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2010 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Finalist: Terry L. Cross

“We won’t ever forget the loss of our children, and frankly, we are still losing them in many places. But the time has come to heal.”
—Terry L. Cross (In response to a formal apology made to NICWA by the executive director of the Child Welfare League of America)

Terry L. Cross
Terry L. Cross
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Terry L. Cross, “Hah-ne-ga-noh,” (Seneca Nation of Indians, Bear Clan) is honored as a 2010 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for his lifelong work and steadfast commitment, vision, and passion to improving the lives of Indian children and families. Cross has done this by providing support and advocacy for Indigenous children, on and off of the reservation. His work provides the strongest, up-to-date information available to support child welfare staff. He has worked tirelessly to develop and improve child welfare programs and is an advocate at all levels of government for Indian children and families in the crafting and implementing of effective public policy. Terry is a noted teacher and the author of articles, books, and training materials that address Indian child welfare issues.

Terry Cross, MSW, ACSW, LCWS, was raised in Cassadaga, New York, and spent summers with his maternal grandparents at Red House on the Allegany Reservation. With the help of the Seneca Nation Educational Foundation, Cross attended and graduated from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. An apprenticeship in public child welfare inspired him to seek more training and information and led him to Portland State University on scholarship where he received a Master’s Degree in Social Work. His first post graduate job on the Allegheny Reservation with the Seneca Nation led him to compile and create much of the information needed to train others.

By 1982, Terry began training Indian child welfare workers across the Pacific Northwest. In 1983, the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Institute was officially opened, to provide culturally based instruction for those training tribal child welfare workers. After convening fifty tribal child welfare directors and Elders to develop a culturally sensitive plan, the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Association was born and in 1994 this organization became the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). It has been directed and led by Cross from its early beginnings. NICWA continues to train individuals in the United States and Canada, disseminating thousands of training curricula and child abuse prevention materials.

Terry Cross served on the faculty of Portland State University School of Social Work for fifteen years. He has served on the Board of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and currently holds an appointment to the National Advisory Council at the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration. Terry has traveled internationally to make presentations in relation to child welfare work and has regularly visited the White House and Congress to advocate for Indian children and families.

Terry is the author of several curricula including Heritage and Helping and Positive Indian Parenting, and of a book, Cross-Cultural Skills in Indian Child Welfare. He has contributed numerous articles, chapters, and reports to the literature of Indian social work. Cross and NICWA are recognized throughout Indian country as the main source for understanding and tracking legislation that affects tribal children and families, for technical assistance, and for training tribal child welfare workers.
Terry Cross has been honored for his decades of passionate commitment to Indian children and their families numerous times. In 1999 he was selected as the Portland State University Alumna of the Year. Cross was initiated in 1999 into the Kainai Chieftanship of the Blood Tribe of Canada, a high honor limited to forty living persons from around the world who advocate for people of the Blood Tribe and for First Nations people. Terry lives and works in Portland, Oregon.


2010 Honorees

Terry L. Cross

Jessie Housty

Kim Recalma-Clutesi

Sandra Sunrising Osawa



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


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