National Congress of American Indians loses second-in-command

In another sign of change for the National Congress of American Indians, deputy director Ahniwake Rose will be leaving her job as the organization's second-in-command after just a few months on the job.

Rose made the announcement on Monday as NCAI kicked off its mid-year conference. In an on-camera interview with Indian Country Today, she said she is moving back home to Oklahoma.

"It's something I have been wanting to do for a very long time," Rose told Patty Talahongva, executive producer for Indian Country Today, which is owned by NCAI but operates independently.

Rose, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, first confirmed to Indianz.Com that she was joining NCAI last October. She had been hired just as the organization suspended Jackie Pata as executive director due to concerns about her handling of a #MeToo scandal, complaints of employee misconduct and other human resource issues.

Rose, though, did not officially come on board until December of that year. By that time, NCAI had appointed a leadership team of three high-ranking staffers to run the organization in Pata's absence.

The team did not include Rose, who previously served as executive director of the National Indian Education Association. In a recent letter to the membership, President Jefferson Keel said she was charged with providing "operational and administrative leadership across NCAI, including overseeing NCAI’s human resources functions."

Pata, who is a citizen of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes, eventually announced her resignation in February following an internal investigation into employee complaints, the results of which have not been provided to the public. Keel, however, has said that the review showed that NCAI is a "safe place" for women to work despite large numbers of women leaving the organization in recent years.

NCAI, which is the oldest and largest inter-tribal advocacy organization in the U.S., subsequently solicited applications for Pata's replacement, changing the title of the position to Chief Executive Officer. Although Rose told colleagues she was interested in the job, it went to Kevin Allis, a citizen of the Forest County Potawatomi Community.

"Kevin is going to do a great job," Rose said on ICT's on-camera interview from Sparks, Nevada, where NCAI's mid-year conference is taking place.

But even before NCAI had whittled down the list of candidates and brought the finalists to the Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington, D.C., for interviews earlier this month, Rose was already planning her exit. She reached out to at least one Indian Country colleague and asked for a letter of reference as she explored new opportunities.

Her efforts landed her a job with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, where she will start working as executive director on August 26, she told ICT. Being back home enables her children to be closer to their Cherokee relatives, as well as their family from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she said.

"It's important to have them there, surrounding them by love and family on a day-to-day basis," Rose told ICT on the video, produced by reporter Jourdan Bennett-Begaye.

As for Allis, he gave his first speech as CEO on Tuesday. He credited NCAI for helping usher in a new era of success for tribes, one in which they exercise greater control over their own affairs instead of being controlled by the federal government.

“Almost single handily NCAI turned federal policy from termination to self-determination,” Allis said at the Nugget Casino & Resort, according to the organization's social media.

Prior to Rose's arrival at NCAI, the deputy director position had been held by Robert Holden, who is Choctaw and Chickasaw. He left the organization in late 2017 after 33 years of service.

The position remained opened for several more months until Rose's unexpected hiring, which she confirmed in early October. That was shortly after NCAI ousted John Dossett, its senior-most attorney.

Dossett had been the subject on internal sexual harassment inquiry, Indianz.Com first reported last August, and President Keel later confirmed that Dossett was the target of two specific sexual harassment complaints. Dossett has denied any wrongdoing, both in a statement to Indianz.Com and in a widely-distributed statement he sent using his NCAI email account as he was being shown the door.

NCAI's mid-year session concludes on Thursday and the organization's next major event takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in October. The annual convention is expected to be a major draw, as elections for the leadership positions -- President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary -- will occur.

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Deputy Director Ahniwake Rose is leaving NCAI (Indian Country Today June 24, 2019)

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