The Na'ah Illahee Community

Our Staff

Ashley Alvarez

Unangax/Aleut

Ashley is Unangax (Aleut) and Filipina on her mother's side and African American on her father's side. She grew up in Bellingham Washington with her grandparents and was involved in her local Unangax/Aleut community through a Unangan dance group, Sngagim Axasniikangin (Dream Dancers). As a first generation college student and Gates Millennium Scholar Ashley attended Western Washington University and earned a Bachelor's of Arts in Human Services. In 2015, she earned her Masters in Social Work from University of Washington with a concentration in Community-Centered Integrative Practice.

Ashley's first connection with Na'ah Illahee Fund was joining the Ahdanehi Womxn's Giving Circle and then later earned her Permaculture Design Certification through the Yahowt Permaculture Program. She has a passion for plants, food, and all things social justice. She is very excited and full of gratitude for the opportunity to work at Na'ah Illahee Fund. As Yahowt Program Coordinator. Ashley hopes to contribute to the work many activists, community members and ancestors have done in protecting Mother Earth for our current and future generations.

Susan Balbas

Cherokee and Yaqui Nations descendant

Co-founder and Executive Director, community organizer, Susan holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Teaching. From 2007-2012, she was a training and technical assistance specialist for multiple tribal youth programs for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Tribal Youth Programs through Education Development Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Boston.

Ms. Balbas carries valuable expertise in all levels of nonprofit operations and management. Susan has been an independent consultant working with tribes, artists and nonprofit organizations, the Chief Development Officer at United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in Seattle, Development and Donor Education Coordinator at Changemakers Foundation in San Francisco, Executive Director at the NAYA Youth and Family Center in Portland, Outreach Director at the Western Water Alliance in Seattle where she was the primary researcher on water and related environmental issues. Mother of three and grandmother of three, Susan has studied extensively with herbalists, is an avid gardener, cook, and a voracious reader of historical novels. She currently serves on the board of the Potlatch Fund in Seattle.

Lindsay Goes Behind

Alabama/Chickasaw/Powhatan Renape

Lindsay Goes Behind has over 17 years of experience working in and out of Indian country supporting and advocating for the health, wellness, and systemic change needed for our children and families to be well, whole, and connected to our land and cultures. Prior to joining Na'ah Illahee as Administrative Coordinator, Lindsay served as the Health Policy Manager for the Native American Youth and Family Center as well as Policy Coordinator for the Future Generations Collaborative, based in Portland, OR.

Lindsay holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University Washington where she studied community based participatory research and community organizing. Lindsay developed her passion for policy, systemic change, and social justice work in the early days of her social work career as an Indian Child Welfare worker for the Lummi Nation. Lindsay is Alabama/Chickasaw/Powhatan Renape. She is the proud mother of 1 son and 2 daughters and Auntie to many nieces. In her spare time, Lindsay drums with her family drum, Flickertail, supports healthy native pregnancies and birth as an International Center for Traditional Childbearing certified Doula, gathers and makes traditional medicine, beads and embroiders, and feeds any and all who come through her family's door.

Carrie Chesnik

Oneida

Carrie is an Oneida Nation Wisconsin tribal member on her mother's side, and Slovenian on her fathers. She is currently a Restorative Justice Co-Coordinator in Na'ah Illahee Fund's Community Connections program. She has an undergraduate degree in English with middle school and high school teaching experience, and current teaching certification. She has a passion for serving youth. Challenging systemic racism in educational institutions is one way to stand for them. Carrie earned a Master's Degree in Ecological Planning and Urban Sustainability from Antioch University Seattle.

She was involved in President's Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet Antioch University Sustainability Task Force.In 2005 she won a Photojournalism fellowship from the German Marshall Fund to travel to Europe in support of nine newspaper reporters working to broaden understanding between the EU and the US. She is an internationally published photographer. She has lived in the backcountry of Idaho's Frank Church River of No Return wilderness and has shared survival skills with youth and young adults on the wild and scenic St. Croix River in Wisconsin. Carrie also has a passion for traditional foods and medicine in service to better health for Native people.

Talia London

Unangax/Mixed

Talia London was born and raised on the Lummi Nation. Her family is from the Unangax Village of Nikolski. Talia is the community connections co-coordinator of the Na’ah Illahee fund. She is building a restorative justice program that is culturally responsive to Native youth in King County schools, preparing to work with six schools, and offer after school programs for Native youth, and restorative justice practice. She is currently pursuing her PhD in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is interested in supporting Native people (Native women specifically) to get their teaching certificates in order to teach in their own communities. She enjoys facilitating photography, film making and digital storytelling workshops with young people, in order to take charge of our own representations and stories and narratives.

Shawn Peterson

Nuu-cha- nuulth First Nation of Canada

Shawn is originally from Kirkland, Washington and currently lives in Everett with her family and two young boys. She holds a bachelor's degree in Community Psychology with a minor in Human Rights from the University of Washington Bothell. Her work in the Native community started when she was an undergraduate. She volunteered her time on a campus initiative, Tribal Education Network or T-E- N that aimed to bring higher education curriculum to Washington state reservations via a distant learning model. She also helped launch a yearly event that brought Native youth from all over Washington State to campus for a day to learn about college and the importance of a higher education. This event continues today.

Shawn started working at Na'ah Illahee Fund in 2015 and is currently the Program Coordinator for the youth program, Native Girls Code. Shawn is passionate about working with youth and young girls. Her goal is to provide opportunities for them to find their passions and success in life. Shawn believes that it is vital for young Native women to have a healthy and strong Native identity, and it's at the core of the work she does with Native Girls Code.

Pah-tu Pitt G.

Warm Springs and Wasco

Currently, Pah-tu Pitt G. (Warm Springs and Wasco) works with Na'ah Illahee Fund on indigenous climate change resiliency, just transition, and tribal civic engagement at Na'ah Illahee Fund throughout the Pacific Northwest in urban and rural communities. She feels strongly about making resources more accessible and developing sustainable economies are essential for the future of tribes, native communities, and the region as a whole.

Past work experiences include working with States, Tribes, the nonprofit and private business sector, and within academia. Through encouragement from other tribal members, she earned an Environmental Science Degree at Portland State University. At Evergreen State College, she earned a Master's of Environmental Studies Degree. Her research emphasized treaty rights, climate change, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and management in connection with food sovereignty. Through the Yahowt program, she earned a permaculture certificate with a cohort of indigenous womxn and earned other professional certificates from within the environmental sector. Additionally, she is co-owner of Native Kut, which focuses on art and food sovereignty. Currently, she serves on her tribe's education committee and Economic Ventures board.

Our Board

Bernadette Zambrano

Chicana and Southern Ute descendant

Bernadette is currently an urban gardener, seed collector and saver. She strongly believes that everyone needs to know how to grow some local food and medicine. Bernadette has attended and presented at a myriad of plant and gardening workshops and worked at the native plant nursery in the Presidio of San Francisco. With the Cultural Conservancy, she created an urban healing garden for Native American women with children in recovery that was located in the San Francisco Bay area. She curated the Native Food Pavilion for Slow Food Nation, a gathering that took place in San Francisco in fall of 2008. She presently is doing research on urban food security, and gardens at various sites throughout the Bay area. She is co-founder of the Tierra Madre Fund for Indigenous Women (now Na'ah Illahee Fund) and has served as a board member of the American Indian Contemporary Arts of San Francisco.

Bridget Ray

Turtle Mount Chippewa descendant

Principle Tribal Planner at Northwest Tribal Communications & Strategy (NTCS) is of mixed cultural heritage with Native roots in the Midwest (Turtle Mountain Chippewa). Having been born and raised near the South Salish Sea, she grew up amongst coastal traditions and culture. Ms. Ray graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2003 with a BA/BS in Liberal Arts and Environmental Science. A development professional with over 25 years' experience, Bridget is an accomplished Tribal Planner with expertise in environmental projects and program development. Ms. Ray is an active participant in Tribal Canoe Journey since Paddle to Elwha 2005 with increasing involvement in Green Team planning.

Currently, she is working with the Nisqually Tribe as Green Team Lead for Paddle to Nisqually 2016, focusing on water stewardship issues in addition to waste reduction and traditional full circle teachings. She volunteers for several Native-run non-profits and is a Board Member of the Na'ah Illahee Fund. Bridget is also involved in grassroots direct action campaigns to protect Mother Earth working with groups such as Greenpeace, Idle No More and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Brooke Pinkham

Nez Perce

Brooke Pinkham, Nez Perce, grew up within the community of the Yakama Nation in a small town located in southcentral Washington State. Brooke has lived in Seattle for twenty-one years, and shares a home with her loving husband and five-year-son. Brooke moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree. For a few years after graduating from UW, Brooke worked for United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, serving the homeless youth population as a case manager and Juvenile Court Advocate. Inspired by her work at UIATF Brooke attended University of Washington School of Law, graduating in 2007.

Brooke currently directs the Center for Indian Law & Policy (CILP) at Seattle University (SU) School of Law. CILP’s mission is to provide an emphasis on Indian law, research, programs and projects at SU School of Law, as well as make information about current legal issues available to Tribes and tribal members. Prior to working for Seattle University Ms. Pinkham spent 10 years as a Staff Attorney with the Northwest Justice Project (NJP), WA’s only legal aid organization. While at NJP, Ms. Pinkham provided direct representation and advocacy on behalf of tribal members throughout Washington State.

Brooke has served on the Boards for the National Native American Law Students Association, the Washington State Bar Association Indian Law Section, the Northwest Indian Bar Association, Powerful Voices, Indigenous Peoples’ Institute at Seattle University, and many others. Brooke has particular expertise in Indian estate planning and probate, enforcing application of the Indian Child Welfare Act, protecting the rights to secure housing, tribal and non-tribal public benefits, and the education rights of Native American students.

Emma Elliott-Groves

Cowichan

Dr. Elliott-Groves is an assistant research professor at Partnerships for Native Health at Washington State University. She holds both a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Washington, in the field of Learning Sciences and Human Development and a MSW in the Children, Youth, and Families concentration from the UW's School of Social Work. Her dissertation study explores the meanings and explanations of suicidal behavior from the perspective of Cowichan tribal members. Her investigation centers on the interrelational epistemology of the Cowichan people, and as such, her mixed methods approach to research included qualitative and Indigenous methodological approaches and community based design research (CBDR).

By employing a strengths-based approach to recovery, Dr. Elliott-Groves' research rigorously engages youth, families, and communities in the development of integrated behavioral health interventions to address complex social issues (e.g., suicide). The interdisciplinary intersections of her research include contemporary Indigenous issues; culture, learning, and human development; and trauma, prevention, and recovery.

Susan Welsh

Dinè, Mohave & Chemehuevi

Susan is a visiting tribal nation member from the Southwest and gives much appreciation and thanks to the Northwest tribal nations. Susan is currently the Elders Service Manager at the Seattle Indian Health Board and a graduate of Antioch University with a Master of Arts in Organizational Development. She has held several positions at her home tribe, coordinated youth and community programs, and serves as a volunteer for several community-led organizations. Aside from her enjoyment in her work, volunteerism, and community involvement Susan enjoys the sun and hot summer heat. Don't be surprised if you find her with a sweater and scarf all year round in the Northwest!

Tawna Sanchez

Shoshone-Bannock/Ute

Tawna is the Director of Family Services at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland and the Representative for District 43 in the Oregon State House of Representatives. Tawna attended the University of California at Berkeley and achieved her certificate in Drug and Alcohol Studies; at Marylhurst University, where she received a BA in Psychology and Communications, and a Master of Social Work from Portland State University.

Tawna is a long-time advocate and practitioner in Native women's domestic violence intervention and prevention. She has worked for Bradley Angle House, the first domestic violence shelter on the west coast and founded the Native American Family Healing Circle in 2000, a Native American specific domestic violence program in Portland. She has facilitated and led workshops and trainings in culturally appropriate services, domestic violence, drug and alcohol prevention, diversity and internalized racism issues. Tawna is a founding board member of Na'ah Illahee Fund and Red Lodge Transition Services. As a board member, she co-founded Peace Development Fund's Building Action for Sustainable Environments and has served on various committees and boards locally and nationally for over thirty years.

Community Partners & Collaborative Networks

  • Seattle Urban Native Nonprofit Network
  • Seattle Native Youth Programs Collaborative
  • King County School Districts Title 7 Indian Education Programs
  • University of Washington Information School
  • Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium
  • The Living Breath of wetlabaltx Traditional Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium
  • Microsoft
  • Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network
  • Front & Centered
  • Progress Alliance
  • Native Americans in Philanthropy
  • Generation Indigenous
  • International Funders for Indigenous People
  • Center for Women and Democracy

Fiscally Sponsored Programs

  • Rise Above
  • Back to the Rez
  • Indigenous Empowerment Council
  • One Flaming Arrow Arts Festival
  • Ichishskin Sinwit Institute
  • The Palouse Project

Supporters

  • City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
  • City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund
  • University of Washington Bill Holm Center for the Study of Native Arts at the Burke Museum
  • Women's Funding Alliance
  • Google
  • Kalliopeia Foundation
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Lush Cosmetics
  • The Seattle Foundation
  • Social Justice Fund Northwest
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Tribe
  • Muckleshoot Tribe

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