2022-2023 Board of Directors

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President

Melissa Harris

ISWA HS

803‐366‐8303

email

Representative to the NHSA Board

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Secretary

Ann Cameron

ITC of Michigan Head Start/EHS

906-632-6896 x159

email

 

Melissa F. Harris is the Executive Program Director for ISWA Head Start, serving the Catawba Nation. Her passion in life is helping individuals and families in the process of becoming the best version of themselves. As a citizen of Catawba Indian Nation, her Native American principles inspire her to celebrate her people’s stories, heritage and the values of community-family that extends to others well beyond the Catawba Nation. Her priorities in her life starts with her own children and family to model success in all aspects of life, championing families and individuals is her heart’s desire in the Head Start program. Melissa serves on the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. Education Committee and as a Board member for Fathers and Families of America Coalition, Tribal Affiliate lead. She also is a certified Life Coach. Melissa enjoys travel, dancing and supporting her four children in their musical and football endeavors.

Ann Cameron is the Head Start Director of the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, Inc., Head Start and Early Head Start Programs.  She is responsible for the overall administration of early childhood programming for seven tribal communities.  She also serves as the Online Student Advisor for the Bay Mills Community College Early Childhood Education students.  She is a member of the American Indian Alaska Native Head Start Research Center Steering Committee and is a long-standing member of the National Indian Head Start Directors Association Board of Directors.

Immediate Past President

Lee Turney

Leech Lake Head Start/EHS

218-335-8256

email

Representative to the NHSA Board

Treasurer

Jenny Oatman

Nez Perce Head Start/EHS

208-621-3791

email

Representative to the NHSA Board

Lee Turney is currently the Early Childhood Development Director for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and has served in that capacity for the past 25 years. The early childhood program provides management and oversight to 18 service delivery and capacity building grants from both Federal and State agencies. The total budgets for these grants total in excess of 7 million dollars annually.

Jennifer Oatman, enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, is the Director of the Mamáy’asnim Hitéemenwees (Children’s Place of Learning) for the Nez Perce Tribe located in northcentral Idaho.  Jennifer has over 20 years’ experience with the Nez Perce Tribe in the HS/EHS field. First and foremost as a parent, Policy Council member, employee, program director, and as a Tribal Council member.  After nearly two decades working in the HS / EHS field and through various elected Tribal Council and Tribal General Council officer positions within her Tribe, Jennifer knows what truly matters to tribal people and AIAN early education programs—and it’s not a one-size fits all tribal approach. It’s an understanding that each tribe is unique but united in our desire to save, document, revitalize, learn, re-learn, maintain, share, sustain, perpetuate and preserve AIAN history, language, and culture for future generations. What better place to start than AIAN HS/EHS programs which are the heartbeat of tribal communities.

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Zone 1 Representative

Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York,
North Carolina, South Carolina

Tina Saunooke

Qualla Boundary HS/EHS

828-497-1482

email

Zone 1 Alternate

Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York,
North Carolina, South Carolina

Tina Routh

Mississippi Band of Choctaw HS/EHS

601-650-1722

email

Ms. Routh is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and lives on the Pearl River Indian reservation in Choctaw, Mississippi.  Ms. Routh is celebrating 29 years of marriage and has three children.  Ms. Routh has a Master of Arts from Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. 
Ms. Routh brings 22 years of management, training and technical assistance experience in early childhood environments, including 6 years as a department supervisor, 9 years as a Child Development Specialist of a four county-wide agency. She has trained Head Start, early head start, and childcare staff. Active in state associations, she has served on planning committee for training in Mississippi. She has presented at numerous state, regional and national conferences and has participated in numerous federal reviews as a CLASS reviewer. Ms. Routh is the current director of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Department of Early Childhood in Choctaw, Mississippi.  

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Zone 2 Representative

Minnesota, Wisconsin

Vanessa Goodthunder

Lower Sioux EHS

507-697-8254

email

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Zone 2 Alternate

Minnesota, Wisconsin

Deborah Thundercloud

Oneida 

920-496-5200

email

Vanessa believes that language can be used to heal from historical trauma and has dedicated her life to learning and teaching her languages (Dakota and Dine). Vanessa has worked with the nonprofit organization called Daḳota Wic̣oḣaƞ (Dakota Way of Life) as both a youth participant and later, a language instructor supporting Dakota language curriculum development. She was the Aide to the Chief of Staff and Tribal Affairs Policy Advisor in the Office of Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith. She is member of the National Indian Head Start Directors Association Board where she represents Zone 2 for AIAN Head Starts. She recently helped opened and currently serves as the Director of the C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi- A Dakota Immersion Early Head Start and Head Start, the first Dakota Head Start in the State of Minnesota.  

Deborah Thundercloud currently serves as the Oneida Nation’s Head Start/Early Head Start Director. This role oversees the Program components of operations, finance, administration and grant management. Deborah possesses a master’s degree in Dispute Resolution from Marquette University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Human Development from the University of WI, Green Bay. Deborah has served in many leadership positions throughout her career; from serving as the Oneida Nation’s Chairwoman, Vice-Chairwoman, General Manager of the Oneida Nation’s Programs and Services, a Health System Executive, and as the Chief of Staff for the National Indian Gaming Association. She was able to advocate for major policy changes in Indian Country, most notably the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, re-authorization of the Head Start Act, supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act, and assisting in the Oneida Nation’s adoption of its own Children’s Code. Early Childhood Education is a key foundation for children to be successful in the long-term and it’s Deborah’s passion to ensure that the children served by the program are ready for kindergarten and have met the early learning outcomes for their age appropriate level. It is Deborah’s goal to continue to foster the Oneida Language and Cultural Curriculum and expanding its use and practice in the classroom. Deborah would like to continue her advocacy for all Indian Head Starts and strive to make needed statutory, regulatory, and quality improvements that will better the outcomes for American Indian Children. Deborah has five children (all of whom went to Head Start), five grandchildren and likes to spend her free time with them as well as baking, sewing and watching streaming TV.

Zone 3 Representative

Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota

Anne Reddy

Rural America Initiatives HS/EHS

605-341-3339

email

Zone 3 Alternate

Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota

Vonda Pourier
Rosebud Sioux Tribe
605-747-2391
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Anne Reddy is a former Head Start Parent, current EHS Grandparent, and has been a Director for 20 years. She is the mother to 2 daughters and grandmother to 4 granddaughters, and owns 2 very spoiled chihuahua’s. Ann is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and currently her program serves 271 Children on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation and in Rapid City South Dakota. She enjoys advocating for our American Indian Children in the region of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Vonda Pourier is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She is a former Head Start parent and began her employment with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Head Start program in 1987 as a Social Service Parent Involvement Coordinator. In 2010, she applied for the Director position and was hired by the Tribal Council. Vonda loves her job as the Director and strongly advocates for all Region 3 concerns and issues and strives to highlight all the positive endeavors and hard work our Regional programs are accomplishing.

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Zone 4 Representative

Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

Jayme Trevino

Kickapoo of Oklahoma

406-964-3676

email

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Zone 4 Alternate

Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

Cheryl DuBois

Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas

785-474-3231

email

Zone 5 Representative

Colorado, New Mexico

Jo Williams

Alamo Navajo HS/EHS

575-854-2635

email

 

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Zone 5 Alternate

Colorado, New Mexico

Andrea Pesina
Pueblo of Isleta HS/EHS

505-869-9797

email

Jo Williams is a former Head Start parent, and obtained her BA when she had her youngest children in a Head Start program. Three of her four children attended Head Start, and she found that their future experiences in school were enhanced by their participation in the program.  Jo is a widow with all grown children and 3 grandchildren, one of which attended Early Head Start. Currently, she is a Director at a program that houses an Early Head Start, a Head Start, a FACE (Family and Child Education) program and a Growing in Beauty program. It also provides wrap around child care, sometimes in conjunction with the Navajo Nation Child Care Development Fund and an Early Intervention Program. She has been the Director there since 2010, and was the Education Coordinator prior to that for 5 years. Jo has two Master’s degrees, one in Special Education and one in Educational Administration. She has 4 Level III licenses with the State of New Mexico Public Education Department:  Elementary Education, Special Education, Early Childhood and Administration. She has a total of 32 years working in the educational field either as a teacher or as an administrator. Jo was raised on a ranch next door to the community she currently serves, went to school with many of the parents and grandparents of the children her program serves, and has a unique perspective to see the issues and concerns of the Native community from within as well as from outside. 

Andrea Pesina is a proud community member of Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico.  In 1987, she graduated from the Isleta Pueblo Head Start program. Years had passed, she became a Head Start Parent and, soon after, an Employee. Andrea has been employed with the Isleta Head Start program for 17 years. She started as a Teacher’s Assistant, then became the Education Coordinator, and now she has been the Executive Director for almost two years. Andrea earned her Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood. Her passions include working for and giving back to her Isleta Pueblo community. 

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Zone 6 Representative

Arizona, Navajo

Tami Brungard

Salt River HS/EHS

480-362-2202

email

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Zone 6 Alternate

Arizona, Navajo

Vacant

Tami Brungard is the Early Childhood Leader at the Early Childhood Education Center for Salt River Schools. She started the position in June of 2014. Prior to moving to Arizona, Tami worked for 30 years in school districts in Adams County Colorado as a Paraprofessional, Preschool and Kindergarten Teacher, Early Childhood Curriculum Coordinator and Coach, Colorado Preschool Program District Coordinator and Assistant Principal. Tami participated in the CDE ECE roundtable meetings. Tami participated in the CDE Results Matter Video Project.
Tami received her BA in Elementary Education with an endorsement in at the University of Northern Colorado.  Tami has a MA in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in literacy. Her ED. S is in Educational Leadership. She has an Arizona Principal’s License and an Arizona Elementary Teacher license with endorsements in Early Childhood Educational and Bilingual, Multicultural Education. 

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Zone 7 Representative

California, Nevada

Crystal Kremensky
Mountain Empire HS
619-473-9022
email

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Zone 7 Alternate

California, Nevada

Lola Kadoo Henry

Hoopa HS/EHS

530-625-4522

email

Hello everyone, my name is Crystal Kremensky. I am the Early Childhood Director for Mountain Empire Unified School District.  I oversee our Campo Kumeyaay Head Start program, Potrero State Preschool and Campo State Preschool. I have been the director for over 8 years and in the profession of Early Childhood Education nearing 24 years. Our Head Start program serves 20 students and families in a center-based, full-day preschool. 
As the ECE Director, I take great pride in knowing that our centers are ones that strive for excellence, and quality in child care while promoting diversity, culture, and history  our Co-operative spirit. Our programs are all top rated in the QRIS (Quality rating and Improvement System). We have a wonderful complement of staff; dedicated and truly amazing at what they do. 
Part of my role as ECE Director is to keep abreast of, and advocate for the Early Childhood profession. I currently sit on various committees including the NIHSDA (National Indian Head Start Director’s Association), the AB377 Pilot Project committee for San Diego County, and the Cuyamaca College Advisory Committee.  Being a part of these professional networks allows me the opportunity to share information with our staff and build continuing knowledge.

I am currently the Hoopa Tribal Head Start Manager/Director in Hoopa California on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.  I have been working in Head Start for 40 years.  I keep myself educated in current issues with NIHSDA.  I have attended and participated in the Annual NIHSDA Conference across the United States.  I consider myself a great advocate for families and children and believe that our first learners deserve adequate services to meet their needs. I have prior experience addressing our programs needs at the Tribal Consultation and can communicate positively and effectively.  I have good organizational skills along with reading and writing skills.  I am a go getter and strive to put my best towards projects I am completing in my community.

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Zone 8 Representative

Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming

DeAnn Brown

Confederated Tribes of Siletz

541-444-2532

email

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Zone 8 Alternate

Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming

Hilary Gourneau

Fort Peck HS

406-768-5164

email

DeAnn Brown is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and has two children, Brandy Florendo (Warm Springs/Wasco/Siletz), and Westman Mathews (Pawnee/Comanche/Siletz), one grandson, Kai Florendo Blomstrom (Warm Springs/Wasco/Siletz), and numerous granddogs and grandcats.  She began as the Head Start Director for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in 1992 and assumed leadership of the tribe’s CCDF program in 1998 and the tribe’s childcare center in 2014.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with her family.

A member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana. Hilary grew up with an appreciation for her Native culture and traditions with support from family and community members. In May 2012, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Native American studies from Montana State University-Billings. Hilary soon accepted a teaching position at Poplar Schools where she dedicated five years of service, within the elementary and junior high. In June of 2020, Hilary graduated from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon with a Master’s in Counselor Education with a focus in School Counseling and a certificate in Trauma-Informed Services. She is also a graduate of Head Start, ℅1994.

 
In July 2020, Hilary accepted the position as the Fort Peck Tribes-Head Start Director. Working in education and having a passion for working with children, she was excited to gain experience within the field of early childhood education. As her career progressed, she found herself in uncharted waters due to the global pandemic, which only intensified her drive to help advocate and provide services to tribal head start students and families, along with her staff, during a turbulent time within Indian Country and the Nation.

 

Hilary has begun her third year as Head Start Director, where she is able to help lay the foundation for her tribal members as they begin their educational journeys. She occupies a Trustee position on her local School Board-Poplar Public Schools and is an Ex-Officio member of Montana Advisory Council on Indian Education (MACIE) representing Montana Tribal Head Starts. She believes in order for success to be possible within schools, Native students and their families need to feel connected, respected, supported, and reflected at all levels.

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Zone 9 Representative

Washington

Debbie Sioux Lee

Nisqually

360-456-5221 x1120

email

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Zone 8 Alternate

Washington

Mary DuPuis

Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation

360-709-1871

email

Deborah is the Program Director for the Nisqually Tribe Early Learning Programs which includes Early Head Start, Head Start, Early Childhood Disabilities, and Healthy Family’s. Deborah has been serving the Nisqually Tribal community since 2004, and before that worked for United Indians of All Tribes Foundation Prenatal-to-Five Head Start program in Seattle, Washington. 

Aside from serving children and families in Early/Head Start, Deborah served 12 years as Commissioner for the Washington State Human Rights Commission, the state agency that enforces the Washington State Laws Against Discrimination. Deborah is also the co-founder and Board Chair of the Washington Indian Civil Rights Commission since its founding in 2008. In 2016, Deborah was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Governor’s Early Learning Advisory Council where she continues to serve as the Puget Sound Regional Head Start Representative to the WA State Department of Early Learning. Deborah’s also serves the United States National Representative to the World Forum Foundation, Board Member to the Equity in Education Coalition, and a member of the Board of Trustee’s for the Childcare Action Council. Deborah is NIHSDA’s Zone 9 representative for Washington State. 
 

Dr. Mary DuPuis, is the Director of Education and Development for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (Chehalis) and an enrolled member of the Chehalis Tribe, which is located in Oakville, WA. She received her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from the University of Utah, her Masters of Public Administration with an Emphasis in Tribal Governance from the Evergreen State College, and her Doctorate of Indigenous Development and Advancement from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi in Whakatane, New Zealand. Her master’s thesis focused on the development of Tribal history curriculum for implementation in school districts, and her doctoral dissertation, A Long Time Ago, When the Earth Was Young, an examination of Chehalis Tribal history from a Chehalis Tribal perspective, won the award for top thesis the year she graduated. 
 

As Director of Education and Development, Mary supervises the child care, Head Start and Early Start programs for the Chehalis Tribe. Previously, Mary was an instructor in the Reservation Based, Community Determined Program at the Evergreen State College where she taught college level junior and senior students at the Nisqually and Chehalis Tribal sites. During this time, she was also employed by the South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency (SPIPA) as the Program Coordinator for Fiscal Services for their Tribal TANF program. Mary has been a foster parent since 2002 and she is a former student and former Policy Council member of the Chehalis Tribal Head Start program.
 

Mary and her husband have four children, three of whom previously attended the Chehalis Tribal Head Start/Early Head Start and she resides in Olympia, WA. 

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Zone 10 Representative

Alaska

Connie Wirz

Clare Swan ELC (Cook Inlet)

907-793-3132

email

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Zone 10 Alternate

Alaska

Christa Green

Central Council of Tlingit Haida

907-463-7150

email

As the Senior Director, of the Clare Swan Early  Learning programs Connie Wirz provides leadership to two Administration for Native Americans grants, two Alaska Native Education grants, state, municipal and other early learning grants and initiatives. She has worked in education and tribal programs for forty years.  As the administrator for Southcentral Foundation, Connie provided leadership for pediatrics, radiology, audiology, HRSA and Village programs.  Ms. Wirz is the Chair of Southcentral Foundation’s MIECHV, Nutaqsiivik Community Advisory Board and serves on the board of the National Indian Head Start Director’s Association.

 

Previously, Ms. Wirz was the Executive Director of Kenaitze Indian, the Executive Director of Cook Inlet Native Head Start/Early Head Start and currently provides leadership for the Clare Swan Early Learning Center which provides services to 72 infants and toddlers in their Early Head Start program. 

 

As an advocate for families with infants and young children Ms. Wirz strives to ensure that the needs of tribal programs are represented in the community at large and is dedicated to finding ways to effectively share resources and systems across the CITC family and our community at-large.  She is also dedicated to imbuing trauma informed care/ACES approaches within our programs.

Christa Green has spent the last 43 years living in the Interior & Southeast regions of Alaska & raised her 3 grown children in the community of Juneau. She is honored to be an adopted member into the Was’eneidi’ clan and was gifted the name K’eilte’en by the Bennett family.  She has served in the field of Early Childhood Education for 25 years. Her interest in the field began while still in Highschool when she started working at a childcare program. It was there that she first learned about the Child Development Associates (CDA) credential and attended her first Early Childhood Conference. During the conference, she felt that she was in a valuable and impactful field and her heart settled into this was what she was meant to do. As time passed, she earned a Child Development Associates Credential worked at a Migrant Seasonal Head Start program, then later joined Tlingit & Haida Head Start as a Teacher Aide in 2001. During her 13-year tenure at Tlingit & Haida Head Start, she has served as Lead Teacher, Family Partnership Coordinator and Education & Disabilities Coordinator, Site Supervisor, and ERSEA Coordinator. During this time, she diligently worked on continuing her education earning her Associates Degree & Bachelor’s degree as Head Start kept on raising the bar. She never thought that she would find herself as the newly appointed Head Start Director nearly 20 years later. In between, she worked with the Association for the Education of Young Children providing training and technical assistance for Childcare Providers across Southeast Alaska and has mentored many childcare providers through the CDA Process and was a Social Worker at the local Hospital.  Her heart is in advocating for the American Indian and Alaska Native families and teachers to ensure that their voices are heard and honored as they share what is valued and important for their children to learn. After work hours she can be found playing outside in the old growth forests, gathering plants & berries, or drumming and singing with her sisters around the fire. 

Staff

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Senior Manager

Teri Stringer

Three Feathers Associates

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Senior Manager

Kristi Bentkowski

Three Feathers Associates

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