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Native Sun News: Stacey Ecoffey makes career of helping out

The following story was written and reported by David Michaud, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Stacey Ecoffey

Finding a career by helping others
By David Michaud
Native Sun News Correspondent

WASHINGTON –Growing up Stacey Ecoffey was always donating her time to others. Whether that is on weekends or holidays, she saw the work her parents were doing and wanted to join in that.

Now that Ecoffey is the Principal Advisor for Tribal Affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services she spends all her time trying to make things better for other people.

As a child, the graduate of Red Cloud High School knew that she would be helping other people when she grew up, she just didn’t know how exactly.

“When I was growing up in the home that I did and with the parents I had I wanted to go away to school and come home and help my people,” she said. “I remember that I would go places with my dad and everyone knew him and they would talk to him and he would always know how he could help them and what he was going to do for them.”

“When I first thought about what I wanted to do I thought maybe a judge, like my grandpa. Then I got into the INMED program and thought maybe I want to be a doctor,” said Ecoffey. “Then further along I really like the community part of things and with my family we did a lot of community service so I thought about that.”

So growing up Ecoffey thought that she wanted to be very hands-on in her home community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Unsure exactly what she would want to do though, she took general courses in college to try to find her way. She eventually did, taking courses that helped to change her perspective along the way.

“I got my bachelors [degree] at Colorado State in cultural anthropology, it was about the study and dynamics of what made up communities and how they worked,” said Ecoffey. “Then I got my Master’s [degree] at Boston College in Social Work and it really fit together. How you get communities to be their own and come up with their own solutions.”

After Ecoffey finished her Master’s Degree she did eventually return home, taking a job with the Tribal Government at first. While working for the tribe she saw some of the inner workings of Tribal Government and learned how things work on the ground level which was an experience that helped her in her current career.

“There is no way I could do the job that I do now if I didn’t work at home first,” said Ecoffey. “This job entails working a lot with Tribal Governments and knowing how Tribal Governments work, understanding those things and what happens at ground level allow me to do what I do now.”

While in Pine Ridge she worked as the Health and Human Services coordinator for the tribe. In that position she worked with all the HHS programs and the Tribal Council, a good precursor to her job now.

In her current position with the HHS Department Ecoffey travels around the country paving the way for the HHS to connect with Tribal Governments. She works with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius when she travels and speaks with tribes.

“I work with our Senior Leaders of the Department, our Assistant Secretary’s and Advisors. I also do a lot of travel, regional speaking and work with Tribal Organizations and advocacy for them,” said Ecoffey. “I work with the Secretary on the work she does with tribes.”

Working all across the country and with so many different tribes has really changed how Ecoffey sees herself and what she is doing in life.

“When I got the internship and came to Washington D.C. I got a different perspective and saw I could use my skills in a broader manner, as opposed to just helping one tribe,” said Ecoffey. “Every day I think that what I do is making things better for people, including my family. I also really enjoy helping other tribes because not only am I helping my tribe I’m helping other tribes as well.”

On her travels she has been able to meet many amazing people, something that has helped her learn and grow.

“I’ve learned a lot of amazing things from tribal leaders all across the country. In Indian country we are a small community and we all want safe and healthy communities and we all do things differently even though we all want the same things,” said Ecoffey.

With her work, the goal of safe and healthy communities for Indian country is one step closer to a reality for many Native Americans.

(Contact David Michaud at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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