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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 every month.

Meeting Time: 
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Location: 
Denver Museum of Nature & Science (in the Harry T. Lewis Room)
2001 Colorado Blvd

Note: All commission meetings are open to the public. 


Commission Members

Kristina 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.

Venus Boatner is currently an Associate City Planner with the City and County of Denver. She earned her Bachelor's degree in interior design from the Art Institute of Colorado. Venus is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is passionate about serving her community.

As a mother of two 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 and County of Denver, she has volunteered with the Salvation Army and Palmer Elementary. 

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.

Donna is a native of Denver, Colorado and has recently returned to Colorado with her family. 

Donna stays active in the Native community by volunteering and participating in several community organizations.  She is a public speaker and has been presenting historical information about Lakota people to schools and organizations for over 35 years.  Donna is on the steering committee for PASS, which is a parent organization for the Cherry Creek School District. 

Donna is a legal professional for a prestigious law firm in downtown Denver. Outside of work, more times than not, she is found participating with her children in sports and youth activities in the Denver metro area.

Chenoa was born on the Piikani (Blackfeet) Nation of Alberta, Canada. Her father grew up in Browning, MT and is Southern Blackfoot from Montana and Karuk from California. Her mother grew up in Brocket, Alberta and is Peigan Blackfeet. Chenoa is the oldest of two sisters and two brothers. She moved to Denver in 2012 to complete her master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on historical trauma at University of Denver. She currently works for Denver Indian Health and Family Services (DIHFS) under the Behavioral Health team. She hopes to bring awareness to behavioral health issues in the Indian community, shed light on intergeneration and historical trauma, and decrease stigmatization of mental health.

Chenoa is rejuvenated by music, the mountains, being in water, attending Ceremony, being with family,  being around youth, listening to spoken word, walking her dog, and hearing the drum. She is hopeful that her future work involves running an organization that focuses on cultural connectivity and visibility by bringing Native families and organizations together as a strong unit in the larger community. 

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Jonathan is a visual artist. He is Diné (Navajo) and born into his mother’s clan, the Towering House Clan (Kiiyaa'áanii), and born for his father’s clan, Mexican clan (Naakai Dine’é). Jonathan holds a master’s degree in visual communication from the University of Arizona and specializes as an illustrator, fine artist, and creative consultant.

Born and raised in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Jonathan began his art experience drawing on wide-ruled paper on the kitchen table at age 5. He collected comic books and started tracing Spiderman, X-Men, Hulk, and many others. Elementary tracing evolved into freehand drawings with No. 2 school pencils. His drawing has evolved into a career as a creative professional.

Nowadays, he works in ballpoint pen and paint to highlight modern vast high desert landscapes filled with sheep. The landscapes, and his other works, bring to light the sustaining life of indigenous culture and its on-going struggle in a Eurocentric driven society.

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.

Bio coming soon

"Sasha" is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewaw Indians located in Red Lake, Minnesota. She is the proud mother of her son Blake. 

Sasha graduated from CU Boulder with a Bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in philosophy. 

Strong served as a secretary and budget-committee member of the Boulder County Head Start Policy Council and worked at the Colorado Department of Higher Education as their Legislative Policy Assistant until August of 2018. 

Sasha is currently a law student at CU BOulder School of Law. She is an active member of the Native American Law Student Association and the Latinx Law Student Association. 

In her spare time, Sasha enjoys hiking, playing basketball and soccer, and reading. 

Merv is an attorney and for the past twenty years he has been the president of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, a law and policy research institution. 

Tano has worked with Indian tribes and organizations for over forty 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 Office of Science and Technology's Community Leaders Network, and several committees of the National Academy of Public Administration and National Research Council. 

Merv has written extensively on Indian law, risk, cultural resources management, environmental justice, climate, environmental restoration, technology development, environmental law, and radioactive waste management. 

Lance serves as the Colorado Program Manager for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that instills critical life skills in under-resourced youth through transformative wilderness mentoring experiences. Born and raised on the Navajo Nation, Lance grew up immersed in his ancestral tradition, culture, and with a deep connection to nature. He grew up hearding his grandmother's goats, riding horses, and exploring canyonlands surrounding his home - it was there where his sense of wonder grew. Lance received a B.A. in political science from the University of Denver. 

Tsosie is an active member of the Denver Native American community and a strong advocate for social justice. He has served in leadership positions at DU and has professional experience with college access and success programs for underserved communities. He believes passionately in the power of the outdoors and its ability to widen the scope of possibilities for youth.

On his personal time, Lance enjoys bouldering, trail running, summiting 14ers, backpacking, fitness challenges, camping, and everything Colorado. 

Kimberly is an Eastern Shoshone tribal member who recently returned to Denver and is a practicing attorney with an emphasis on federal Indian law issues, including jurisdiction and tribal environmental concerns. 

Varilek is the former Attorney General for the Eastern Shoshone tribe in Wyoming where she worked for over seven years on general Indian law issues, policy, and litigation. She was in private practice in Colorado prior to working internally for the Easter Shoshone tribe. 

 
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For questions, comments, or more information please contact:
Darius Smith, DAIC Liaison
720-913-8459
darius.smith@denvergov.org
 

Are you interested in joining the American Indian Commission?
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