AICCO Graduates First “Leadership Native Oklahoma” Class
The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO) celebrated their first-ever graduation of Oklahoma’s first Native leadership flagship “Leadership Native Oklahoma” (LNO) program on Sunday night, October 23, 2016.
“LNO is a leadership and education program for leader citizens from all across Oklahoma to learn about the tribes and entice engagement in culturally appropriate ways while learning about their awesome impact on the state,” said State Representative and Honorary Co-chair Dan Kirby, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen.
LNO is an educational program developed by an initiative from the AICCO to enhance and equip leaders, native and non-native, with the ability to bridge the educational gap between native and non-native communities, businesses, and other significant issues in the state.
“Education, understanding, and empathy are all tools that allow people to understand one another and the best way to obtain these tools is to go there, meet the people and engage in worthwhile dialogue about real issues that affect all of us,” said AICCO President, William Lowe, Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen.
AICCO Vice President, Linda Sacks, Cherokee Nation, headed the charge of developing this newly founded program for the chamber.
“It takes having a team that shares a common goal, vision, and mission for Indian Country. Spearheading and developing LNO is a dream come true for me. I believe we [tribes], have a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and a cultural richness that helps give understanding to who we are as a state and without this we will continually miss a vital mark. So we took it upon ourselves to try and help overcome these barriers and we have to work together on every level,” said Sacks.
LNO is designed to bring leaders that have impact in their communities or industries and may or may not be in elected positions of state or tribal leadership. The Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and Seminole Nation all hosted LNO’s inaugural class of tribally enrolled and non-Native participants, engaging them in meaningful discussions about their impact on the state and opportunities for involvement.
White House Minority Champion of the Year for Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana, Honorary Co-chair, Shane Fernandez, is the first non-Native to hold an honorary position with the AICCO. Shane draws from his global experiences and envisions Oklahoma as a diamond in the rough, as he feels much of Oklahoma’s potential remains unrealized and believes a large part of that will be done by native voices being heard on all levels.
“In three to five years we will be able to see the impact this program can have on a state level engaging in every major conversation locally, tribally, and state wide,” said Fernandez.
“Working with Shane, someone who gets it, is moving. We need native and non-native allies on every front and we can’t be exclusive to ourselves when we have champions like Shane in our community who gets it; is already doing it; and wants to help anyway they can,” said Sacks. “It takes these kinds of partnerships to bridge the gaps and I am thankful that Shane and Representative Kirby took the lead with that charge.”
“I am thankful that during my term as President we got to launch a successful program for the state providing any leader who is interested in a genuine Indian education. A genuine Indian education is what we all truly need,” said Lowe.