November 7th–This year, the American Indian Cultural Center of San Francisco (AICCSF) in partnership with the Mayors office of San Francisco, recognized three local heroes at the annual Native American Heritage Month Celebration. Sonya Tetnowski (Maka Nation), CEO of Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley & Board President of the CA Consortium of Urban Indian Health was honored as one of our local heroes. Rodney Little Bird (Standing Rock Sioux), an American Indian Community Advocate for LGBTQ-2S Community was honored as a second local hero. Paloma Flores (Pit River Nation), Indian Education Program Director and American Indian Youth Advocate was honored as a third local hero.
Rodney Little Bird Standing Rock Sioux, American Indian Community Advocate for LGBTQ-2S Community was nominated as a second local hero , and Paloma Flores Pit River Nation and Indian Education Program Director and American Indian Youth Advocate as third local hero.
These honorees were nominated by AIAN community members and were selected by the Native American Heritage planning committee, members of the advisory committee, AICCSF Board president, Executive Director and Project Coordinator. The honorees were selected based on their accomplishments and contribution to create positive change for the AIAN community.
The Native American Heritage Month Celebration took place on Tuesday November 7th at San Francisco City Hall Rotunda and local heroes were honored with a certificate from Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco. Mayor Lee highlighted the accomplishments and value of our local heroes, and gave recognition to the local Urban Indian Health Organizations that are providing services to the AIAN community. It was a beautiful night of celebration with All Nations Drum and traditional Native American dancers and singers from the AIAN community.
It is important for the American Indian community to acknowledge our American Indian leaders that are working hard for Urban Indian families to have a voice and visibility in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. As the AIAN community struggles to access affordable housing, culturally sensitive behavioral health services, and afterschool programs that provide tutoring and culturally centered activities to strengthen the identity of our future generations of Urban Indian youth, it is the dedication of these leaders and local heroes that give voice to the needs of the AIAN community.
The Indian Health of Santa Clara Valley, a member of the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health (CCUIH), has hired a new Chief Executive Officer, Sonya Tetnowski.
“We are very happy that Sonya is coming on board because she understands the diverse culture in San Jose and Santa Clara County, and is committed to building and maintaining the cohesion we have developed over all these years,” said Liz Hunt, current CEO of the Indian Health Center and one of CCUIH’s Board Directors. Liz will be stepping down into the Chief Operations Officer (COO) position.
Previously, Sonya was the CEO of the Lower Elwan tribe, located north of Seattle, Washington. She was responsible for overseeing a $27 million budget with a workforce of 398 staff and multiple functions including health, social services, and education. The Lower Elwan tribe serves both Indians and non-Indians, and employs a diverse workforce.
Soya is a member of the Makah tribe from Eastern Washington is also an army veteran. She grew up on her reservation until she was 18. Sonya understands from first-hand experience what it is like to relocate to an urban area after being raise on a reservation. She brings a wealth of knowledge with her to the Indian Health Center.
Sonya says, “You have to trust the people who are on your team. In most cases people can do it. We can tend to underestimate thevalue people bring to the table. I excel at leveraging off the strength of my team members.”
“The Board of Directors is confident that Sonya Tetnowski will take the Indian Health Center to the next level in providing high-quality health care to the American Indian and broader community,” said Chris Mele, M.D., Vice-Chair of the Indian Health Center’s Board of Directors.
CCUIH also looks forward to working with Sonya Tetnowski.