The AIANTA Board of Directors is composed of two representatives from six identified regions:
Alaska, Pacific, Southwest, Plains, Midwest, Eastern and two At-Large positions to represent all of Indian Country. Each representative is elected by their respective region to serve a three-year term. At-Large representatives are elected by the entire AIANTA membership. Each member of our Board of Directors brings a multitude of varied expertise and resources to the organization. Many of our valued Board members serve on other national advisory boards, state cabinets and commissions that all work to strengthen Indian Country Tourism.
Sherry L. Rupert
President, Southwest Region
Sherry is the Executive Director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, appointed by Governor Kenny Guinn September of 2005. On October10, 2013, Sherry was sworn in by Governor Brian Sandoval as the first American Indian woman to be appointed a member of his cabinet. With over 20 years of tribal, public and private business experience, she possesses a strong background in accounting, finance, business administration, tribal tourism and Indian Affairs.
Mrs. Rupert is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and is past President of the Native American Chapter of the University of Nevada, Reno Alumni Association. She has presented at numerous tribal, state, regional and national conferences and served two terms as President of the Governors’ Interstate Indian Council, and was formerly the Treasurer for two terms. The Governors’ Interstate Indian Council (GIIC) is a national organization promoting and protecting the various interests, welfare and well-being of American Indian people of the United States and in particular those American Indian residents within the various participating states of the GIIC.
Sherry is the Chairwoman of Nevada’s Indian Territory, a marketing arm of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, and was awarded the 2007 and 2008 Excellence in Tourism Award as well as the 2011 Statewide Excellence in Tourism Award from the Nevada Commission on Tourism for her success in promoting and advancing tourism in Indian Country. She was also awarded the 2009 Human and Civil Rights Award from the Nevada State Education Association for her work in the advancement of Indian education in the state.
Mrs. Rupert has a record of notable service as the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) Vice President, Treasurer, and a member of its Board of Directors (Southwest Region Representative). As a consequence, she was elected President of the Board of Directors, January 2014. The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association is a 501(c) (3) national nonprofit association of American Indian tribes, tribal tourism, cultural and private sector representatives, representatives from the tourism industry, Federal, State and local governments, colleges and universities, and friends that was incorporated in 2002 to advance Indian Country tourism.
Mrs. Rupert was named to the prestigious U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (US TTAB). The Board, established in 2003, serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce and the White House on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States.
Sherry is an American Indian of Paiute and Washoe heritage. She is also a proud Native Nevadan, born in Carson City and raised on the Washoe Reservation in Gardnerville, Nevada. Now residing in Carson City, she is a wife and mother of two, with her eldest son proudly serving in the United States Navy.
Vice President, Alaska Region
Born in Sitka, Alaska, Rachel Moreno has worked in the retail industry in Anchorage for more than five years as the manager of two Alaskan gift shops catering to visitors. She has taken many courses in marketing and business development and served as the public information officer and marketing specialist for the Denver Indian Center.
She returned to Alaska and started an office furniture business that received an SBA 8A Certification. After selling the business, she worked for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska as the Youth Program Coordinator and was named Sitka Woman of the Year in 2003 while working at a boarding school.
In 2009 Rachel was elected to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and named as representative to the Tribal Health Consortium, which employs more than 1,000 people with an annual budget of over $108,000,000.
She was elected to the Executive Committee and Accreditation Governing Body for the SEARHC Board. Currently she serves as chair on the following STA standing committees; Health Committee, Enrollment, the Boys and Girls Club, Sitka Tribal Enterprises, of Audit and Finance and holds the position on the tribal council as Secretary/Treasurer.
In 2010 she was named as one of two Women of Distinction by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
Later in life, James broadened this interest when he began working for Best Western International through a hospitality oriented program at Northern Arizona University. While there, James was selected as an intern for the Heritage Program of the Museum of Northern Arizona and assisted in their summer programs featuring the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo Tribes. From there, James attended the College of Eastern Utah and slowly moved forward to an opportunity to own and operate his own arts & crafts business in Moenkopi Arizona.
In 2010, James began working for the Moenkopi Developers Corporation as the Marketing & Sales Associate for the Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites. Within two short years, he was elevated to the position of Marketing & Special Events Manager, was selected as the Project Manager for the Hopi Arts Trail Project, and received the 2012 Manager of the Year Award for his efforts within the Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites organization.
James believes that only through true cooperation and the absence of politics can we move forward in achieving economic stability for Indian country. Bringing opportunities to the reservation versus looking for opportunities off the reservation is key in building a sustainable future for our communities.
James resides in Tuba City Arizona with his family and continues to work in supporting the Moenkopi Developers Corporation vision of a better, sustainable, economic future for the Upper Village of Moenkopi and the Hopi reservation.
Lora Ann Chaisson
Treasurer, Eastern Region
Ms. Chaisson is the current Vice-Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation (UHN). She is the Chairperson of the UHN Personnel Committee, is the UHN delegate to the National Congress of American Indians and serves on the Government Committee. She is a 1998 alumni with the American Indian Opportunity Ambassador Program, a national organization encouraging tribal leadership. She is the daughter of Theo and the late Betty Chaisson. She is also a proud traditional basket weaver. She is employed with the Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana since April 4, 1994, and part owner of Isle de Jean Charles Marina Inc. As Job Developer with the Inter-Tribal Council, Ms. Chaisson serves on two regional Workforce Investment Boards representing Louisiana’s American Indian people.
Mario Fulmer is from the Xúna Kaawu, the portion of the Tlingit tribe of Southeast Alaska who were chased out of their homeland during the last little ice age by the rapidly advancing glacier, which overtime retreated and created Sít’ Eeti Gheeyi (the bay in place of the glacier), which was eventually federally mandated part of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Mario’s Tlingit name is Kha L’ee, he was named after Jim Austin Sr. of Hoonah (AK). He was born Raven from the T’akdeintaan (Black-legged Kittiwake) clan and into the Raven Nest House. He is the child of the Chookaneidi (Brown Bear) clan and the great grandchild of the T’akdeintaan clan.
Mario travels domestically and internationally with his dance group sharing and connecting guests to Tlingit culture. As he has attended many cultural gatherings around Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the world, he also took time to continue his education and studied business and science in Washington State. Mario is a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) by the National Association of Interpretive (NAI) and an Alaska Guide Trainer certified by the Alaska Forestry Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Post University he returned home to Alaska and was offered the position of Visitor Programs Manager at Alaska Native Voices, where he manages the cultural interpretive guiding programing onboard cruise ships and tour vessels traveling in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve; Alaska Native Voices is a subsidiary of Huna Totem Corporation, an ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) village corporation.
Mario lives in Juneau, Alaska with his family and works to preserve culture and tradition for the children of today, the grandchildren of tomorrow, and the great grandchildren of the future.
Emerson R. Vallo hails from the Pueblo of Acoma and is the current Director for Acoma’s Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum; overseeing the daily operations and actively promoting the premier “must see” places in the state of New Mexico. Prior to coming to the Sky City Cultural Center he was an Operations Research Analyst at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque and is an Air Force veteran with over 24 years of service.
Emerson was appointed to the New Mexico Tourism Department as a Commissioner by Governor Susana Martinez and is the Native representative for tourism in the state of New Mexico. He has served as Chairman for the Board of Directors for Acoma Business Enterprises, Chairman for the Board of Trustees, Haak’u Museum, Vice Chairman for the Bureau of Indian Education, New Mexico South Agency school board, and Chairman for the local Sky City Community school board. He actively participates in the Junior Achievement program of New Mexico and has taught several classes around the state of New Mexico. His interests lie in the economic development of his pueblo, the welfare of his native lands, the promotion of cultural tourism in New Mexico and all of Native America.
He received his Executive MBA from Anderson School of Business, University of New Mexico and his Masters of Science degree in Information Systems Management and Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix.
Travis manages all aspects of development associated with Cherokee Nation’s cultural resources, including; site planning, budget planning and administration, business development, architectural development, construction, restoration, museum development, retail remodels, cultural tour operations, events and cultural tourism marketing. While working for the Cherokee Nation, Travis has worked to develop restoration plans from multiple historic properties, managed the development of four gift shops, two welcome centers, and three museums and is currently working on site plans for two other historic properties. Before joining Cherokee Nation Businesses in early 2008, Travis worked for the Cherokee Nation Commerce Department and primarily focused on rural community development through tourism, including agritourism, entrepreneurial development and Scenic Byway development.
Travis has key experience in the following areas: strategic planning, construction project management, contract management, budget administration, marketing, business development and analysis, experience working with tribal, state, and federal agencies, team building and public speaking.
Travis holds a Bachelors of Business Administration and has a Master’s of Business Administration. Travis currently serves as the Board President for the Tulsa Children’s Museum, board member of Preservation Oklahoma and is a board member of the American Indian Alaskan Native Tourism Association. Travis is a Leadership Tulsa Class 52 Alumnus and has previously served as a Tulsa Street School mentor, vice-president of the Cherokee Hills Byway, and past board member of the Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanities.
Once in a great while, you’ll meet someone who has a remarkable ability to bring together a variety of resources, a variety of voices, and a variety of perspectives…and somehow create a singular vision to move forward. Which is to say, once in a great while, you’ll meet someone like Jamie Sijohn. Ms. Sijohn is a member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians and grew up on the Spokane Reservation located approximately 50 miles northwest of Spokane, Washington.
Jamie began her career in the NBC Television newsroom in Spokane as a news writer. She quickly advanced throughout the ranks of the newsroom and became the Assignment Manger leading a team of reporters and photographers. Throughout her years at the highly rated TV newsroom Jamie learned how to use the mainstream media to focus a positive spotlight on the many great stories within Indian Country. Ms. Sijohn has 20+years of media experience on a variety of platforms including traditional media, social media and public relations.
Jamie was the Public Relations Director for the Spokane Tribe, working with diverse media contacts and creating initiatives to spotlight the tribal community, people, history and culture. Jamie created an annual event celebrating National Native American Heritage Month highlighting the Spokane Tribe and its heritage. The educational celebration is a public event teaching the surrounding neighbors about the important history of the Spokane Tribe, economic development projects of the tribe, and job creation by the Spokane Tribe at its tourism amenities. The Native American Heritage event has evolved into a multi-media campaign supported by many tribal and non-tribal partnerships.
Creating partnerships resulting in win-win opportunities is an expertise Jamie brings to the AIANTA organization. For example, Jamie saw the need to replace a deteriorating statue honoring Chief Spokane Garry at a Spokane, Washington city park. Jamie rallied a diverse grassroots support of volunteers raising thousands of dollars to build a culturally appropriate landmark to replace the vandalized statue of Chief Spokane Garry. Bringing people together is an asset that will benefit the AIANTA membership.
Ms. Sijohn is currently an Account Manager at BHW1 Advertising, Jamie develops client relationships and programs, with a special emphasis on tribal businesses and economic development projects. She continues focusing that positive spotlight on Indian Country.
Pohai has served as the Executive Director of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce where she executed a start-up grant from the City & County of Honolulu by maximizing community resources and partnerships to deliver an exceptional model of a community visitor center which hosted as many as 1200 visitors in a month in a mere 400 square foot retail space. Through this position as both the E.D. of the KCOC and the Director of the Kailua Information Center she gained unique insights into the expectations of the independent traveler, and businesses that support visitors in island communities.
The success of the Kailua Information Center was made possible partly through the support and efforts of board members and strong community partnerships which included major employers of Windward Oahu such as; and multiple micro businesses and members of the Chamber. Her strong relationships with business owners in the area made it possible to gain their support for other community projects and to engage in honest dialogue with business owners about the positive impact of tourism in Hawaii and how it helps to keep Hawaii’s economy thriving. She is a former member of the Native American Legislative Caucus and served as the Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs in the Hawaii State Senate. Pohai also brings to NaHHA a background in local politics as a volunteer, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and as a legislative office manager to Senator Brickwood Galuteria and as a former State Senator representing one of the largest Native Hawaiian Communities in the State of Hawaii. In these positions she learned the importance of government support for Hawaii’s primary industry and for the preservation of a quality brand of service well known throughout the world. Pohai also has eighteen years experience working in the non-profit sector and is a active member of the Hawaiian Civic Clubs.
Pohai is known for supporting community and boutique businesses and continues to advocate for support from government and private sector that allow Hawaii to remain and grow as a premier world class destination and first choice for day destination tourism by local residents. Pohai’s goal is to teach visitors “respectful visiting” through future projects and campaigns by NaHHA.
AMERICAN INDIANS AND ROUTE 66
More than half of Historic U.S. Route 66 lies in Indian Country, roughly 1,372 miles. AIANTA, in collaboration with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and Cherokee travel writer Lisa Hicks Snell, has published a tour guide of Route 66, bringing American Indian voices and a new perspective to this iconic highway.
To learn more, visit www.AmericanIndiansAndRoute66.com