O me’a”kwa: Celebrating Three Years

(I’m going to travel over there, Northern Paiute)

Photo: CEO Sherry Rupert pictured with AIANTA Vice President Travis Owens // (c) Sherry L. Rupert

Dear members, partners and friends,

Ha muh (how are you?)

As I reach out to you this month, I’ve just finished celebrating my three-year anniversary as AIANTA’s CEO.

Since taking on the new leadership role, I have spearheaded several initiatives and seen the organization grow from 8 employees to 13 employees. Although I could never have predicted all the challenges that would unfold in such a short period of time, I also can’t imagine having faced those challenges with a more amazing community.

I’m especially excited to see a renewed sense of optimism among our industry colleagues as we start to see things turnaround after an incredibly difficult two years.

Thanks to the lightening of travel restrictions, my travel schedule has been quite full lately. It has been great to connect in person once again, especially as AIANTA continues to fight for recognition on a federal level.

Everyone we meet with is so excited to re-connect in person and they always tell me they are happy to have AIANTA in their communities.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from our constituents that they’re getting our messages, and that the messaging we sent out during the pandemic helped them through those hard times. The contact helped them realize they weren’t alone and that AIANTA was thinking about them and providing them training even in the face of the pandemic.

Most recently I attended our AIANTA’s first-ever Oklahoma Region meeting in Oklahoma City at the spectacular First Americans Museum (FAM).  FAM hosted the meeting and Cherokee Nation provided the lunch for participants.  It was so wonderful to be in attendance to meet all the cultural tourism professionals there and have them commit to attending quarterly meetings to organize Native hospitality efforts in their region.

Incidentally, AIANTA would like to work with you to create similar meetings, so be sure to contact your AIANTA Board representative if you’re interested in building a similar community.

Prior to my trip to Oklahoma, I presented the featured presentation, Working Together to Build Tribal Tourism at the Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism. It was exciting to connect with our many Native partners in Montana and to discuss how the greater tourism industry at large can work with tribes and destinations.

In March, I was also honored to give the Opening Keynote Speech at the Heritage & Cultural Tourism Conference in Sitka, Alaska. The conference was organized by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida and I spoke about the Economic Impacts Cultural Tourism Brings to the U.S.

Stay tuned, we have lots more to announce in the coming months.

Finally, as we enter the summer months, I’d like to give a special shout out to all the Native graduates out there. Working toward and receiving your degree is no easy feat and just shows dedication and tenacity on their part.  It’s one of the hardest things a student will ever do but there’s such a rich reward given all the sacrifices.

If you’re looking to pursue higher education, or know anyone who is, please check out AIANTA’s Tourism and Hospitality Scholarship. Applications are due July 15, 2022.

(See you later, Northern Paiute)


Sherry L. Rupert, Chief Executive Officer
American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association