Tulalip woman selected to travel as an ambassador in a leadership program

A Tulalip tribal member has been selected to be an ambassador for the Americans for Indian Opportunity program.

Theresa Sheldon, a governmental policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes, will spend the next two years traveling around the nation and the world to meet indigenous leaders and learn leadership skills.

At the same time, she hopes to develop a self-sustaining tribal Youth Council, based on the traditional governing practices of Tulalip Tribes.

“Typically you get a grant so you can run a youth council, but once that grant runs out, there’s nothing left,” Sheldon said. “My intention is to create policy for a youth council so it can outlast budget constraints and stay in place for many years.”

The Americans for Indian Opportunity Ambassadors program began in 1993. Based in Albuquerque, N.M., the program selects between 16 and 18 American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian leaders every two years, said Nicole Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Sheldon will travel with her group to four gatherings. The first, a gathering designed for each ambassador to reflect on how they connect to their tribal communities, begins this week in Albuquerque, Wheeler said.

The second gathering is set for Washington, D.C., where the ambassadors will meet with federal policymakers and interest groups that work within Indian country. The group will take a short trip to New York City, where members will learn about the financial industry.

The third gathering is in New Zealand. The ambassadors will meet with Maori indigenous leaders. The fourth gathering isn’t planned, Wheeler said, but the ambassadors most likely will visit an American Indian community within the United States.

Sheldon lives on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. She has a 2-year-old son.

“That’s the inspiring part,” Sheldon said. “I hope to be able to bring home things for my son to benefit.”

Sheldon is one of two ambassadors from the Pacific Northwest, Wheeler said. The other is a Lummi tribal member.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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