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2009 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Finalist: Patricia L. Whitefoot

Patricia L. Whitefoot

"Palatisha Miyanashma”(The children are growing)."
     —Patricia L. Whitefoot

Patricia L. Whitefoot (Yakama) is honored as a finalist for the 2009 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award for her ongoing work and leadership in tribal, regional, and national efforts to improve Indian education at all levels.

Patricia has an amazingly rich and varied set of experiences as a professional educator, from teaching in Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation to serving as the Supervisor of Indian Education for Washington State. She has worked at every level of Indian education, from Head Start to guiding University program development, currently serving on the Board of Directors of Heritage University.

From 1997 to 2002, Patricia Whitefoot served on the Yakama Nation Tribal Council, later serving as Interim Director of the Nation’s Department of Human Services. More recently, she oversaw a major educational support, resources and technical assistance and training program to 26 school districts through Educational Service District 105 in central Washington to meet the requirements of “No Child Left Behind”

Currently, Ms. Whitefoot serves as the Director of Indian Education for the Toppenish School District on the Yakama Reservation, where she has held that position since 2004. Her responsibilities involve increasing the number of preschool Native children who possess literacy readiness skills that prepare them for kindergarten; K–12 supplemental support for Native students; and, increasing the number of Native high school graduates who increase their competency and skills in challenging subject matter to enable successful transition to postsecondary education. She successfully manages community partnerships with reservation school districts, the Yakama Nation, Heritage University, Yakima County, and the University of Washington in seeking resources to support Native students.

The depth of Patricia Whitefoot’s experience in Indian education is exceptional, having served at different times as Superintendent, Principal, consultant, counselor, teacher, Program Director, School Supervisor, and visionary founder of many instrumental programs. She has won an array of awards for her work, and perhaps no better testament to her leadership can be found than the fact that the Potlatch Fund awarded her their Education Leadership Award in 2005, and the Award continues to bear her name as the Patricia Whitefoot Education Leadership Award.

She is the Education Committee Chairperson for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and President of the National Indian Education Association, further evidencing her commitment to work at the local, regional, and national levels for Indian education.  She is relied upon by most of the Pacific Northwest’s Universities to serve in different advisory roles, as well as substantial leadership roles within the Washington State Democratic Central Committee. Amazingly, three of the parents she has mentored in her work were later selected as “Parent of the Year” by the Washington State Indian Education Association.

Patricia Whitefoot’s leadership style and capacity is grounded with the indigenous world view nurtured by her grandparents and early childhood experiences in the rural area of Medicine Valley on the Yakama Reservation. She serves as a traditional food gatherer for the Toppenish Creek Longhouse. 


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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