Webinar: Excellence in Tourism Industry Awards: The 2022 Winners and Their Tourism Initiatives

Excellence in Tourism Industry Awards: The 2022 Winners and Their Tourism Initiatives
February 14, 2023; 10 a.m. (Mountain)
As the only organization dedicated to advancing indigenous tourism across the United States, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) recognizes the best of Indian Country travel and tourism at its annual Excellence in Tourism Industry Awards ceremony, held every year during the American Indian Tourism Conference. Join AIANTA in this webinar as we introduce the 2022-2023 Excellence in Tourism Industry Award Winners from Best Cultural Heritage Experience, Excellence in Customer Service, Tribal Destination of the Year, and Industry Professional of the Year. You will hear from the winners and their tourism initiatives that helped them win these awards. This webinar will also inform you of how you can make a nomination for the 2023 Excellence in Tourism Industry Awards taking place at the Choctaw Casino & Resort, in Durant, Oklahoma on October 5, 2023.

Camille L Ferguson
Economic Development Director, Sitka Tribe of Alaska
Camille is responsible for developing new projects as well as overseeing the Sitka Tribe’s tourism program, gaming operations, Tribal tannery, and the Community House Convention Facility. As the previous Executive Director of AIANTA, she assisted in expanding its international and public outreach program, grew its training programs and broadened the public lands partnership program. She was instrumental in gaining support for the passage of the NATIVE Act along with the advocacy needed to support the appropriation to implement the unfunded mandate. Camille recently served on the National Advisory Committee on Transportation Tourism Infrastructure (NACTTI) and the U.S. Travel Association’s Board of Directors, the second-ever Native American to serve in that capacity. During her term, she augmented her work with elected officials in advocating for the importance of including tribal tourism in the national tourism message.

Ivan Sorbel
Executive Director, Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce
Ivan Sorbel is the Executive Director of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce. Ivan has been with the Pine Ridge Chamber since October 2001 shortly after the Chamber’s inception. Ivan was born and raised in South Dakota. As the son of a BIA employee, he has lived on many different reservations in South Dakota and Nebraska. Ivan attended college at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, WY. He later transferred to Chadron State College in Chadron, NE and obtained a BA degree in Criminal Justice. After college, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and served for five and half years. While in the Corps he married and began a family. Shortly after his discharge he and his wife moved back to the Pine Ridge Reservation to raise their children.

Raeann Adams
Community Planner, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe
Raeann Adams is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. She serves as the Community Planner for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Office of Economic Development and the Project Director of EDA’s Indigenous Communities, “Akwesasne Tourism Business Support” project. Raeann has recently joined New York State Tourism Industry Association’s Sustainability Task Force (NYSTIA). She served as Project Director of Administration for Native American’s (SEEDS) Sustainable Employment and Economic Development Strategies, “Creating Akwesasne Tourism Industry Businesses & Jobs” project that supported the development of Akwesasne Travel’s tourism business incubation and tourism infrastructure development. Raeann has dedicated the last six years to the development and promotion of Akwesasne as a cultural tourism destination. Raeann believes that cultural tourism is a means of cultural preservation through storytelling and that their traditional ecological knowledge can inspire economic sustainability.

Penny Peters
Akwesasne Travel Manager,
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe
Penny Peters, Akwesasne Travel Manager is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Penny has been an integral part of the establishment of Akwesasne Travel and furthering the development of the tourism industry in Akwesasne. Penny is currently working to promote Akwesasne Travel through marketing, partnerships and awareness of indigenous culture. Raised in the mohawk culture Penny has strong ties to community, the environment and traditional ways. Penny believes that indigenous tourism is not only a means of economic growth for communities but also important for cultural preservation. Penny serves on the New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA ) Board and was excited to represent NY Tourism and the North Country. She has also been advocating for Indigenous tourism, especially within NY State. She hopes to help support indigenous businesses to create mutually beneficial partnerships with non-native entities to grow and strengthen the industry.

Guss and Tiana Yellowhair
Owners, Tatanka Rez Tourz
Guss Yellowhair and his daughter and Tiana are the owners of Tatanka Rez Tours located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They started with the idea of providing the visitors who come to the Reservation to learn a better perspective from the local Lakota people. They have put this into reality and are here to service their visitors with a heartfelt handshake, humor and expertise on their past and current living situations. One of the main events of the tour is a visit to Wounded Knee overlook where they do a ceremony to honor the people that lost their lives the day of the massacre. They sing songs during the ceremony because although there is a lot of sadness there, then they rejoice in the fact that they can share their history and honor their fallen ancestors with the public. Tiana is an artist as well as an educator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Lakota Studies with an emphasis in Lakota Language from Oglala Lakota College.

LaToya Rourke
Tourism Training Manager, Akwesasne Travel
LaToya Rourke, is a Tribal member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, where she resides with her husband and five children. LaToya serves Akwesasne as the Tourism Training Manager. With an extensive background and education in Hospitality & Tourism Management, LaToya brings years of experience to Akwesasne Travel. In her role as the Tourism Training Manager, she works closely in developing cultural tourism training programs, and offering webinars and technical support to Akwesasne Artists and Cultural Educators. LaToya’s goal is to assist with growing cultural experiences by creating immersive, indigenous cultural tours. LaToya’s message to her community is to think of tourism like this “The word “Our” is in Tourism. So, think of Tourism as “Our” opportunity to tell our story“.