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2009 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Finalist: A. Brian Wallace

A. Brian Wallace

"The Washoe People, called the Washishiw 'Washoe People from Here' are of a linguistic group considered unique because the Washoe language is not related to surrounding language families, which supports that which our Elders tell us: the Washishiw have always lived on this land."
     —A. Brian Wallace

A. Brian Wallace is an honored 2009 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for his tireless efforts to protect, restore, and strengthen Washoe ancestral homelands, community programs, and tribal culture. The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California were removed from the heart of their homeland — the Lake Tahoe basin — during the Gold Rush of the 19th century, but withstood extinction and continue to build community strength.

From 1980 to 2006, Brian Wallace served as a tribally elected official for the Washoe Tribe, including four four-year terms as Tribal Chairman. Wallace’s leadership during this time was instrumental in the growth and strength not only of the Washoe Tribe, but of indigenous people and Indian communities more broadly.

Chairman Wallace worked for nearly twenty years to bring attention to Leviathan Mine, an abandoned open-pit sulfur mine that releases acid mine drainage into a watershed passing through Washoe homelands. His leadership mobilized state and federal agencies to take action protective of biological resources and human health in the region, made more lasting through his creation of the Tribe’s Environmental Protection Department, as well as the Washoe Land Trust, dedicated to protecting sensitive areas in the region.

Following the 1997 Presidential Forum at Lake Tahoe, Chairman Wallace provided leadership in executing several monumental multi-party agreements for cooperative protection and restoration of Lake Tahoe resources. He has served on the Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee since 1998, seeking to implement a regional environmental improvement plan for the entire Basin.

Stemming from this leadership in protecting Lake Tahoe, Wallace executed an agreement with the Buryat Association for Cultural Development, the indigenous people of the Lake Baikal region of Russia, to further efforts to protect cultural and environmental resources of the two lakes. In 2002, then Secretary of State Powell nominated Chairman Wallace to serve on the UN Working Group on Indigenous People’s Rights.

Understanding that the survival of Indian tribes depends on healthy families and children, Wallace has taken on major leadership roles nationally and regionally, dfocused on Indian education and child welfare. He advocates tirelessly for strengthening the Indian Child Welfare Act, and its local implementation, and works to create opportunities for Washoe schools to pursue language immersion and culture-based education.

Wallace helped create guidance and leadership within the Democratic party in the State of Nevada, increasing tribal participation in voting more broadly, and is recognized as a true innovator in tribal political participation.

He is committed to finding ways to repatriate Washoe homelands and protect cultural sites and lifeways, and continues to work to bring his wealth of leadership experience to improving opportunities for Washoe people, as well as understanding of indigenous ways internationally.


2009 Honorees

Janeen Comenote

James Manion

Allen Pinkham, Sr.

A. Brian Wallace

Patricia L. Whitefoot



Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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