Meet Our Staff
The dynamic teamwork of AIANTA's staff, Board of Directors, funders, partners, consultants and members is the most significant driver in pursuing and realizing our mission. Our staff and consultants have experience working in Indian Country travel and tourism as well as expertise in economic and program development, rural planning and marketing.
Who is Who?
Camille L. Ferguson, Executive Director
Camille L. Ferguson is Tlingit from the Kiksadi Clan and a member of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska. She studied business and village management at Sheldon Jackson College. She served as the Economic Development Director for Sitka Tribe of Alaska for 15 years, 1996-2012. She established, expanded and managed the tribe's Tourism Department, Transportation Department, Gaming Department, Tribal Tannery and Community House Convention Facility and oversaw a $6.5 million economic development budget.
Camille began her 26-year career in the visitor industry working for Sitka Tours before rising to direct economic development. She expanded Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s cultural tour program, oversaw the Community House Meeting & Convention Center, gained national recognition for the Naa Kahidi Dancers, established the Made in Sitka Gift Shop, and was instrumental in the development of Sitka’s Public Transit/Tribal Transit system of trolleys, Indian Reservations Roads Program and the Alaska Wild Game Charitable Pull Tab Parlor.
She was president of the Sitka Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) for five of the seven years of her appointment to the CVB Board, and as president, she raised hotel bed tax revenue by 48 percent. She created, organized, fundraised and managed the annual Alaska Heritage and Cultural Tourism Conference, now in its seventh year. Most recently, she was general manager for Shee Atika Corporation’s Totem Square Inn, Sitka's native-owned hotel.
For her work in tourism, the Alaska Travel Industry gave her their highest award in 2011, the Denali Award for Professionalism and Leadership. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Alaska Mobility Coalition's Dan Moreno Award, a special recognition for individuals or tribal organizations that have made significant contributions in support and development of tribal transportation in Alaska. She served on the Alaska Mobility Coalition’s Board of Directors and the Governor’s Coordinated Transportation Task Force.
Camille also served on the AIANTA Board of Directors from 2002-2012 and was President of the AIANTA Board of Directors from 2003-2007. As president, she presided over the hiring of the first AIANTA Executive Director and the opening of the organization's office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She served as interim executive director of AIANTA from July to December 2011 and became executive director of AIANTA in January, 2013.
Camille and her husband have a wonderful family of three children and seven grandchildren.
Rachel Cromer-Howard, Public Relations and Media Specialist
As AIANTA’s Public Relations and Media Specialist, Rachel is a PR professional focused on delivering results. She has helped national and global organizations and companies achieve their goals by building solid media relationships throughout the country and implementing unique communications strategies for a diverse array of clients.
Rachel brings to AIANTA extensive experience in crafting and executing strategy, plans and programs for companies ranging from small non-profits to multi-million dollar businesses. Rachel has served as a community relations and media relations specialist for a variety of clients, including a southwestern New Mexico Tribe and several multi-million dollar community development companies. In creating connections between leaders, the community and the media, Rachel has helped facilitate and execute crucial community relations, media relations and outreach campaigns. Her dedicated work ethic makes her a strong member of the AIANTA team.
Through her social media and media relations work in industries ranging from real estate development and sporting organizations to international politics, Rachel has become a strong, yet flexible writer and team member.
Before joining AIANTA, Rachel honed in on her media production expertise working for a television station where she managed and created television commercials and promotions. Here, Rachel was also instrumental in the strategic development of advertising campaigns and promotional events.
Rachel is a graduate from the University of New Mexico, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Journalism, with a concentration in Strategic Communication, and was an active member and leader of various PR organizations.
Sandra Anderson, IT & Website Development Coordinator
Sandra filled the role of AIANTA’s membership coordinator in January 2013 after serving as an AIANTA intern in 2012. As the membership coordinator, Sandra initiated and cultivated AIANTA memberships around the globe. She is now the IT & Website Development Coordinator for AIANTA.
With a strong background in accounting, finance, strategic planning and information technology, Sandra brings a lot to the AIANTA team. She is highly experienced in helping companies reach their organizational and financial objectives.
Originally from Fort Defiance, Arizona, Sandra is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and she is from the Towering House clan and born for the Towering House clan. Her maternal grandfather is from the Meadow People clan and her paternal grandfather is from the Bitter Water clan.
Sandra received her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and a second degree in Native American studies from the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque. She is currently enrolled as a graduate student at UNM in the Community and Regional Planning Program with an emphasis in Indigenous Planning (iD+Pi). Upon graduation this spring, Sandra plans to concentrate on community-based tourism projects to encourage economic development.
She is a proud mother of two, Dru and Davina Anderson.
Gail E. Chehak, Membership & Development Coordinator
Gail E. Chehak is a Klamath Tribal member who has worked extensively in the areas of tribal arts, tourism, economic development and environmental protection. She has served a number of tribal organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Gail co-authored Native Peoples of the NW: Traveler’s Guide to Land, Art & Culture, while working as Arts & Tourism Coordinator for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. She also represented ATNI and served as Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's Delegate to the Washington, D.C. White House Conference on Travel & Tourism in 1995.
Early in her career, she realized fundraising and grant writing were critical skills needed to develop programs for tribal communities. She worked with the Tribal Sovereignty Project (now known as Seventh Generation Fund) to coordinate grant writing workshops for Oregon Tribes. She was subsequently asked to serve on the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation Board of Directors. Later she became President and began networking with other foundations.
Gail has successfully raised funds from federal and state programs, foundations, corporations, churches and individuals. She has coordinated a number of fundraising events, including auctions, membership campaigns and trade shows. She has served on the grants review panels for the Administration for Native Americans (Health & Human Services), Social, Economic Development Strategies; the Corporation for National Service Programs (AmeriCorps), Non-Profit & State Competitive Grants and State Set Aside Grants; the National Parks Service Historic Preservation Fund for Indian Tribes; the Department of Education, Library Services Special Programs to Indian Tribes; and the Department of Health & Human Services, Indian Health Service Scholarships. Most recently, she served on the Albuquerque Community Foundation review panel for the arts.
Active in the community, Gail serves as Board Secretary for the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico, as the local representative of the American Made Alliance and as a Board Member of the Old Town Albuquerque Merchants Association where she works with a coalition of artists, galleries and businesses to promote authentic American Indian art. She provides support to the Santo Domingo Pueblo for the re-opening of its historic Trading Post in the spring of 2013, and to the American Indian Business Association at the University of New Mexico to coordinate a Native art market during American Indian month in November.
Sherrie Bowman, Office and Administrative Manager
Sherrie Bowman is a tribal member from the Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico. She comes to AIANTA with more than 18 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. Starting off at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in 1985 she worked as a sales associate in the gift shop and was later promoted to work as the facilities coordinator where she handled the rental and coordination of meeting rooms which included banquets, luncheons, conference off site functions, and weddings. Later she was promoted to the special events coordinator/public relations representative.
As special events coordinator she was responsible for all special events at the center some of which included arts and crafts shows, American Indian Week activities, America Japan Week co-sponsored by the sister city of Albuquerque, Veteran’s Day celebration, Multi-Cultural Festival, Senior Citizen’s Day and many other events throughout the year. After 13 years she left and went to work for the New Mexico Indian Tourism Association (NMITA) as the administrative assistant. At that time NMITA hosted and coordinated the first annual American Indian Tourism Conference (AITC).
She also assisted with the development of Indian Tourism Interviews with New Mexico Tribal Governments. In 2000, she left to become the marketing coordinator for the Pueblo of Laguna’s Dancing Eagle Casino. She supervised a casino host team, the Player’s Club, and sales promotions where she assisted with the development and creation of a player tracking program, department policies & procedures and adherence to Internal Controls; communicated and implemented programs with the Director of Marketing; worked with the Gaming Control Board in adhering to all policies and procedures for all promotions in obtaining their approval; responsible gaming representative for the Responsible Gaming Association of New Mexico; and trade show coordination.
Prior to her work with AIANTA, Sherrie worked for the Pueblo of Sandia for six years as an administrative coordinator for a grant funded program. Sherrie has an associate of applied science degree is hospitality & tourism and an associate degree in liberal arts. Sherrie is a proud mother of three children, Helen, Ryan, and Jontel and is “Nana” to her three grandchildren, Dakota, Daisha and DeAndre.
Aimee Awonohopay, Public Lands Program Manager
Aimee D. Awonohopay is the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) Public Lands Program Manager. Aimee is a partnership specialist dedicated to promoting economic development in Indian Country.
Ms. Awonohopay has more than 17 years of experience in tourism, business development, public relations, marketing, Indian gaming and intergovernmental affairs. She began her career at her tribe’s casino, St. Croix Casino & Hotel, in the marketing department, serving eight years. After completing her bachelor degree, Aimee accepted a public relations position with her tribe, managing intergovernmental relationships and serving as the Public Information Officer. She then returned to Indian gaming as a Director of Marketing, developing the corporate revenue growth model and establishing a data-driven marketing strategy. Aimee then went on to represent the 11 Wisconsin tribes as the Native American Tourism of Wisconsin (NATOW) Executive Director, strengthening relationships with the Wisconsin Governor’s Cabinet and packaging and promoting Wisconsin’s combined cultural tribal tourism. During her tenure with NATOW, she was also appointed by Governor Scott Walker to serve on the Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Tourism in 2012. Most recently, Ms. Awonohopay was elected to serve on her tribe’s governing board, enhancing relationships to increase tribal revenue and developing reporting systems to improve tribal member quality of life.
Aimee is very committed to developing tourism in Indian Country. She believes tourism can not only provide to tribal economic development, but also help bridge gaps with the non-Native community and maintain tribal culture for future generations. Aimee became involved with the industry in 2008 when her tribe appointed her as their NATOW representative. She also began a museum initiative for her tribe at the same time, involving tribal stakeholders with various backgrounds. Aimee realized the benefit of tourism then, seeing how much opportunity and pride it could bring to tribes. She was appointed to the AIANTA Board of Directors in 2013, representing the Midwest region and advocating for tourism to other tribal leaders and state and federal agencies. Aimee served as the Board Secretary and Marketing Committee Chair, leading the committee in developing the organizational marketing message. She was very passionate about educating and garnering support for the Native American Tourism Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act, which has been introduced in both houses of Congress and met with much enthusiasm by tribal leaders.
Ms. Awonohopay is an enrolled member of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, a descendant of the Menominee Nation and a member of the Turtle Clan. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, graduating with Cum Laude honors. Aimee is very devoted to her traditional way of life, attends Midewin ceremonies and is a member of the Big Drum Society in her home community, Maple Plain of the St. Croix Chippewa. She is a proud and loving auntie of 11 nieces and nephews. Aimee relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to work full time for AIANTA and Indian Country.
Hannah Peterson, AIANTA Development Director
Hannah is a dedicated development professional excited to work toward furthering the mission of the AIANTA. In her new role of Development Director, she brings extensive experience in working with a wide variety of nonprofits to help them realize their program outcomes and resource development goals. Hannah is committed to a holistic perspective and approach to growing the work and impact of AIANTA. She was raised in Anchorage, Alaska and received her degree in English from the University of Washington, Seattle and her Master of Public Administration from Hamline University, Minnesota. In this new position, Hannah will spearhead development efforts as AIANTA continues to grow.