NAP/NCEL Learning Series: Policy Pathways to Land Back
Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) have joined forces in an effort to enhance collaboration between philanthropic funders, Tribal leaders, and state officials. Together, NAP’s unparalleled expertise in leveraging private investment for Tribal-led conservation and NCEL’s expansive network of environmentally-minded state lawmakers will build a bridge between the public and private sectors and create a powerful network working together for the betterment of the environment. Join us as we build connections between private philanthropic funders, regional funding networks, Tribes, and state officials.
As part of our ongoing learning series for state legislators, this session on “Policy Pathways to Land Back” highlights efforts to restore ownership of ancestral homelands to Tribes through federal, state, and private land transfers, including fee title transactions. The panelists will also speak on land-use agreements for co-management, stewardship, conservation easements, and Indigenous access for cultural, ceremonial, and gathering purposes. State legislators will gain insights into meaningful ways to support the Land Back movement rooted in the return of Tribal Nation sovereignty and become engaged in policy solutions that promote Indigenous knowledge of lands and waters for environmental protection and to address the impacts of climate change.
For more information about federal and state Land Back considerations, check out Laura D. Taylor’s Land Back Policy Brief.
ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS: SEN. MARY KUNESH (Standing Rock Lakota descendant) (she/her) Minnesota Legislature
Senator Mary Kunesh, a Standing Rock Lakota descendant, was elected to the MN House of Representatives in 2016 and then elected to the Senate in 2020. She is the first woman of Native descent to be elected a Minnesota Senator. Mary retired from her role as a public school library media specialist after 25 years of service and is currently the Chair of Education Finance in the Minnesota Senate. Senator Kunesh is the author of the legislation and was Chair of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force in MN and created the first-in-the-nation permanent office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives in state government. Mary has served as an Assistant Majority Leader for the DFL House Caucus and currently holds the role of Assistant Majority Leader in the MN Senate—the first Native American to hold that role in the legislature. Mary is a founding member of the Minnesota Native American Legislative and POCI (People Of Color Indigenous) caucuses.
Mary lives in New Brighton and is the proud mother of three adults and two granddaughters.
SEN. SHANE MORIGEAU (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) (he/him) Montana Legislature; Public Affairs Officer and General Legal Counsel for CSKT
Shane Morigeau is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. He was born in Missoula, Montana, and grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Morigeau earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Montana School of Forestry and Conservation in 2007, a J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 2010, and a master of laws from the University of Arizona in 2011.
His prior career experience at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) includes working as a Tribal Prosecutor, General Legal Counsel, and the Deputy Executive Officer, where he managed communications and public affairs. Currently, Morigeau serves as the Public Affairs Officer and as General Legal Counsel for CSKT. He has been a member of the Montana State Senate, representing District 48 since 2020, and is also a former member of the Montana House of Representatives, representing District 95 for two terms.
Shane resides in Missoula with his beautiful partner Sunya, his precious 10-month-old baby girl Juniper, and his shorkie pup, Yuki.
LAURA D. TAYLOR (she/her) Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Institute of Technology
Laura Taylor, a settler scholar, is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech and is a Research Fellow of the Ash Center’s Project on Indigenous Governance and Development at Harvard University. She completed her PhD in Economics at the University of Arizona, where she specialized in natural resource and environmental economics, economic history, and law and economics. Her research uses geospatial techniques to study the impacts of laws and institutions on environmental and economic outcomes, particularly in the American West. This includes the analysis of American Indian property rights and land loss during western settlement and the social, economic, and environmental justice impacts of poor water rights enforcement on American Indian Tribes. Earlier in her career, Laura Taylor spent several years studying the socio-economic impacts of post-colonial policies on Indigenous economic development and governance both in Australia and the United States. Her work with the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development has focused on Land Back.
BRIAN GUNN (Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation) (he/him) Principal of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville
Brian Gunn is a principal in the Washington, D.C. law firm Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville and is a member of the firm’s Indian Tribal Governments group. A member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Brian works on a wide variety of issues for Tribal clients in the U.S. Congress and federal agencies and specializes in matters related to the federal budget and appropriations, natural resources, federal lands and federal land transfers, taxation, energy development, and Indian health. Brian has been the lead lobbyist for several bills that have been enacted into law, including the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act (Pub. L. 114-178) and a repeal of a longstanding prohibition on constructing distilleries in Indian country (Pub. L. 115-304). In addition to his government relations capabilities, he has served as lead counsel in several Tribal trust mismanagement lawsuits in the federal courts, including Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation v. Salazar (D.D.C. 2005), which resulted in a $193 million settlement in the Tribe’s favor and is one of the largest Tribal trust settlements in U.S. history.
Brian was named to the National Law Journal’s “Minority 40 Under 40” in 2011 and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s “Native American 40 Under 40” in 2012. He is also recognized in Chambers USA for Native American Law-Nationwide and, for the past 10 years, in Best Lawyers.
Brian is in his third year of serving on Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville’s Executive Committee, which manages the firm. He currently serves on the Global Campus Advisory Council for Washington State University and previously served on the Board of Directors for Vision Maker Media, a non-profit that supports Native American film and television projects.
He received his B.A. from Washington State University in 1995 and J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 1999.
MODERATOR: ESTAKIO BELTRAN (Tolteca-Mexica, Tlatoani) (he/him) Partnership Advisor, Native Americans in Philanthropy
Estakio joined NAP as Partnership Advisor to lead the new Office of Strategic Engagement at the U.S. Department of the Interior. He collaborates regularly with the White House Council on Native American Affairs and other Federal agencies that house initiatives focused on conservation, economic development, and revitalizing Native languages through public-private engagement between philanthropy, Tribal organizations, and the business sector.
Estakio grew up in central Washington on the Yakama Nation. After spending over a decade advising senior members of Congress and high-ranking officials in Washington, D.C; he returned home to work in philanthropy with community-based organizations to co-design partnerships that improved the economic resilience of Tribal and rural communities.
Estakio’s success is rooted in a bold vision for systems change through community-centered solutions. He earned his BA from Gonzaga University, and his Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University in New York.
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