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IllumiNative Expands Leadership Team, Launches Media Company

IllumiNative Expands Leadership Team, Launches Media Company

IllumiNative founder Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) is bringing on colleagues as her Native justice organization grows.

Michael Johnson (Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota) is joining as president, Angel Charley (Pueblo of Laguna and Navajo Nation) as IllumiNative’s first-ever executive director and Jennifer Van der Heide as vice president of the new advocacy and engagement department.

“I am honored to join Crystal and the talented IllumiNative team as president as we embark on this journey of community-directed radical movement building and the acknowledgement and celebration of self-determination to increase the visibility of Native peoples,” Johnson said in a statement. “Research is IllumiNative’s DNA – it’s what the organization was founded on in 2018 and it continues to be the driving force behind our ability to create change and respond to the evolving needs of our communities, which is why we’ll be releasing brand new research this year to guide our vision for the future of our organization and the fight to build power for Native peoples.”

In addition, after attaining 501(c)(3) status late last year, the nonprofit now known as IllumiNative, INC. is also launching a production company subsidiary, IllumiNative Media, LLC.

“I have deeply admired IllumiNative as an organization that stands at the forefront of advancing Native voices and narratives, and I am excited to step into the role of executive director to continue stewarding our mission,” Charley said in a statement. “I’m honored to be working alongside Crystal, Michael and the rest of our team in this distributed co-leadership structure that will expand our potential to show up as leaders in our communities. I look forward to working together with our dedicated team and partners to elevate Native voices and catalyze positive change on a national scale.”

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IllumiNative also is unveiling its board of directors, which will work in partnership with Echo Hawk and Johnson. The board will be chaired by The Angle principal Holly Cook Macarro (Red Lake Band of Ojibwe), with playwright and National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center legal counsel Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee) serving as vice chair, American Indian College Fund president and CEO Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota) as treasurer and Intertribal Agricultural Council chief advancement officer Wayne L. Ducheneaux II (Cheyenne River Sioux) as secretary. Members at large include Cloud Woman Media executive producer Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache), The Washington Post chief communications officer Kathy Baird (Sicangu Lakota/Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), Array president Tilane Jones and MNTN chief people officer Anna McMurphy.

“When I started this organization in 2018 I had no idea where it would take me, but the growth and impact we’ve achieved in the last five years has surpassed my wildest expectations,” Echo Hawk, who will remain as CEO of IllumiNative, said in a statement. “The creation of IllumiNative Media is a huge step for our organization and the future of Native representation, and will allow us to invest in and support Native creatives both in front of and behind the screen to raise cultural awareness and promote authentic Native storytelling. As we enter this next transformative phase, I am honored to be working alongside our exceptional leadership team and board to continue to build power for Native peoples and shape a future where our narratives are heard, respected and celebrated. I could not be more proud of the organization’s growth, and I am so excited for this next stage of expansion – we have some really exciting projects and initiatives ahead of us.”

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