday, April 4, 2012 Harry Mok is a principal editor in the UC Office of the President’s Integrated Communications group. For more news, visit the UC Newsroom or follow us on Twitter.

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Helping native people, one student at a time

Cheyenne Reynoso, a senior at Orange County High School of the Arts and an American Indian, says meeting Nikishna Polequaptewa changed her life.

“He’s one of my role models,” Reynoso says

She met him through the American Indian Summer Academy, a free one-week residential program offered through UCI’s Center for Educational Partnerships that introduces high school students to college life. The experience inspired her to apply to UCI. She is one of 66 American Indians admitted to UCI for fall 2008; she plans to major in anthropology.

“I’m a first-generation college student, and I had no idea how to apply to college,” she says. “Without Nikishna, I would not have known what to do.”

Hopi Leadership Program participants announced

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. – The evening of Sept. 13 marked the beginning of the Hopi Leadership Program. A small reception was held for the new participants, program alumni, family members, Hopi Foundation staff and Board of Trustees. The intimacy of the small group allowed for ice breaker activities in which all attendees learned more about one another.

This third program will be different from the two previous programs in that the Leadership Program alumni will play a larger role in facilitating and leading session activities.

The “Getting to Know You” session held on Sept. 14 was facilitated by Lisa Lomavaya with afternoon activities led by Kassondra Yaiva, both alumnae of the 2008-2009 Program. The “Mentorship” session held on Sept. 15 was facilitated by Laurel Sekakuku, an alumnus of the inaugural 2006-2007 Program and current Hopi Leadership Program Coordinator.

Nikishna Hopi Leadership Program
Hopi Leadership Program Participants

By giving back to the Leadership Program and the community in this way, Hopi Foundation staff is able to see the growth of past participants. Giving back also provides motivation to current participants to see their potential upon completion of the Program.

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Fate of Hopi newspaper still uncertain

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. – On May 13, the Hopi Tribal Council passed a resolution to start the Hopi Tutuveni newspaper after it was suspended in 2009 “in an attempt [to] improperly restrict and withhold information from the Hopi people” according to the resolution.

Seven months later, no newspaper has been printed after the Chairman was “directed to carry out this resolution in such a way that begins the proper publication of the Tutuveni.”

In archaic times the term Tutuveni was used to describe petroglyphs on cliffs and rocks throughout the southwest. This was the ancient way of communication during the migrations and ceremonial purposes of the Hopi people.

Petroglyphs marked the clans that had gone through the area or explained what may have occurred in a particular village or area for others to know what happened. This also was a way to put into writing the ancient claim to the land by Hopi people and their ancestors. Desecration of these rock writings is akin to erasing the history of the ancient people of the southwest.

The Tutuveni newspaper was therefore a cherished publication of the Hopi people, but due to the political turmoil in 2009, the paper ceased operation due to some harsh criticism by the Hopi Tribal government. Many articles were written in Hopi, which was a unique way to communicate to the Hopi people. One item of interest was the Hopi search word puzzle that had Hopi words to look for in the puzzle.

Hopi people looked forward to the newspaper every Thursday to read about the Hopi community. It provided information to people outside the reservation as well since there was no online format.

Nikishna Polequaptewa from the University of California at Irvine says he has created a template for an online version of the Tutuveni that he presented to the Chairman for consideration. He explained with this template, an online version of the newspaper could be established with ease, much like other publications.

In the past, Chairman Shingoitewa commented that he wanted to see the paper started in September. However, there has been no change in its current status. He also remarked that he was looking for an editor for the paper, which has presented a challenge as well.

The resolution passed in May directs the establishment of an editorial board made up of “one person selected by the Tribal Council, one person selected by the Chairman, and one person selected by the Chief Justice of the Appellate Court … to ensure the Tutuveni is operated in a professional and efficient manner in accordance to industry standards.”

Again, however, there is no word as to whether this editorial board has been established.

Finally, the resolution “appropriates available funds as determined by the Chairman of the Tribe.” These funds may be available to help start up the newspaper again, but until then, the Hopi community must rely on other publications – such as the Navajo-Hopi Observer – to receive information about their communities.

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Staff member wins ‘Native American 40 Under 40′ honor

Nikishna Polequaptewa, director of the American Indian Resource Program at UC Irvine, has been selected for “Native American 40 Under 40″ recognition by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. The honor, new this year, is reserved for outstanding young Native Americans who have distinguished themselves in their community and/or profession. Recipients will be feted at a special reception prior to the Indian Progress in Business awards banquet Sept. 18 in Tulsa, Okla. A Hopi tribe member, Polequaptewa graduated from UCI in 2005 and earned the campus’s 2008 Living Our Values Award for his efforts to “create an American Indian presence on campus and in the community.”


American Indian Lecture

UCI to kick off Distinguished American Indian Lecture Series with a talk on the history of Indian casino gaming and its impact on economic sovereignty.

UCI’s American Indian Resource Program is sponsoring the Distinguished American Indian Lecture Series, which aims to enhance understanding and challenge common conceptions about contemporary Native American sovereignty. Directed by Nikishna Polequaptewa, AIRP provides academic support services for native students from K-Ph.D. and beyond, with the goal of increasing the number of American Indian students attending and graduating from institutions of higher education. “Helping students believe in and achieve their dreams is my greatest goal,” Polequaptewa says. Since its inception in 2007, the American Indian student population at UCI has grown to more than 100, representing a 200 percent increase in freshmen and a 300 percent increase in transfer students.

The lecture, made possible by sponsorships from campus departments and private foundations, will begin with a blessing by Anthony Rivera Jr., chairman of the Acjachemen tribe based in San Juan Capistrano.


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