The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Leadership Summit took place February 16-18, at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. The AISES Leadership Summit delivers on strategies that equip Native science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students and leaders with knowledge, tools, and information to succeed within the organizational structures in their work or academic lives. Through sessions and workshops, Leadership Summit participants learn how to fulfill their potential as STEM leaders as they work to meet their career and educational goals.
More than 250 attendees were greeted by the Masters of Ceremonies Dyami Thomas and Rebecca Lynn Kirk who directed a line-up of speakers at the opening ceremony. The welcome address was provided by Mark Macarro, Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. Chairman Macarro spoke about the Indigenous community uniting together because we have cultural knowledge to share with the world. He said there are so many things that connect us. The big picture is greater than the little parts.” He said, “The world that bombards us daily misses that. The big picture is protecting who we are as Indigenous people”. The TM Bird Singers closed out the opening ceremonies with beautiful songs and blessed the gathering.
Several conference attendees toured The Great Oak called Wi’áaşal by the Pechanga people. Wi’áaşal is recognized as the largest naturally growing indigenous coast live oak in the Western United States. Its trunk is over 20-feet in circumference, and the above-ground portion of the tree is nearly 100-feet high.
The Summit held more than 30 sessions that were facilitated by presenters from the federal, corporate, tribal, and nonprofit sector. Conference participants attended networking sessions, daily blessing ceremonies, traditional game demonstrations and talking circles hosted by the AISES Council of Elders.
Among the sessions linked to leadership, two outstanding panel sessions were held that focused on the need for visibility through the 2020 Census and perspectives from tribal leaders for effective leadership.
The first panel, ‘Making Ourselves Visible Through Action in 2020” brought together Erik Stegman Executive Director at the Center for Native American Youth, Crystal Echo Hawk, the Executive Director of IllumiNative and two Native Youth Leaders who spoke about efforts to change the narrative about Indigenous communities through public education campaigns, civic action and the importance of the participating in the 2020 Census.
The second-panel session was a group of tribal leaders that included Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation, Marc Luker Councilman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Stephen Lewis Governor, Gila River Indian Community, and Tishmall Turner Vice Chairwoman, Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians. The panel participants emphasized how to deal with challenges, shared lessons learned, and they provided practical advice to students and professionals.
Making the 2020 AISES Leadership Summit a success is greatly due to our sponsors. This year, our host and presenting sponsor was the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. Topaz Sponsor was Intel; Opal Sponsor was Wells Fargo; and Malachite Sponsors were Amazon, Chevron, Gila River Indian Community, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services and the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, the college student session track was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services provided travel scholarships for students to attend.
AISES is grateful for the partners and sponsors who support activities like mentor match ups, career opportunities, and sessions focused on professional and career development.
As the Leadership Summit ended on Tuesday evening, awards, recognitions and a prayer song were bestowed at the closing ceremony. The 2020 AISES Leadership Summit Rising Leader Award was awarded to Michigan State University student Avery Tilley (Cherokee). Canadian Senior National Student Representative Brielle Thorsen (Saddle Lake Cree Nation) of Queens University in Ontario, Canada, was presented a blanket and plaque in appreciation for serving as the first Canadian student representative for two years. Rebecca Lynn Kirk sang a beautiful and heartwarming prayer song that moved many attendees to tears.
Thank you to all who supported the 2020 AISES Leadership Summit. The 2020 AISES National Conference will be held October 15-17 in Spokane, Washington.
Registration is now open for the conference at conference.aises.org/. The early bird rate is valid until July 15.