Katsi Cook

Director

Mohawk

Serving as an ambassador to the landscape of Indigenous women and girls leadership circles, Katsi holds the values, vision and purpose of the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program over its entire arc, imparting her knowledge of Indigenous communities and decades of culture-based program design, direction and implementation expertise.

Katsi is an advocate of Indigenous women’s health across the lifecycle, drawing from a longhouse traditionalist perspective the idea of Woman as the First Environment. For the past 25 years Katsi has based her work in the First Environment Collaborative, working at the intersections of environmental health and justice and reproductive health and justice research and policy. Katsi is a founding member of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, a researcher and a lecturer on Indigenous environmental reproductive health.

Prior to leading this new work to support the wellbeing and thriving lives of Indigenous Elder women, Katsi worked with groundbreaking midwifery colleagues to implement the exemption for Aboriginal Midwives and Healers in the1994 Midwifery Act and the Regulated Health Professions Act in the Province of Ontario, Canada. In 1992, Katsi became the founding Aboriginal midwife of the Six Nations Birthing Centre, the first and only freestanding birth centre in Canada at that time, grounded in the concept of the Creation story.

“As Indigenous midwives, we stand at the door of transformation, pulling new life out of the water, out of the earth,” Katsi believes that authority must be used, “to move from a world of domination and exploitation to a world of partnership and collaboration.”

As Director of the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program, Katsi partners with the Elders Council of the Indigenous Justice Division of Ontario, in response to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

In her home community of Akwesasne, a border territory along the shores of the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario, Katsi is a founding member of Konon:kwe Council. Konon:kwe, meaning "all women” in Mohawk, is a group who holds Kahnistensera, "Mother Law,” as its foundational principle. Konon:kwe Council exists to reconstruct the power of our Haudenosaunee origins. Katsi writes curriculum for the development of the Oherokon Rites of Passage at Akwesasne. Katsi and Jose Barreiro, her life’s companion and husband of over forty years, have 6 children and 11 grandchildren.

Gail Small, J. D.

Program Director

Cheyenne

Gail Small is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and grew up on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana. Her Cheyenne name is Vehon-naut, “Head Chief Woman.” Head Chief Woman comes from the extended families of Woodenlegs, Spotted Elks, Small, Rondeau, and High Back Wolf.

Gail was born and raised among her extended families on Lame Deer Creek, where she and her husband of 32 years built their ranch and continue to live today. She believes that her family and homeland have always nourished her and given her strength. She grew up in the tumultuous time of energy exploitation when the Cheyenne homeland became surrounded by the country’s largest coal strip-mine and power plant complex. Beneath the Northern Cheyenne Reservation lies so much coal that every Cheyenne could have become a millionaire had they chosen coal development. Every coal mining proposal pushed by energy corporations and/or the federal government was voted down by either the Cheyenne people or their Tribal Council over the past fifty years. Gail has played a pivotal role in Cheyenne resistance to energy exploitation and the protection of the Cheyenne homeland.

Gail has dedicated her professional career to advancing the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. She has served her Cheyenne people in the following capacities: fours years as an elected representative on the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council from the Lame Deer District; four years as the elected Board Chairperson of Chief Dull Knife College; twelve years on the Northern Cheyenne Natural Resource Committee; six years on the Northern Cheyenne Coalbed Methane Committee; ten years on the Northern Cheyenne Water Rights Negotiating Committee; four years on the Northern Cheyenne Law and Justice Commission; and four years on the Northern Cheyenne Constitutional Revision Commission. In 1990, she founded Native Action, one of the first non-profit organizations established on an Indian reservation. She served as the Executive Director of Native Action for over twenty years successfully achieving numerous national precedents in Indian voting rights, fiscal equity, Indian education, and environmental protection. Her career has revolved around giving-back to her community by providing leadership and coalition building to address the varied priorities of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

Gail’s expansive career includes teaching at public and private schools on the Reservation, in tribal colleges, and at the university level. She has served on numerous federal advisory committees and has testified before various Congressional Committees, particularly on important issues to the large-land based tribes of the Rocky Mountain West. Her early career included working on Indigenous fishing rights and sacred sites as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow at Californian Indian Legal Services. She has also traveled and lectured internationally as a leadership fellow from the WK Kellogg, Rockefeller, and Leopold International Leadership Programs.

Gail graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law and the University of Montana. She credits her greatest education to her life growing up on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation amongst a family of matriarchs and warrior women. She is the mother of four and grandmother of a growing herd of young members of the Tsistsistas and Suhtaio Nation. Head Chief Woman epitomizes contemporary Indigenous leadership and responsibility as a citizen leader.

Gabrielle Tayac

Director of Legacy Collections

Piscataway

Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation, is an activist scholar committed to empowering Indigenous perspectives. She is proud to serve in the elevation of Native women and girls as the Director of Legacy Collections at the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program. Gabi earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Harvard University, and her B.S. in Social Work and American Indian Studies from Cornell University. Her scholarly research focuses on hemispheric American Indian identity, multiracialism, indigenous religions, and social movements, maintaining a regional specialization in the Chesapeake Bay.

Gabi has served in staff and advisory capacities for numerous organizations including Amnesty International, Survival International, National Geographic, the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, the Historic St. Mary’s Commission, the Accokeek Foundation, the National Park Service, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities. In her passionate youth, she co-founded the League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations, a hemispheric alliance of Native peoples, which led the largest action north of Mexico to mark 500 years of American Indian survival in 1992.

Gabi is regularly featured in the media including National Public Radio, Tavis Smiley, the BBC, the Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor. She lectures widely to diverse audiences at venues ranging from the White House to kindergarten classrooms. Gabi dedicates time and energy to supporting the DC area local North American and diasporic Central and South American Indigenous communities through cultural and political efforts. As a member of Washington D.C.’s host nation, she helps to center connection to and ceremony for diverse global Indigenous representatives.

Gabi was a scholar at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian from 1999-2017. At NMAI, she had also served as the Unit Head for Education and a Curator. She co-curated one of NMAI’s inaugural exhibitions with Jolene Rickard and Gerald McMaster, called Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identity. She is also the curator of Return to a Native Place: Native Peoples of the Chesapeake Region which opened in 2007. Gabrielle co-curated the banner travelling exhibit, IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas and served as General Editor for the book of the same name. Her most recent formative project is the upcoming exhibit Native New York: Where Nations Rise, opening in 2019.

She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her children, Sebastian and Jansikwe.

Alexandra David

Program Coordinator

Mohawk/Cree

Alexandra David, Mohawk/Cree, is an enrolled member of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and the Mohawks of Akwesasne. She proudly serves as the first-ever Program Coordinator for Spirit Aligned Leadership Program, overseeing the daily interweaving of complex elements of operations and activities. She serves as a thought partner to the director on matters of program design, outreach and logistics.

Alexandra maintains relationships between various partners within networks of Indigenous women and girls, SAL program Legacy Leaders, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and NoVo Foundation.

Alexandra is a high-capacity entrepreneur with a background in business and non-profit operations, as well as an education in accounting and employment relations. She has over two decades of experience in project management and organizational support. Prior to launching an interior design consultancy, Alexandra served an administration role with International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, a global donor affinity organization.

Alexandra lives in Akwesasne, a Mohawk border territory along the shores of the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario. She and husband Jason have raised children Nolan, Mitchell and Hadley together.