Our Staff

 

Our dedicated staff has an impressive array of legal, policy, training, and technical assistance experience that has enabled TLPI to administer quality programming in Indian country since 1996. 

 

Because we are a Native American operated non-profit, our work is personal. We proudly pursue our mission to enhance and strengthen tribal sovereignty and justice while honoring community values, protecting rights, and promoting well-being.

Executive Director
Jerry Gardner
(Cherokee

Jerry Gardner serves as TLPI's Executive Director and is an attorney with more than 35 years of experience working with American Indian/Alaska Native Nations, tribal court systems, and victims of crime in Indian country. Jerry has served as the Executive Director of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute since its founding in 1996 and oversees all TLPI projects and services. Jerry has also served as the Director of the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Tribes, Council Member of the American Bar Association (ABA) Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities (IRR), and an ABA Tribal Courts Council member.  Jerry has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, UCLA School of Law, and Southwestern School of Law. He previously served as the Administrator for the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA). He has been an appellate court judge for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (North Dakota) and Poarch Creek Band (Alabama). He served as the Senior Staff Attorney with the National Indian Justice Center (NIJC) from NIJC’s establishment in 1983 until TLPI’s founding in 1996. He served as a Professional Staff Member at the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in the late 1970s. He also served in legal training positions for the national office of the Legal Services Corporation and the American Indian Lawyer Training Program. Jerry received his J.D. from the Antioch School of Law. 

Deputy Director
Heather Valdez Freedman

Heather Valdez Freedman serves as TLPI’s Deputy Director, providing oversight for programmatic operations, as well as overseeing TLPI’s tribal-state collaboration work. Heather has been with TLPI since 2006 and has over 15 years of experience working on policy issues in Indian country, with a focus on tribal criminal justice systems. She received her master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where her focus was criminal justice policy in Indian country. She also holds a master’s degree in American Indian studies from UCLA. She has researched and written in the areas of tribal legal and community development and California tribal history. Her experience includes serving as project director for several research-related projects in Indian country, including the UCLA Native Nations Law and Policy Center’s nationwide assessment of Public Law 280, tribal liaison for tribal court grantees in California, and consultant for the Gabrieleno/Tongva tribal recognition project. She is an instructor for the UCLA Tribal Learning Community and Educational Exchange and the series co-editor of the Tribal Legal Studies textbook series.

Operations Director
Jessica Harjo
(San Carlos Apache) 

Jessica Harjo serves as TLPI's Operations Director and has been with TLPI since 2008. She is responsible for the financial management, human resources and overall administrative operations of TLPI. She leads the TLPI Administrative team providing grants management and administrative support on all TLPI grants and projects. Her background includes over 15 years of experience in administrative management, operations and logistics. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science in Film, Media, and Social Justice and a minor in Business Administration and holds a Master in Business Administration from Mount Saint Mary's University. Jessica is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) through the internationally recognized Project Management Institute.

Tribal Courts Specialist
Chia Halpern Beetso
(Spirit Lake Dakota)

Chia Halpern Beetso serves as TLPI's Tribal Court Specialist and has experience working with tribal courts, federal Indian policy and tribal law. She received a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and a J.D. from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Prior to coming to TLPI, she was a Deputy Prosecutor for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and has prosecuted a variety of criminal matters, including domestic violence, in tribal court. In addition, Chia has provided training and technical assistance (T/TA) to tribal healing to wellness courts and has coordinated T/TA efforts on this front nationwide. Chia has also researched, drafted and presented TLPI resources on Tribal Law and Order Act and Violence Against Women Act implementation.

Bonnie Clairmont serves from TLPI's Minnesota office. Prior to her employment with TLPI, she was the Outreach/Client Services Coordinator for Sexual Offense Services of Ramsey County, a rape crisis center. While employed there, Bonnie provided leadership in the development of Sexual Assault Response Teams and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs and offered guidance with multidisciplinary sexual assault protocol development. She has worked more than twenty-five years advocating for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She has dedicated much of her work to providing and improving services for victim/survivors of sexual assault, battering, and child sexual abuse, particularly those from American Indian communities. For four years she coordinated the Strengthening the Circle of Trust Conference, a conference focusing on sexual assault and exploitation perpetrated by American Indian spiritual leaders/medicine men. Bonnie co-edited a recently published book "Sharing Our Stories of Survival" an anthology of writing by Native Women who've experienced violence. Bonnie provided technical assistance to research conducted by Amnesty International USA that led to the report, "Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous Women from sexual violence in the USA." She and her partner Jim Clairmont have two children and five grandchildren.

Victim Advocacy Specialist
Bonnie Clairmont 
(Ho-Chunk)
Victim Advocacy
Legal Specialist
Kelly Stoner 
(Cherokee)

Kelly Stoner serves as TLPI’s Victim Advocacy Legal Specialist. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1988.   For the past twenty years, Kelly has taught at the North Dakota School of Law and Oklahoma City University School of Law (OKCU) where she taught American Indian/ Tribal Law and Domestic Violence related classes.  She directed the University of North Dakota Native American Law Project that served clients of the Spirit Lake Reservation with a caseload that targeted domestic violence and sexual assault cases.  In 2011, Kelly was appointed as a Judge for the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. She also supervised a project in partnership with the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma that established a SAFE Unit at a local hospital, recruited SANEs and targeted community education on domestic violence and sexual assault. Kelly directed the Native American Legal Resource Center at OKCU where she supervised law students prosecuting Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking cases and representing victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in civil matters. She is a frequent lecturer for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence and for the Office on Violence Against Women’s national technical assistance providers on domestic violence issues in Indian Country. Ms. Stoner helped to launch Oklahoma’s only tribal coalition against domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking- the Native Alliance Against Violence. 

Tribal Youth T/TA Specialist
Stephanie Autumn
(Hopi/Irish)
Tribal Victim
Resource Specialist
Lonna Hunter
(Tlingit, Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota)

Stephanie Autumn, brings extensive experience in developing, implementing, and evaluating programs in Indian country. Ms. Autumn has 38 years of local, national, and international AI advocacy and policy work experience, and has presented at various Human Rights forums at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and in New York. She has worked throughout the country on issues of American Indian adult and juvenile justice, substance abuse prevention, restorative justice, and tribal youth mentoring programs. Ms. Autumn served as the Executive Directive of the Minnesota Restorative Justice Campaign for five years and is a skilled Restorative Practitioner facilitator, trainer, and Circle Keeper.  Ms. Autumn’s expertise includes developing culturally competent strategic planning tools and trainings for American Indian/Alaska Native tribes. She has directed national projects on American Indian juvenile domestic assault, restorative justice, pre-and post-release services for AI offenders, tribal mentoring, and truancy. She served as project director for three DOJ-funded programs for tribal youth which provided Training and Technical Assistance to over 135 tribal grantees. Ms. Autumn has provided expertise/testimony for the MN & SD Departments of Corrections with regards to Traumatic Brain Injury and Trauma Informed Care needs/issues with incarcerated American Indian juvenile and adults. For the past fifteen years, Ms. Autumn has provided expertise to the MN Department of Education on disproportionality issues that impact American Indian youth and communities. Ms. Autumn is the founder of the American Indian Prison Project Working Group.

Lonna Hunter, serves as TLPI's Tribal Victim Resource Specialist, most recently she was a Project Coordinator providing Training & Technical Assistance to 40 tribal Children's Justice Act Partnership and Comprehensive Tribal Victim Assistance Program Office of Victims of Crime, Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation grantees with the National Criminal Justice Training Center at Fox Valley Technical College.  Previously, Lonna was the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Tribal Liaison, working closely with tribal law enforcement in developing a tribal taskforce on sex trafficking.  In addition, she conducted statewide listening session for the Office on Violence Against Women, developing policy for Native victims of crime with the Office of Victims of Crime, homeland security, FirstNet-emergency communications, including working closely with the Governor’s office on the opiate/heroin epidemic. Lonna also worked with the Minnesota Department of Health on the Adverse Childhood Experiences building community health plans to address healing and resilience with tribal communities.  Lonna has worked with state and tribal coalitions- Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, and served as Director for the national Sheila Wellstone Institute.  Lonna brings over twenty years extensive experience in tribal, state and federal policy creation and lobbying to end violence against Native women and children, building diverse coalitions of community and government leaders, and direct service with survivors. 

Tribal Law and
Policy Specialist
Jordan Martinson
(Lac Courte Oreilles)
Tribal Wellness Specialist
Kristina Pacheco
(Laguna)

Jordan Martinson, Serves as a Tribal Law and Policy Specialist.

Jordan Martinson joined the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in 2019 where he serves as Tribal Wellness/Legal Specialist. Jordan brings a broad range of state and tribal interdisciplinary legal expertise to the TLPI team. His tribal legal experience includes serving as Assistant General Counsel for the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin in addition to working as social services and child support attorney for the Menominee Nation, where he intervened on behalf of the tribe in state and federal Indian Child Welfare Act cases. Most recently, Jordan served as Assistant Corporation Counsel for Manitowoc County, Wisconsin where he represented the state in child protective services, guardianship, mental health and child support related litigation. During his undergraduate studies, Jordan worked for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division. Jordan received his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he focused his studies on federal Indian law, and completed research on Ojibwe treaty rights as well as the interplay between the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and federal employment law. Jordan received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a certificate in American Indian Studies.

Kristina Pacheco, serves as Tribal Wellness Specialist and is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and resides in the village of Paraje/Casa Blanca, NM. She is a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor in the state of NM and has over 20 years of experience in the field of substance abuse treatment and prevention. Prior to joining TLPI, she worked for the Pueblo of Laguna for 14 years; as a Supervising Probation Officer (2004-2010), Lead Counselor (2010-2014) and Behavioral Health Program Manager (2014-2019). In 2007, Kristina and the staff of the tribal court began the Pueblo of Laguna Healing to Wellness Court (HTWC). The HTWC was granted Mentor Court Status in 2017 by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Drug Court Initiatives. Kristina also provided training and technical assistance to other Native communities as a consultant. Kristina is the mother of one son, an adopted daughter and a grandmother.

Assistant Director - Tribal Youth Resource Center
Precious Benally
(Diné)
Assistant Director - Tribal Youth Resource Center 
Anna Clough
(Muscogee, Creek/Yuchi)

Precious Benally, JD (Diné) is a citizen of the Diné Nation from Northern New Mexico and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Precious Benally serves as TLPI’s Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Specialist facilitating technical assistance to tribal juvenile justice programs and Juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts. Precious also serves as the Assistant Director for the Tribal Youth Program Training and Technical Assistance Center providing assistance with program and court development from strategic planning and implementation to sustainability. Precious works with tribes to enhance their juvenile justice capacity, incorporate traditional restorative justice models, and implement culturally competent practices. Her areas of interest include international indigenous law and policy, healing to wellness courts, peacemaking and restorative justice practices, juvenile justice, data sovereignty, and developing technology-based training and information-sharing platforms. Precious currently serves as a Peacemaker for the Red Hook Community Justice Center’s Peacemaking Program in Brooklyn. Precious obtained her law degree in 2013 from Columbia Law School, where she focused on international indigenous law and policy, peacemaking, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Anna Clough, is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Yuchi Tribes. She graduated from The University of Oklahoma with a BA in Sociology and minor in Native American Studies/Criminology and the University of Oklahoma College of Law with a Juris Doctorate and a certificate in Native American law from the Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy.  She is a practicing member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, and has been admitted to practice in numerous Oklahoma Tribal courts.  She has spent her legal career working with Tribal youth and families in both State and Tribal Courts throughout Oklahoma. Mrs. Clough has served as a TTA provider on behalf of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention TTA services for the past several years and has supported the development and implementation of numerous National training efforts to support CTAS purpose area 8 and purpose area 9 tribal grantees. She is a mother to four children and lives with her husband in central Oklahoma.

Tribal Law Specialist
Catherine Retana
(Embera/Pomo) 
Training and Technical Assistance Program Specialist
Tasha Fridia

(Wichita/Kiowa/Caddo)

Catherine Retana serves as TLPI's Tribal Law Specialist. Her legal work experience includes serving as a student tribal code drafter in the UCLA Law Tribal Legal Development Clinic. Catherine was also awarded the 2016-2017 UC President's Public Service Fellowship at the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, where she worked to reduce employment discrimination and improve industries that employ Black workers through policy and legal advocacy. Most recently, she served as an Education Law Advocate with California Rural Legal Assistance where she helped protect students in Kern County from unlawful discrimination, suspensions, and expulsions. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law's David J. Epstein Public Interest Law and Policy program, where she focused her courses on federal Indian law and completed research on the interplay of the National Labor Relations Board, federal employment law, and tribal governments. During law school, Catherine served as the Vice President of the Native American Law Students Association, Chief Managing Editor of the Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance, Co-Chair of the UCLA El Centro Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) & U-Visa Clinic, and Staff Editor of the Chican@/Latin@ Law Review. Catherine received her bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University with a minor in Native American Studies and her Senior Thesis focused on a comparative study of Domestic Tribal Government Systems and International Indigenous Governments.

Tasha Fridia is the owner of Fridia Consulting where she assists tribes with strategic and justice system planning, code drafting, policy implementation and human resource needs. Tasha also serves as a Senior Associate at the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College. Prior to her work with TLPI, she worked for the OJJDP Tribal Youth Program Training and Technical Assistance Center at the University of Oklahoma in the Tribal Law and Policy Division. Tasha is a graduate of Oklahoma City University School of Law, where she earned her Juris Doctorate as well as a certificate in American Indian Law. She interned with the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court and the OJJDP TYP TTA Center at the University of Oklahoma.  She also gained experience in the Jodi G. Marquette American Indian Wills Clinic. While in law school, Tasha held numerous leadership positions including Student Bar Association Vice President, Pupil of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Inn of Court, and an appointment to the Dean’s Council on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion where she helped establish a regalia policy for Native American Law Students. She served on the National Native American Law Students Association board and was awarded Future Trailblazer in Indian Country by her local chapter. Tasha previously worked in the Tribal Human Resources field and is currently a Manager of Quivera Enterprises LLC, a division of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes Industrial Development Commission. She earned a B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and a M.A. in Human Resources Development from Webster University. Tasha is passionate about the work she does and approaches it with the guidance of cultural and traditional teachings.

Tribal Research Specialist
Jeremy Braithwaite 

Jeremy Braithwaite, PhD is a doctoral level research scientist and evaluator specializing in tribal justice systems, violence against women, and community-based research. As a research consultant, he assists with research, evaluation, and learning activities focused on Indian child welfare, child maltreatment, and law enforcement in Indian Country. For the Center for Native Child and Family Resilience Project, he co-developed a literature review of promising tribally-created intervention/prevention efforts geared toward AI/AN child maltreatment. He is trained in both tribally-driven participatory research methods, as well as the culturally-responsive Indigenous evaluation model(CRIE).  Using these methods, he conducted the first tribally-driven community study of sexual violence among Yup'ik Eskimo women in Bristol Bay, Alaska. He has published extensively on this topic and also co-authored a textbook on sex crimes and sex offenders. 

Tribal Justice Specialist
Heather Torres
(San Ildefonso Pueblo, Navajo)
Administrative Coordinator
Marlon Footracer
(Diné )

Heather Torres, serves as a Tribal Justice Specialist. ​She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law's Critical Race Studies program, where she focused her courses and research on Federal Indian law and the racialization of American Indian identity. During law school, Heather served as the President of the Native American Law Students Association, Executive Editor of the Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance, and Senior Editor of the Chican@/Latin@ Law Review. Her legal work experience includes serving as an Udall Foundation intern for the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs, extern with the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles ICWA Court, Native American Summer Associate at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, student tribal code drafter in the Tribal Legal Development Clinic, and an UC Public Service Law Fellow with the Tribal Law & Policy Institute 2017-2018. For the past year, she served as Director of Native Student Programs at the University of Redlands. Heather is licensed in the State of California and will rejoin TLPI as a Tribal Justice Specialist.

Marlon Footracer, Diné, Water-Flows-Together, born for One-Who-Walks-Around-You clan serves as TLPI's Administrative Coordinator. Marlon was raised in Tsé Síaní (Lupton, AZ).  He attended Stanford University where he majored in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry.  While at Stanford, he co-founded the Stanford Native American Poets, co-instructed a course on contemporary Native Poetry, and participated in the performance arts and theater programs. He also worked at the Stanford Alumni Association in the Native American Initiative and helped organize Stanford’s first ever conference, “Community, Diversity and Excellence: Celebrating Stanford's Minority Alumni.” In 2011, Marlon served as staff support for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit as well as then Secretary Clinton’s Women in the Economy Summit. He has worked as a consultant and project manager for indigenous art projects and artists, such as Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 in 2014. In his personal creative work, he was named the Taos Writer’s Conference Native American Writer-In-Residence Award recipient in 2015. He actively contributes to creative writing journals and spoken arts projects. Most recently, he worked as a non-profit strategist and consultant for development and capacity building, specifically focusing on non-profits that work to end homelessness in New Mexico/Navajo Nation border towns.  

Administrative Assistant
Chad Jackson 
(Cocopah)
Program Assistant
Cindy Wlasowich
(Sicangu/Oglala Lakota)

Chad Jackson serves as TLPI's Administrative Assistant. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus on financial accounting from California State University Dominguez Hills, magna cum laude. After graduating, he wanted to work with the Native American Community and received his first job at United American Indian Involvement, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA. In order to gain more experience, he joined a corporate advertising company where his duties included financial accounting and analysis. After a few years in the corporate world, he wanted to work with the Native community again. When the opportunity to work for the Tribal Law and Policy Institute presented itself, he was very happy to work with a non-profit focused on Native American issues.

Cindy Wlasowich serves as a Program Assistant.  Cindy spent over a decade working in the entertainment industry before beginning her second career in Native non-profit work.  She has worked with several direct service Native non-profits in Los Angeles since 2006, and will be receiving her B.A in Applied Psychology from Mount Saint Mary’s University in 2017 years end. Cindy is Sicangu/Oglala Lakota and an enrolled member of the Sicangu Nation.

Program Assistant
Ashley Sarracino
(Laguna Pueblo)
Program Assistant
Laura Smith

Ashley Sarracino, serves as a Program Assistant and is the Principal Owner of Native Ascension Community Development, LLC. She has over ten years of experience in fundraising serving in the capacities of coordinator, facilitator, director, and trainer. Ms. Sarracino was born and raised in the Land of Enchantment in a small Native American village of one hundred people located on the Pueblo of Laguna 45 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She attended Stanford University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology and a Masters of Arts degree in Education.  After college, Ms. Sarracino quickly immersed herself into the nonprofit realm and today continues to write grants, solicit individuals, corporations, foundations, and organize special events in an effort to generate income for noteworthy nonprofit organizations.

Laura Smith serves as a Program Assistant, bringing experience in project coordination and research administration. She completed her BA in Psychology at Vassar College in 2014 with a correlate in Sustainability. Upon graduating, Laura served as Project Manager for the World Well-Being Project, a multi-disciplinary research grant based out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. At Penn, she also participated in the Non-Traditional Graduate Studies program and served as a Research Assistant for the Political Science Department. Laura is currently training to be a practitioner in PsychoNeuroEnergetics.

Program Assistant
Janice Thompson
(Diné)
Program Assistant
Abby Thoennes

Janice Thompson, Diné, Tł’izí łání (Manygoats), born for Tábąąhá (Edgewater) serves as a Program Assistant. She is from Jaysho (Buzzard Springs) located within the community of Dilkon, Arizona on the southwestern region of the Navajo Nation. Janice attended Fort Lewis College where she received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Sociology. Prior to coming to TLPI, she worked with the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and the Navajo Nation Department of Family Services.

Abby Thoennes serves as a Program Assistant. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and then went on to attend law school at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where she graduated in 2016. She took some time off after law school to spend time at home with her two kids, Nora (3) and Christopher (9 months). Abby has over 10 years’ experience in the customer service industry, which is where her dedication for helping and working with people comes from. She interned with Fredrikson and Byron working on a nonprofit startup, The Wolves Den, a culturally based group residential housing program for American Indian women receiving methadone treatment. This is where her passion for nonprofits was born. She has also interned with Wills for Heroes, providing essential legal documents free of charge to our first responders. Abby’s most recent internship was with the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Ombudsman Office where she gained alternative dispute resolution experience. Outside of work, she loves cheering on all Minnesota sports teams, spending time with her two Cocker Spaniels and chasing her two children around.

Webmaster
Lou Sgroi
Graphics Specialist
Cheyenne Cordero
(White Mountain Apache)

Lou Sgroi serves as TLPI's Webmaster and Computer Technician. He has worked with TLPI for over 10 years and has developed and maintained the Tribal Court Clearinghouse website and numerous other websites. He designs and develops all of TLPI’s national and regional conference websites. These websites provide extensive links to additional information that will facilitate tribal justice utilization of technological innovations and the vast information available on the internet.

Cheyenne Cordero serves as the Graphics Specialist for TLPI's main office in West Hollywood, California. Cheyenne provides programmatic and administrative support to the main office and provides editorial assistance for TLPI publications and materials. She also provides support to TLPI conferences and other training and technical assistance events. Prior to her work with TLPI, Cheyenne worked as an independent consultant and an order picker and inventory clerk at MARS distribution center. Cheyenne is also a freelance illustrator, using her spare time to work on traditional and digital art.

Staff Accountant
Jan Langer 

Jan Langer serves as TLPI’s Staff Accountant. Jan has been with TLPI since 2000 and also serves as an Accountant for other non-profit organizations in Los Angeles. She is responsible for overseeing and maintaining accounting policies and procedures, budget forecasting and projecting, financial and grant reporting, payroll processing and conducts other essential accounting activities. Jan is a liaison and correspondence to auditors and leads the yearly A133 audit. She has specialized in non-profit accounting since 1996 with a focus on government compliance, audit preparation, and financial reporting to Board of Directors, Senior Management and private funders.

Bookkeeper 
Uno Lawthong

Uno Lawthong serves as TLPI's Bookkeeper. He moved to Los Angeles from Bangkok, Thailand for high school and college. He studied Economics at University of California Irvine and proceeded to work in fast-pace start-up environment, accounting and assuring integrity of financial information. Uno recently completed all four-part CPA examination. He is passionate about positive social change, music and art. He loves to go hiking and Yoga with his fiancé and two dogs. Recently he decided to enter the next Marathon(whenever it may be) and began training for it. In his free and lazy time, he loves to read while John Coltrane is playing in the background.

Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for Tribes Staff

 

While TLPI serves as the umbrella organization for numerous projects, one of our largest projects is the Capacity Building Center for Tribes.  This project builds on the experience from TLPI’s previous child welfare technical assistance center, the National Resource Center for Tribes, a project that concluded after a 5 year grant period.

 

A new system – the Capacity Building Collaborative – was established in October 2014 and is comprised of: The Center for States, Center for Tribes, and Center for Courts. Instead of managing the Center for Tribes, TLPI is now a major partner and subcontractor with the University of Denver which holds the Center’s cooperative agreement. TLPI and the Center for Tribes project team provides the direct capacity building services with tribal child welfare systems, coordinates guidance from a national advisory committee and support of a national pool of child welfare consultants.

Be sure to visit the Center for Tribe's Tribal Child Welfare Information Exchange for the latest news and resources, including a tribal ICWA managers peer-to-peer network.

Co-Project Director
Kathy Deserly
 
 

Kathy Deserly serves as the TLPI Co-Project Director for the Capacity Building Center for Tribes in conjunction with Co-Project Director, Anne Comstock, at the University of Denver. Kathy has worked in the field of Indian child welfare for more than thirty years, beginning as Assistant Director of Indian Child and Family Services, a foster and adoption agency, in Southern California where she spent twelve years. She later worked as a technical assistance specialist for the National Indian Child Welfare Association, providing extensive training and technical assistance to Native and non-Native agencies on topics related to tribal child welfare and social services. Kathy served as Indian Child Welfare Specialist for the State of Montana from 1996-2000. In 2004 Kathy became a founding board member of the Indian Child and Family Resource Center (ICFRC) based in Helena, Montana, a training and technical assistance center for Tribal social service programs, private providers and state agencies. Kathy spent ten years as an independent child welfare consultant prior to joining the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in 2009 where she served as the Associate Director and later as Director of the National Resource Center for Tribes from 2009-2014.

Child Welfare Specialist
Suzanne Garcia
 
 

Suzanne Garcia works with the Capacity Building Center for Tribes as the Child Welfare Specialist. She provides training and technical assistance for tribal child welfare agencies, with special expertise on Tribal Title IV-E access. Most recently, she served as the Assistant General Counsel for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California for over seven years. In that role, she worked extensively with child welfare issues, including negotiating tribal-county agreements, developing policies and procedures, and extensive work with the Tribal Title IV-E development grant, Tribal Court Improvement grant, and Children’s Justice Act grant. Suzanne represented the Tribe in ICWA child welfare proceedings in state courts and child dependency cases in Washoe tribal court. She also developed and delivered both written and oral testimony in response to requests for consultation from ACF, IHS, BIA, and the DOJ. As a representative of the Washoe Tribe, Suzanne provided excellent peer-to-peer information sharing with tribes throughout the country about ‘lessons learned,’ and offering insight to the Washoe tribal experience in developing Tribal IV-E plans. Suzanne has worked numerous times over the past four years with the National Resource Center for Tribes in coordinating several tribal gatherings focused on tribal access to Title IV-E direct funding. Suzanne holds a Jurisprudence Doctor degree from the University of Arizona College of Law and an Applied Baccalaureate degree in Philosophy from the University of California, Davis.

Senior Advisor for Tribal Capacity Building Services 
Art Martinez
 (Chumash)

Art Martinez is a clinical psychologist who serves as the Senior Advisor for Tribal Capacity Building Services. Most recently, Art served as the clinical psychologist and Head of Service of the Shingle Springs Tribal Health Project. Art previously served as the executive clinical director of The Child & Family Institute, a principal Mental Health contractor for Sacramento County Child Protective and Children’s Mental Health Services. He founded and directed the Washoe Family Trauma Healing Center in Gardnerville, Nevada; which served as the primary provider of mental health and child assessments for dependency matters for Tribal court jurisdictions in the State of Nevada. Art has served as a trainer and consultant in culturally competent evaluation and program development. In 1999 Art was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human services to the National Advisory Council for SAMHSA and the Center for Mental Health Services. Over the past thirty years he has worked for tribal governments and organizations in the development and provision of services to children and families. He is a past Director of the department of Marriage, Child and Family therapy at the San Diego Campus of Alliant University as well as Director of Counseling and Psychological Services for UC Merced. Art has served as a nationally known consultant in issues involving Native Americans, Native American Family Dynamics, Indian Child Welfare, Native American Child Development, and Native American Traditional values and health interventions.

Capacity Building Coordination Specialist
Elizabeth Deserly
(Kickapoo)

Elizabeth Deserly serves as the Capacity Building Coordination Specialist for the Capacity Building Center for Tribes. She is responsible for coordinating capacity building technical assistance activities as well as being the point person for Tribes who wish to access services from the Center for Tribes. Elizabeth previously served as the Special Projects Assistant and Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator for the National Resource Center for Tribes. Prior to her work with the NRC4Tribes, she worked as a technical assistance coordinator for the Indian Child and Family Resource Center based in Helena, MT. Elizabeth is also a photographer and videographer, as well as a photography business owner for the past 15 years. Elizabeth is a graduate in Photographic Communication from Northwest College, Wyoming. She and her husband, Matt (Assiniboine), are the parents of five children.

Tribal Child Welfare and Permanency Planning Specialist
Ann M. Baker

Ann’s experience includes more than 25 years working in education and child welfare in Indian country. She was a liaison between the Native American community and the public-school system on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Reservation where she grew up. It was there she began her child welfare career with the state of Montana as a Child Protection Specialist. Ann’s experience includes child protection investigation, safety assessment, case management, Family Group Decision Making, permanency planning, supervision and management.

 

Ann assists Tribal communities in building capacity around their child welfare programs. She believes a child welfare system that serves the best interests of children is family-centered and community-based. She likes to facilitate conversations and collaborate with others Making friends wherever she goes, Ann can be found deep in conversation with someone on an airplane, an urban coffee shop or somewhere in rural America.

 

Ann is curious about others and enjoys learning about cultures different from her own. Though she loves travel balanced with time alone, spending a weekend with her children and grandson on the farm is her favorite thing to do.

 

Ann holds a Master of Arts in Education from Lesley University and a Master of Arts in Conflict Analysis and Engagement from Antioch Midwest.

Tribal Child Welfare &
Foster Care Specialist
Rebekah Main
(Wasco & Warm Springs)
Administrative Manager
Maria Alidio

Rebekah “ Becky” Main is a Wasco/Warm Springs tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) in Oregon. Becky was employed with her Tribe first as the Family Intake Coordinator  and then promoted to the CPS Director.  Becky was a NRC4Tribes Consultant doing work in Indian Country and when she was the CPS Director they had done Peer to Peer TA Assistance with other Tribes who wanted assistance in developing their Tribal Child Welfare Program.  Becky recently comes from the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment (NRCDR) as a Tribal Child Welfare Specialist who worked with tribes and states on recruitment, foster care, and adoption to either develop and or enhance their program services (3 years).  Becky is now the Tribal Child Welfare Specialist and Foster Care Specialist for the Capacity Build Center for Tribes (CBC4T).  Becky’s experience in Indian Child Welfare entails: Title IV-E, ICWA, Family Group Conferencing, Prevention, Permanency Planning, Foster Care, Emergency Shelter, Diligent Recruitment, Rural Recruitment, and Cultural specific Case Management. 

Maria Alidio serves as the Administrative Manager for the Capacity Building Center for Tribes. She joined the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in December 2009 as a Program Specialist bringing in with her over 25 years of office administrative experience in the fields of Educational Research Studies, Internal Medicine, and Development Construction. She also proudly served 10 years in the United States Naval Reserve, under the Commander Naval Forces Korea Headquarters as a Yeoman 2nd Class Petty Officer and was decorated with the United States Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, by Rear Admiral Daniel S. Mastagni for establishing a comprehensive muster report which ensured that all personnel were accounted for during a period of high tension in Korea. Maria works closely with the CBC for Tribes Co-Project Director to manage administrative functions, the information library, assists with financial tasks, human resource tasks, technology tasks, and coordinates the day-to-day office operations. She also manages the logistical functions as they relate to the grant/contract deliverables. Maria works out of the Las Vegas office and enjoys her home with her wife Margaret and two kids (dogs) Zoey and Lucy.