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American Indian Commission

The Mission of the Denver American Indian Commission is to enhance present and future communications between the Denver American Indian Community and the City and County of Denver, to advocate for social and cultural awareness and to promote economic and political equality.


Commission Meetings

Monthly meetings take place on the second Wednesday of each month.

Meeting Time: 
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science (in the Harry T. Lewis Room)

2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver 80205

Right after each meeting the DAIC is proud to present the monthly 2016 Indigenous Film Series @ DMNS Phipps IMAX Theater: films start at 6:30pm, with the doors opening at 6:00pm and end time between 7:45 – 8:30pm.  The format will be a film screening followed by discussion with the audience.  Free and open to the public.


Commission Members

(Taos Pueblo) 

Benito Concha is a traditional drummer and dancer, including the Taos Pueblo Hoop and Eagle Dances.  He is a Lisenced Massage Therapist and is a pioneer of 'Positive Touch' therapy. He has been selected several times to serve in Official leadership positions within the Taos Pueblo Tribal Government.  Additionally, Benito is an accomplished music performer who has toured nationally/internationally promoting two of his most popular albums, Songs of the Hummingbird and Secret Souls (1998).  From 1990 to 1996, Benito was a founding member of the very popular Indigenous Rock band, Red Thunder; a few of their songs were played in heavy rotation on both VH1 and MTV.  In 1994, Benito starred in a national Public Service Announcement, entitled, “Free Your Mind” to address Indigenous Human Rights,  In 1998 Benito artistically directed 'EARTH Celebration' on the island of Sado in Japan for the world reknown Taiko Drummers 'KODO'. Benito's drumming and percussion performance with Robbie Robertson can be heard on the 'Contact from the Undrworld of Redboy' album.


Derek Brown loves to make videos and is a founding member of Café Cultura, a poetry-slam organization. His many honors and awards include the President Scholarship of the Art Institute of Colorado (Winter 2010), scholarship winner from the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce, awarded student of the quarter at The Art Institute of Colorado (Spring 2009), nominated for the 2009 Regional Heartland Emmy® Award for the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run/Walk.  Derek served as the Production Associate on the 2013 Emmy® Award (Heartland Chapter) Winner – Best Cultural Documentary for Urban Rez

(Cheyenne River Sioux)

Originally from Eagle Butte, South Dakota, Donna graduated with a business degree from Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.

Donna moved to Denver in 1974. She has since worked for tribal, city, federal government and for profit agencies. 

Now retired, Donna continues her passion for education by encouraging the teaching of Native cultural traditions, values, and language to younger generations.

She hopes to close the gap of cultural competency by continueing to enlighten society by informing, educating, and empowering Native people.  

(Navajo Nation and Spirit Lake Dakota Sioux)

Elicia resides in Firestone, CO and works as a Case Manager for Foothills United Way in Longmont, CO. She has been a member of the Denver American Indian Commission since July 2012 and is a co-Chair of the Commission.

Ms. Goodsoldier has continuously worked to raise awareness for the lack of behavioral health resources in reservation communities and the need for public policy changes at the national level in mental health awareness. She is a member of the Cultural Competency Advisory Council for the Division of Behavioral Health, Colorado Department of Human Services. 

When Elicia saw that there was a need for more culturally aware and responsive outreach to multicultural communities in the Denver metro area, she helped found the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Colorado Chapter. 

She works to educate mainstream behavioral health care providers about native issues and mental health care issues, and frequently speaks on the importance of understanding historical and intergenerational trauma and mental health impacts, among American Indian and Alaska Native communities and the local Denver area community. She also sits on the Health and Education committee of the Commission, which looks at the educational, mental and physical health gaps and needs of the urban Indian community in and around Denver.

(Sicangu Lakota & Cherokee)

Ms. Bad Hand is an artist that hails from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for community and social justice have led her to create, through the genre of comic illustration, a place in which indigenous youth, and particularly indigenous women, are empowered.  She studied for four years at the Art Institute of Colorado and is an entrepreneur with big dreams. Kristina is currently a Community Liaison with Jeffco Indian Education and is an active volunteer in community programs, animal shelters and after-school programs throughout the Denver metro area. She is also a member of multiple socially engaged groups and non-profit organizations such as Red Team Go!: An Artists’ Collective, Write Our World, Pop Culture Classroom and the Stronghold Society

(Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan Village of Nikolai)

Jacqueline Esai is an Athabaskan from rural Alaska, where she was raised in a traditional subsistence lifestyle that involved traveling from camp to camp with the hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping seasons.

Jacqueline received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Denver and her Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School.

After graduating, Jacqueline clerked for Justice Craig Stowers of the Alaska Supreme Court and then worked at a large California law firm focusing prow living in Denver, she is honored to be able to serve both the City and County of Denver and Native interests as a commissioner on the Denver American Indian Commission.

(Eastern Shoshone/Oglala Lakota)

Kimberly Varilek is an Eastern Shoshone tribal member who recently returned to Denver, CO and is a practicing attorney working with emphasis on federal Indian law issues, including jurisdiction and tribal environmental concerns. Ms. Varilek is the former-Attorney General for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in WY, where she worked for over seven (7) years on general Indian law issues, policy, and litigation, and was in private practice in Colorado prior to working internally for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.

(Lakota and Ahtna Dine)

Kimmila currently teaches Lakota within the Denver school system. Kimimila has her MA in Teaching and has been in education for the past fourteen years as a middle and high school English teacher. In addition to teaching in several states including New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Georgia, and Colorado, she also taught two years overseas in the United Arab Emirates.

(Lakota, Ojibwe, and Akimel O'odham)

Maymangwa is a lawyer with expertise in small business development and government contracting. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota and her Doctor of Law from Cornell University.


Mervyn L. Tano (Native Hawaiian/Indigenous Puerto Rican) is an attorney and for the past 15 years, the president of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, a law and policy research institution.  Mr. Tano has worked with Indian tribes and organizations for over 25 years with stints as the director of planning and budget at the Administration for Native Americans and as general counsel and director of environmental programs at the Council of Energy Resource Tribes.  He was a member of several national advisory boards including EPA’s Federal Facilities Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, DOE Office of Science and Technology’s Community Leaders Network, and several committees of the National Academy of Public Administration and National Research Council.  Mr. Tano has written extensively on Indian law, risk, cultural resources management, environmental justice, climate, environmental restoration, technology development, environmental law, and radioactive waste management.

(Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians/Apache)

Michelle volunteers with Indigenous youth in the Denver-Metro area, as the Director for the Medicine Heart Dancers. 

Through her non-profit work, Michelle has  helped to create opportunities for youth members to actively participate in cultural activities, including performances at schools and events statewide. 

At the Denver Indian Center, Michelle works with youth teaching Pow-Wow style dancing and encouraging healthy lifestyles. 

As a student of Anthropology and Journalism at Metropolitan State University, Michelle supports her community through her own education. She recently presented at the High Plains Society Annual Conference on Historical Trauma and Cultural Preservation through Traditional Education. 

Michelle also works in Public Relations for a local minority-female owned firm.

(Sicangu Lakota)

Stella is the Office Manager/Training Coordinator at Joining Vision and Action (formerly JVA Consulting). Prior to joining the JVA team, Stella worked with the Native Workforce Program through the Denver Indian Center. For 20 years, Stella has worked within her tribal government, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, providing direct services to tribal members. She has worked with the Tribe’s land office for 10 years, providing assistance to tribal members with land issues such as land exchanges, land assignments, home sites, business sites and land disputes/conflicts. Stella was instrumental in the establishment and development of the Tribe’s land office back in 2000. She assisted the Tribe and the Tribe’s Land Use & Environment Commission in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Office.

Stella has also worked with nonprofit organizations and was co-director of the board of the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society, a nonprofit organization that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. She has served her tribal community through two, one-year terms as a community vice-chair, and one term as a tribal liquor commissioner. Stella has also volunteered her time and energy by helping coordinate events benefiting tribal youth and elders on the reservation. Stella is currently serving her second term on the Denver American Indian Commission. Stella serves as JVA’s liaison with the Denver American Indian community and is active with Native Americans in Philanthropy.

Stella’s greatest passion is being a grandmother. It is her desire to teach her two little granddaughters to love life, to love the earth and to live in harmony with all life.

(Bois Forte Ojibwa/Oglala Lakota) Venus Boatner is currently an Associate City Planner at the City and County of Denver. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design from The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver. Venus is a Native of Minneapolis, MN and is passionate about serving her community. As a mother of 2 children, Rodric Jr. and Jahquin, she engages in their educational and extracurricular activities.  Since 2009, Venus has been a dedicated civil servant and forward-looking community member.  In addition to working for the City she has volunteered with the Salvation Army and Palmer Elementary (Denver Public Schools) respectfully.  


Click the below image to view the guide.

Contact the Commission

To apply: 
Complete the application and send it to

For questions, comments, or more information please contact:
Darius Smith, DAIC Liaison

Denver American Indian Commission News