Meet our Team…Women-Led Indigenous Symposium!!


Susan BalbasSusan Balbas (Cherokee and Yaqui Nations) is the executive director of Na’ah Illahee Fund, a Seattle-based nonprofit that advances sustainable Indigenous cultures in the Pacific Northwest through the leadership of Native women and girls. Susan holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Teaching. She has been an independent consultant working with tribes, artists and nonprofits, and has held management positions in the business, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. Mother of three and grandmother of three, Susan has studied with herbalists, is an organic gardener, a cook, and voracious reader of all books on indigenous foodways and the local/healthy foods movement, social and environmental justice issues, and historical novels. She is a graduate of Mid-Sound Fisheries’ Community Action Training School (CATS) program and serves on the board of Potlatch Fund.


Charlotte CoteDr. Charlotte Coté (Tseshaht/Nuu-chah-nulth) (Co-Founder and Planning Committee Chair) is associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. Dr. Coté holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a B.A. in Political Science from Simon Fraser University in B.C.. Dr. Coté is the author of Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors. Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth Traditions (UW Press, 2010). Her other publications include, “Indigenizing” Food Sovereignty. Revitalizing Indigenous Food Practices and Ecological Knowledges in Canada and the U.S.,” and “Food Sovereignty, Food Hegemony, and the Revitalization of Indigenous Whaling Practices.” She is currently completing her next book that focuses on the revitalization of Indigenous food traditions and ancestral ecological knowledge. Dr. Coté serves as co-editor for the UW Press’ Indigenous Confluences series and co-hosts the UWTV’s Voices of the First People’s film series. Dr. Coté also serves as chair of the UW’s wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House Advisory Committee and is Affiliated Faculty in the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies, Canadian Studies Center. She is the president of the Native-led nonprofit organization, Potlatch Fund.

claritaDr. Clarita Lefthand-Begay (Diné) Clarita Lefthand-Begay is citizen of the Navajo Nation and an assistant professor in the University of Washington’s Information School. She received her doctoral degree in Environmental and Occupational Hygiene from the University of Washington’s (UW) School of Public Health in 2014. She is the Director of the Tribal Water Security Project, a project that examines the water insecurity challenges faced by tribes in the United States.  Her interdisciplinary research focuses on tribal water security, and climate change adaptation, health and resiliency. As a researcher and tribal community member, Clarita supports efforts to strengthen environmental and tribal wellbeing while respecting and honoring self-determination and cultural revitalization.   For more information please visit:

husky12Jessica Hernandez (Zapotec & Ch’orti’) is an alumna from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Marine Science—emphasis in ocean engineering & fisheries— and Italian Studies.  She completed a dual masters: Masters of Marine Affairs and Masters of Science in Environmental & Forest Sciences from the University of Washington, College of Environment in 2017. For her master thesis she researched how indigenous peoples have addressed regional environmental justice cases in the Pacific Northwest. Her Ph.D. research aims to provide decolonial work to the climate change discourse by providing a platform for indigenous peoples to share their principles, perspectives, and experiences with climate change in the Pacific Northwest. This multi-faced project centers on community-based participatory research by integrating visual and technological methodologies (e.g. photovoice, storyboards, digital storytelling, etc).  Her doctorate research is funded by the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.  For more information please visit:
Dian MillionDr. Dian Million (Athabascan) is Associate Professor in American Indian Studies and Affiliated Faculty in Canadian Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. She holds a BA in interdisciplinary studies from Fairhaven College, Western Washington University and a Masters and Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. Dian Million’s most recent research explores the politics of mental and physical health with attention to affect as it intersects with race, class, and gender in Indian Country. She is the author of Therapeutic Nations: Healing in an Age of Indigenous Human Rights (University of Arizona Press, Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies Series, 2013) as well as numerous articles, chapters, and poems. Therapeutic Nations is a discussion of trauma as a political narrative in the struggle for Indigenous self determination in an era of global neoliberalism. Reading unprecedented violence against Indigenous women and all women as more than a byproduct of global contention Therapeutic Nations makes an argument for the constitutive role violence takes in the now quicksilver transmutations of capitalist development. She teaches courses on Indigenous politics, literature, feminisms and social issues.
Dr. Michelle MontgomeryDr. Michelle Montgomery (Haliwa Saponi/Eastern Band Cherokee) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences in American Indian and Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies.  Dr. Montgomery’s research focuses on adaptation to climate change, environmental ethics connected to land-base Indigenous identities, Indigenous cultural autonomy, critical race/tribal critical race theory, and bioethics related to sociocultural and environmental health disparities within American Indian/Alaska Native/First Nations communities.  
Stephanie Leon Riedl Photo Living Breath Symposium 2018

Stephanie Leon Riedl (Sts’ailes & Musqueam, First Nations), is the Indigenous Foods Program Coordinator at Na’ah Illahee Fund, based in Seattle. Stephanie received a Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies from the University of Washington (with a minor in Diversity/Disability Studies), and earned a Permaculture Design Certificate from Oregon State University. Stephanie has worked in King County schools to implement peer-to-peer crisis intervention education, has facilitated digital storytelling projects with Neah Bay and Makah youth through the UW Pipeline Program, has participated in indigenous food garden health research in New Zealand as part of the 2015 Māhina International Indigenous Health Research Training Program, and is a 2015 Bonderman fellow. Stephanie’s research and practice interests include strengthening channels of mental health support for indigenous young people, with an emphasis on youth empowerment, social justice, and indigenous cultural resurgence.

LR Export-6097 (1)Jordan Brown Woolston is a graduate of the University of Washington, Tacoma, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts studying the history of the Pacific Northwest and Oral History. Her undergraduate research interpreted the historical processes of resource management in the Pacific Northwest; specifically, how Eurocentric management techniques impact resources and people. Jordan is currently working on a graduate degree in Non-profit Studies from the University of Washington, Tacoma.  Her current research explores the unique relationship between funders and organizations that advocate for culture-based programs in and around Washington State.