Founders

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Leiloni Begaye

B.S. Range Science and Management

M.A. Native American Studies

Leiloni Begaye is a Diné woman from Dinétah, the homelands of the Diné people, an Indigenous woman who is a farmer and rancher. She is from the Coyote Pass- Jemez clan, born for the Water Flow Together clan, her maternal grandfather is from the Red Running into the Water clan, and her paternal grandfather is from the Red Bottom clan.

Leiloni has a background in Natural Resources, and Agriculture with an emphasis in Rangeland Management from New Mexico State University, and pursuing her Master of Arts degree in Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico. Leiloni is one of the original Uplifters that seeks to empower and unite young leaders to address climate change on the Colorado Plateau. She is apart of the New Mexico Farm to School Alliance, New Mexico Food & Ag Policy Council, Diné Farm to School and Food Policy, advisor for Uplift, Albuquerque Public School District School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), 2018 HERD Fellow with Quivira Coalition and a Student Conservation Association Alumni.

Leiloni is represented as the lead for Indigenous Foods and Agriculture for Tribal Entities Connect, as she works with and supports Indigenous communities to be stewards of the land, developing conservation plans, becoming sustainable through food sovereignty and to take ownership of our health.

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Nathan Jopek

 

B.A. Native American Studies

M.A. Native American Studies

Nathan Jopek is from the Pueblo of Laguna, his clans are Little Roadrunner and Big Turkey; and he is half Polish white. Nathan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native American Studies with an emphasis in Community Leadership Building, and a M.A. in Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

While working as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque New Mexico, Nathan gained a better understanding of community-based learning, and service learning. He gained interest and knowledge surrounding holistic wellness and how it pertains to Indigenous Peoples.

Nathan is represented as the Director of Wellness Programs for Tribal Entities Connect as the work he does is with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, in relation to Indigenous youth and communities.

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Sara Twiss

 

B.A. Humanities

M.A. Community and Regional Planning

Sara Twiss is a member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, part Pueblo of Laguna, Chicana, and Chinese ancestry. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities from Sierra Nevada College, and a Masters degree in Community and Regional Planning with a focus on Indigenous Planning from the University of New Mexico.

Sara has experience working with tribal communities on capacity building projects including youth leadership development, community prevention practices, and Paiute language revitalization.

Sara is represented as the Director of Community Planning for Tribal Entities Connect, as she focuses on community outreach by being a liaison with current and future partners, while designing projects that address self-determined needs and priorities of groups to strengthen their connections. She also assists with developing and implementing events, and fundraising strategies for the organization.

Sara is also the Project Coordinator for Indigenous Women Rize. She has research interests in Indigenous feminist planning in connection to understanding the terrain of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as they relate to cities and communities, specifically within urban Albuquerque. 

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Youth Intern

Alyssa Redhouse 

Alyssa graduated from Ecademy Virtual High School in the summer of 2020. She hopes to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice after high school to help and support Indigenous Peoples all over the country for true justice.

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Shannon Douma

Shannon is from the Pueblo of Laguna, and Hopi Tewa. Shannon is currently the Enrollment Director and Out of School Time coordinator for the Native American Community Academy. Shannon alongside her colleagues came up with NACA, and thinking of how a school could be created to help support Indigenous youth within the public education system. Shannon also coordinates and oversees AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Tribal Service Corps, and other service members that are wanting to serve at NACA. Her contributions to educating and maintaining sustainable change has created a positive force within the Indigenous communities of Albuquerque.

Meet Our Advisory Board

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Hope Alvarado

Hope Alvarado represents Dine Nation, Mescalero Apache, and Comanche Nations. She is attending the University of New Mexico (UNM) studying Intercultural Communications and Native American Studies. She holds an officer position of the UNM Kiva Club and is currently the lead organizer for a local grassroots organization, The Red Nation. She’s interested in protecting Indigenous inherent rights, environmental justice, and being a role model for youth to step up for positive change to their communities and the world at large.

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Leola Tsinnajinnie-Paquin

Professor Tsinnajinnie is Filipino and Diné, born for the Táchii'nii (Red Running Into The Water) clan. She is also married into Tamaya (Santa Ana Pueblo). She is a member of the Torreon/Star Lake Chapter of the Navajo Nation where she was raised. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology and Master's Degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. Her doctorate concentration is in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies from the College of Education at the University of New Mexico. Her areas of focus are Indigenous Education, Decolonization, and Native Student Conceptions of Nation Building. She joined UNM's NAS Program full-time in the fall of 2015 as an Assistant Professor. She has a passion for teaching and working with Native Studies' students. 

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Margaret (Guida) Leicester

Margaret (Guida) Leicester received her bachelor’s degree in International Communications from UC Santa Cruz in 1987. From 1988-1997, she traveled internationally, lived in the Middle East, and worked for various non-profits as a fundraiser/grant writer in California. In 1998, Guida moved to Taos, NM, eventually landing in Albuquerque. After rehabilitation from a stroke (due to a black widow spider bite), she earned her mater’s in Education Leadership at UNM and is currently teaching (since 2015) and working toward her PhD, focused on Community Service Learning Education and Indigenous Pedagogy. Guida, together with Tribal Entities Connect members, co-taught a community service learning course, incorporating local to international grassroots service learning work – utilizing Indigenous teaching approaches – to UNM undergraduate students, in spring and fall semesters of 2018.

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Iris Sisneros

Iris is a Native American Community Academy Alumni, and is currently attending The University of New Mexico with a major in early childhood education. Iris has been serving in many capacities as a Tribal Service Corps member, and AmeriCorps member. She has devoted a lot of time to giving back to her community, and has been there to support the endeavors of NACA, and outside Indigenous programming.

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Pablo Soto

Pablo is a life-long resident of New Mexico. He has learned about the diverse climates and agricultural diversity connected to the local food shed through experience in growing his own garden. He is passionate about sharing that knowledge with community, and especially young people of color facing challenges in their lives. He believes that a connection to traditional agriculture can help heal individuals and help restore healthy communities. This reconnection has been an important transformative part of his life, and he speaks from the experience of planting seeds, and learning through their growth. Pablo is a father of four and grandfather of three and wants to be an example to his family by living and working for healthy environments and food practices that are culturally relevant. He hopes to bring his experiences to Tribal Entities Connect family, and promote health and wellness.