Courtesy White House
Jodi Gillette, a senior policy advisor, and her family pose with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Jodi Gillette Steps Down as White House Advisor, Accepts New Role


Jodi Archambault Gillette, President Barack Obama’s special assistant for Native American affairs, departed the White House May 14 to accept a new position as policy advisor at the law firm of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP.

Gillette served on the White House’s Domestic Policy Council where she advised the president on issues impacting Indian country.  A citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, she was first appointed to the Obama Administration in February of 2009. 

When announcing her appointment, President Obama said, “Jodi Gillette will be an important member of my administration’s efforts to continue the historic progress we’ve made to strengthen and build on the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal nations to ensure that Native American issues will always have a seat at the table.”

Gillette’s time at the White House and in several federal agencies has been marked by key accomplishments that have helped Native Americans nationwide.

RELATED: Investing in the Future of Tribal Nations

During her six years of service, she worked in several key roles including deputy assistant secretary to the assistant secretary-Indian affairs for policy and economic development in the Interior Department.  Prior to joining the assistant secretary’s staff, she served as deputy associate director of Intergovernmental Affairs and associate director of public engagement, where she was responsible for the communication and interaction between tribal nations and the White House.

Gillette also worked on the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help restore tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit domestic violence crimes against Native American women on tribal lands.

The White House also became more engaged in Indian issues during her tenure.

Jodi Gillette was President Barack Obama’s special assistant for Native American affairs. She left the White House to join Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, LLP as a policy advisor. (Courtesy White House)

In June 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which was designed to break down silos and increase the efficacy of federal agencies serving Indian country.  It also institutionalized the White House Tribal Nations Conference for future Administrations.  So far, President Obama has hosted six White House Tribal Nations Conferences meeting with tribal leaders from throughout the country.

In June 2014, the president and first lady also made a historic visit to Indian country, travelling to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation where they heard from Native American youth.  This recently spurred a new White House Generation Indigenous Initiative focused on improving the lives of Native American youth.

Gillette will be moving back home to North Dakota later this year, and commute to her new role with Sonosky Chambers in Washington, D.C.

Sonosky Chambers partner Mary Pavel said, “At both the White House and the Interior Department, Jodi demonstrated great dedication and skill in her work on critical Indian issues, helping to shape effective Indian policy within the administration.  We are delighted that she is joining our firm, where she will be a tremendous asset to tribal governments across the country.”

Reflecting on her time at the White House, Gillette said she has a few important goals.  “Policy must keep bolstering the ability of tribes to advance self-determination,” she said. “As a country, the United States also must invest in Native youth, must continue to seek ways to be a better partner to Indian Nations. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work within the administration on issues I care about very deeply – issues that impact Indian country. I want to thank President Obama for that opportunity.” 

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