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Ecorust Indigenous Leadership Award recipients. (Photo: Liz Devine)

Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award Honors Five, Welcomes Them to Rising Leadership Network

Terri Hansen
11/16/12

Ecotrust, the think tank that promotes sustainable development, has recognized 48 tribal leaders with its Indigenous Leadership Award (ILA) for their dedication to culture and to improving the economic and environmental conditions of their homelands and people.

This year Ecotrust recognized five Native men and women from Salmon Nation who have changed our world—from fielding BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, to officially reclaiming the traditional place name of Salish Sea, according to Rick George, vice president of Ecotrust’s Policy and Indigenous Affairs.

“Ecotrust has invested for two decades alongside Indigenous Peoples throughout Salmon Nation,” George told Indian Country Today Media Network. “The ILA is one way for Ecotrust to give back to our Native neighbors and to promote the accomplishments of these world class leaders to a broader national and international audience.”

Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community from coastal Washington State, is this year’s ILA honoree for his exceptional skill in strengthening economic and environmental conditions among 66 Coast Salish tribal communities.  He received $25,000 at a celebration and dinner at the Portland Art Museum on November 13.

Cladoosby has bridged tribal boundaries, protected indigenous human rights and is committed to rectifying ecological degradation. He has served on the Swinomish Tribal Senate for 28 years, 16 of them as chairman.

He was involved in the formal name change of Pacific Northwest inland waters to the Salish Sea and plays a major role in the annual Salish Coast Gathering.

“It took 25 years to make that happen,” he said at the ceremony, referring to the name change. “We are very tired of people treating the Salish Sea like a toilet bowl.”

Cladoosby and the Swinomish Tribal Community purchased the Swinomish Fish Company in 2009 with this vision, and with hard work increased annual revenue from $3 million in 2009 to $14 million in 2011. The company increased inter-tribal cooperation in the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska through its purchases of 26 tribes’ fish and seafood resources. Their Native Catch seafood brand created a positive image for Indian country seafood processing. Cladoosby won the 2011 American Indian Tribal Leader Award at the Reservation Economic Summit & American Indian Business Trade Fair.

When President Barack Obama held the first government-to-government summit in 2010, Cladoosby was one of 12 tribal leaders chosen from a pool of 565 candidates to attend. He lives with his wife of 34 years, Nina, in La Conner, Washington. They have two daughters, LaVonne and Mary, son-in-law Tyler Long, granddaughter Isabella and new grandson, Nathanael.

“We all have teachings of who we are, where we come from,” Cladoosby said. “We are a functioning element of the ecosystem, and we are more than a functioning element; we are balancing agents. The work that we do to protect our environments is so important. It’s important because it’s part of our teachings; it’s important because it is who we are and where we come from and how we were taught to be.”

The four finalists to each receive $5,000, monies that will enhance their work in furthering their mission to strengthen their communities, were Gail Small, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council (Montana); Jon Waterhouse, executive director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council; Patience Faulkner, Chugach Eskimo, who fosters native culture and community health in Cordova, Alaska; and chairman Micah McCarty of the Makah Tribal Council on the Olympic Peninsula.

Distinguished guests were Clarence Alexander, Jeannette Armstrong, Roberta Conner, Carol Craig, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, Billy Frank Jr., Guujaaw, Bud Lane, Jim Manion, Antone Minthorn, Alan Parker, and Delores Pigsley. Read Ecotrust bios here.

“This is the most heartfelt day in Ecotrust’s year,” said Spencer B. Beebe, Ecotrust’s founder and president. “Year after year after year.”

Peter and Howard Buffett founded Ecotrust’s ILA to honor outstanding leaders in the indigenous communities of Oregon, Washington, California, Western Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Alaska, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, with endowed cash awards for leaders who demonstrate improvement of the social, economic, political and environmental conditions in their homelands.

Ecotrust also brought together 25 former and present ILA honorees to the Indigenous Leaders Council on November 14 to provide guidance and support for tribal programs that deliver equitable, high-impact benefits to people and the natural world.

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