CHRIS CARLSSON

Chris Carlsson is a San Francisco historian, photographer, book and magazine designer and host of the ongoing Public Talk series, “Shaping San Francisco”. He has written two books (After the Deluge, Nowtopia) and edited six others, as well as co-authored the expanded second edition of Vanished Waters: The History of San Francisco’s Mission Bay. He is also the Co-Director of the San Francisco history archive at FoundSF.org. An avid cyclist and a founder of the cycling group Critical Mass, he conducts award-winning bicycle history tours throughout the city.

MARK WARREN DOWNING

Mark Warren Downing, a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, served as the Director of the office of Self-Determination for the Phoenix Area Indian Health Service, which provides health services to thirty-nine tribal and three urban Indian programs in Arizona, Nevada and Utah. He also served as the Public Information Officer for the Phoenix Area Indian Health Service and liaison for the Inspector General of the Phoenix Office, Los Angeles region.  Prior to his work with the Indian Health Service, Mr. Downing joined Wilma Mankiller and her administration serving as the Health Director and as Executive Director for the Cherokee Nation. During his tenure, the Tribe initiated and expanded construction of clinical services, began gaming enterprises, entered into self-governance with the Department of Interior, added environmental programs with the EPA and expanded education programs.  He also served on the Cherokee Nation’s first gaming board.

Mr. Downing served a total of five years for Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller and her administration.  He was awarded a Secretarial Award from DHHS Secretary Donna Shalala in Washington, DC, and received the Directors Award from the Indian Health Service, as well as serving on numerous appointed national work groups. He has also provided spoken testimony at US Senate and House of Representative hearings on issues of vital concern to the Tribes.

MELISSA GOWER

Gower began her career at the Cherokee Nation in 1988 under the Mankiller administration.  She served as the Deputy Clinic Administrator for the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, Oklahoma.  Melissa has been working as a Senior Health Consultant for various tribes, tribal organizations and non-profit organizations over the last four years.  During that time she also served as the Executive Director of the Cherokee County Health Services Council.  She also served as a Health Policy Analyst with the Oklahoma City area Inter-Tribal Health Board for tribes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas.  In 1999, Gower was named the Executive Officer in the office of the Principal Chief, where she was responsible for the operation of strategy, government relations, solutions development, and communications.  In August 2003, she was named Group Leader of Cherokee Nation Health Services Group, which is the Tribe’s largest services group, as well as Group Leader of Government Relations. During her tenure, the Cherokee Nation built several health clinics, expanded Hastings Hospital and built one of the largest and most respected health systems in Indian Country.

Gower is the recipient of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Native American Health and Welfare Policy Fellowship. She spent a year working for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, where she performed legislative duties on several issues including health, self-governance, family, and elder issues.  She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ

After receiving a doctorate in History at UCLA, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz became a full time activist and leader in the women's liberation movement from 1967-1972. In1974, Roxanne joined the American Indian Movement and the International Indigenous project, lobbying for Indigenous rights at the United Nations. Her 1977 book, The Great Sioux Nation: An Oral History of the Sioux Nation, was the fundamental document at the first international conference, which she helped organize, on Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, that was held at United Nations' headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.  Roxanne is a Professor Emerita at California State University East Bay where she taught Native American Studies and co-founded the Department of Ethnic Studies. She is the author or editor of twelve books, including Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico, Indians of the Americas: Human Rights and Self-Determination, and An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.

IRA PHILLIPS

Ira Phillips was an executive for a Fortune 300 company at the time he organized the Cherokee Association in Memphis to help in the Swimmer/Mankiller campaign.  Shortly after the election, Swimmer was selected to head the BIA in Washington and Wilma became Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.  Ira was recruited by Chief Mankiller in 1985 to create and manage a new department to provide assistance to individual Tribal members in starting businesses and to seek new opportunities for the Tribe. Wilma and Ira traveled to Japan and Taiwan seeking opportunities in the international business arena.  He represented Wilma and the Tribe on the Governor’s International Business Development Team and in meetings with the Governor of Oklahoma, as well as other Indian Tribes and State and Federal elected officials.  Ira resigned in 1988 and became a candidate for the United States Congress’ second district in Oklahoma. Ira served as the Commissioner of Labor for the State of Oklahoma.  During his term he reduced operational costs, rewrote antiquated laws and expanded employees training.  He also served on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority where he focused on restructuring the agency so that it became a model for other state’s programs.  

In 1994, Ira received the Alice Timmons Founders Award by the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women. In 2003, the Shanghai government awarded Ira the Silver Magnolia Medal in recognition for his contribution to China’s economic development efforts.  

MARY JEAN ROBERTSON

For 35 years, Mary Jean Robertson has been a programmer on KPOO Radio’s “Voices of the Native Nations”.  Mary Jean's father, David Conrad Robertson, served in General Patton’s Third Army from Normandy to Berlin as a Signal Corps Officer (a Cherokee “Code Talker”). Currently, Mary Jean is the Community Relations Councilwoman for the Cherokee Society of the Greater Bay Area. Her goal is to get a Cherokee Nation Consular office officially recognized by the US State Department in the San Francisco Bay Area to promote trade and travel with the Cherokee Nation.

MARY L. SMITH

Mary L. Smith, a member of the Cherokee Nation, is the Principal Deputy Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS). The IHS, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is the principal federal health care advocate and provider for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Ms. Smith administers a $4.8 billion nationwide health care delivery program that is responsible for providing preventive, curative, and community health care to approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in hospitals, clinics, and other settings throughout the United States. Her key priorities include behavioral health, native youth initiatives such as Generation Indigenous, contract support costs and making sustainable improvements for direct service tribes to increase quality of care. Ms. Smith previously served in the Clinton White House as the Associate Counsel to the President and also as Associate Director of Policy Planning in the Domestic Policy Council. In those roles, she provided leadership on a variety of policy priorities, including Native American issues, and coordinated with the Indian Health Service on preventive care and efforts to reduce health disparities. She was the highest ranking Native American during the Clinton Administration.

KIMBERLY TEEHEE

An advocate and lobbyist on Native American issues, Kimberly Teehee served as the first Deputy Director of Native American Outreach for the Democratic National Committee, as well as the Director of Native American outreach for President Bill Clinton's 1997 inauguration. From 2009-2012, she also served as Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the Obama administration. Fluent in the Cherokee language, Teehee is now part of the administration for the Cherokee Tribal Nation and a member of the Mapetsi Policy Group, a small legal and lobbying firm whose mission is to preserve tribal sovereignty.

CANDESSA TEHEE

Candessa Tehee is the Executive Director of the Cherokee Heritage Center. The Cherokee Heritage Center is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture and the arts.

PHILIP H. VILES

Philip H. Viles, Jr. was Chief Justice of the Cherokee Nation for more than 16 years during his 25 years' service on the Cherokee Supreme Court.  Wilma Mankiller appointed him to two of his terms.  Viles served as one of only 79 delegates to the 1999 Cherokee Nation Constitutional Convention, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, 160 years since the Cherokees’ previous constitutional convention.  He was awarded the Cherokee National Medal of Patriotism in 2003, “in recognition for service to the tribe and upholding the Cherokee Constitution”.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and holds five decorations from the United States and two from the Republic of Vietnam.

RALPH KEEN, II

Ralph Keen, II is an Attorney and College Professor.  He has served in the following capacities at the Cherokee Nation: Of Council - Cherokee Nation Office of the Attorney General, Past Cherokee Nation Administrative Law Judge, Past Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Member, Cherokee Nation Constitution Convention Commission - Commission Chair, Convention Vice-Chair, Delegate and Style Committee Chair.

ERNIE STEVENS, JR.

Ernie Stevens, Jr. is the Chairman and national spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) in Washington, D.C.  Stevens is currently completing his seventh two-year term as the organization’s leader, which is a position elected by the member tribes of the National Indian Gaming Association.

PAT RAGSDALE

Pat Ragsdale was the Director of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service during Wilma Mankiller’s administration.  He was part of the team that created the tribe's law enforcement code and court system during that time. Upon retiring from the Cherokee Nation, he went on to become a Director within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He is now retired. He has 43 years of federal and tribal experience including serving in the US Marines as a Captain.

GLORIA STEINEM

Gloria Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, author and social/political activist, who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was a close personal friend of Wilma Mankiller’s and on September 3, 2000, Steinem married David Bale, father of actor Christian Bale; the wedding was performed at Mankiller’s home in Oklahoma.  Steinem helped create both New York and Ms. Magazines, helped form the National Women's Political Caucus, and is the author of many books and essays. A breast cancer survivor, Steinem celebrated her 80th birthday in 2014.