Native American Indian Commission

Commissioner Biographies

  • Chrissie Castro

    Chrissie Castro

    NAIC Chair

    Chrissie Castro (Diné & Chicana) is the Chair of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission, and co-led the change to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the city and County of Los Angeles; She was a co-founder of Indigenous Women Rise, which organized the Indigenous women’s contingent of 1,000 Indigenous Women at the Women’s March in DC. She is the Network Weaver of the Native Voice Network, a national network of 35+ Native-led organizations that mobilize through indigenous cultural values; and recently launched two projects to build community and political power of Native communities – locally, the California Native Vote Project and nationally, Advance Native Political Leadership

  • Tracy M. Perez

    NAIC Vice Chair

    Tracy M. Perez (Diné) is the Vice Chair of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission and current Chair of the Self Governance Board.

    Tracy is an active member of Los Angeles Native American community volunteering and participating with many community programs and activities. Tracy started working as a Community Liaison for the LA Urban Indian Health program, United American Indian Involvement (UAII) for native families with the Veteran Affairs program in Long Beach.

    Passionate for the community, Tracy has sat as board member for several organizations such as American Indian Community Council (AICC), APLA-Red Circle Projects and a member of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) taskforce of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

  • Randall Murphy

    NAIC Treasurer

    Randall Murphy (Choctaw & Lakota) grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1985 and the Yale Law School in 1989. While at UN-L he served as Chairmen of the Native American Student Association for several years and as the University Program Council Chair for Native American Cultural Events. At Yale he served on the Steering Committee of the Latino/Asian/Native American Student organization and the American Indian Law Students Association.

    He currently sits on the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission as a mayoral appointee and is a Director of the Wawokiye Foundation, which serves the Native Community of Los Angeles, particularly during the holiday season, focusing on Native children in the foster care system and TANF recipients.

    He is retired from the California Department of Justice where he served as a Deputy Attorney General for 21 years. He is currently serving as a Tribal Partnership Specialist with the Department of Commerce, Census Bureau.

  • Shawn Imitates Dog

    NAIC Secretary

    Candidate Biography 

    Shawn Imitates Dog (Lakota) is a human resources leader with over 20 years of experience in fitness, restaurant, hospitality, sports and entertainment industries. Shawn has led national multi-discipline teams responsible for employee relations, recruiting, training, compensation, benefits and HRIS.  

    Shawn is currently the Vice President, Human Resources for Live Nation Entertainment.  Shawn is a member of various professional organizations including Society of Human Resources Management, Professionals in Human Resources Association, Entertainment Human Resources Network where he serves as a member of the Advisory Committee. 

    A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Shawn is active in the Native American community, serving as the Treasurer of the Los Angeles County/City American Indian Commission and member of the National Congress of American Indians.  He was an Advisory Member for the Red Cloud Heritage Center; Vice President of the American Indian Children’s Council; and the Southern California Indian Center where he has participated in education and fundraising activities. Shawn received the “40 Under 40” Native American Leaders Award in 2010.  


    Shawn has also played an active role in the social justice and HIV/AIDS movements. He is a member of the Red Circle Project Fundraising Committee which supports AIDS Project Los Angeles and former member of the Los Angeles County HIV/AIDS Commission.  He also served on the Liberty Hill Foundation annual dinner committee.   Shawn has been a guest lecturer for UCLA and USC’s Diversity Program as well as FOX Indian Summer Program. He was also a panelist for Diversity and Inclusion Conference in 2010. 


    Candidate Statement 

    I have lived in the Los Angeles area for 25 years, and during my time here, I’ve sat on various boards with Native non-profits. It’s always been in my blood to work with and for our community. My goal as a commissioner is to continue to secure funds and resources to help our community prosper.

  • Joseph Quintana

    LA City Mayoral Appointed Commissioner
    Joseph Quintana (Kewa Pueblo) joined the commission as a LA City Mayoral appointee in early 2018 and previously served as a community elected commissioner in 2017.

    Professionally, Mr. Quintana serves at the United American Indian Involvement where he leads the organizations new development projects. During this time he has increased the visibility of the organization, developed new- and maintained existing partnerships, and been involved in diversification of funding sources.

    Over the past 15 years Mr. Quintana has served Indian Country with a focus on Economic Development, Workforce Training, Marketing and Community Outreach, along with increasing access to Health and Wellness. Joseph has served 3 Native Nations and worked on projects funded by Federal and State awards such as the Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, U.S. Dept. Labor and Housing and Urban Development. Joseph has also managed a non-profit publication with subscriptions across the U.S., including foreign countries: Germany, France, and Australia.

    Joseph plans on continuing to serve the needs of the American Indian community, and is an active participant in many of the cultural and family orientated activities in Los Angeles.

  • Patricia Lopez

    LA County Appointed Commissioner – Supervisor Janice Hahn
    Patricia Lopez (Pueblo Nation/Tiwa), is a County Supervisor appointee first appointed by Supervisor Knabe for 8 years, then by Supervisor Hahn for the last 6 years. She is the Chairperson of the LANAIC Powwow Committee. She is an OB/GYN Nurse Practicioner (CRNP, MSRN) since 1979, working in Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, then Roybal Comprehensive Health Center and LAC/USC Outpatient Facility until retirement in 1998. She presently serves the American Indian community as a Clinician at United American Indian Involvement Community Clinic since 2006.

    “My work as a Commissioner has been to address inequities in health care confronting American Indians and in addressing the greater Medical profession regarding these. I am an associate member of Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP), where I participate as a presenter and mentor to students seeking careers in the health professions. My other focus is on Indian Homelessness where I collaborate on our Commission Homelessness committee. You can’t be healthy while homeless, as I learn from my homeless patients at UAII.”

    She frequently travels back home to New Mexico for Feast Days, cooking at ceremonies, social dances, family gatherings and powwows. Patricia is also a singer with the Long Beach Community Drum, and Mount Adam’s Lake. She was Spoonkeeper at CSULB powwow for 5 years until she retired. Additionally, Patricia is lecturer at California State University Long Beach Native American Studies Department.

    She’s on the powwow trail in California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico as a Northern Cloth Dancer.

  • Rudy Ortega, Jr.

    Rudy Ortega Jr. (Fernandeño Tataviam) is a former Chairman of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission and has served on the Commission since 2004.

    He is the Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, a native sovereign nation of northern Los Angeles County. As the current elected Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians Ortega Jr. oversees his Tribe’s governmental body and manages affairs pertaining to the rights of all Fernandeño Tataviam people.

    Since 2004, Ortega Jr. has served as the Executive Director of Pukúu Cultural Community Services the FTBMI’s non-profit that serves the greater Los Angeles County American Indian community. Through Pukúu, Ortega Jr. also oversees Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center located 14 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway.

  • Fred Leaf

    Fred Leaf (Potawatomi) was appointed Interim Director of the Los Angeles County Health Agency by the Board of Supervisors in January 2018.  The Health Agency structure was created in 2015 to foster stronger integration between the Departments of Health Services, Public Health and Mental Health.

    Leaf brings over 35 years of professional experience to the role, including executive management experience in the Department of Health Services, the second largest public health system in the country and a leader in developing services for at-risk and vulnerable populations.

    Most recently, he worked in the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, representing the County on a statewide health policy framework to preserve gains made under the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of affordable health care coverage.

    Earlier, he served as Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s Senior Health Policy Advisor, a highly visible role where he coordinated all policy matters related to the Department of Health Services, Public Health, Mental Health, and Homelessness.

    Prior to joining the office of Supervisor Antonovich, he served as the Chief Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Health Services, directing administration of an integrated system of hospitals, health centers and private, nonprofit clinic partners that together ensured delivery of a broad array of essential health services to County residents.

    He also served as the Acting Director of Health Services, where he was responsible for the overall management and operations of the department that has a current annual operating budget of $4.3 billion and employs over 21,000 employees.

    During his long tenure with the County, Leaf also served in management positions in the Departments of Mental Health and Public Health.

  • Dawn Jackson

    Dawn Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa) has been an active member of the Los Angeles American Indian community since 1990. Dawn has served as a community elected commissioner for the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission since 1994. Over the past two decades she has worked in the entertainment industry in many roles, from production executive, project manager, artist to an independent producer. Throughout her career she has served as a liaison to the native community, both locally as well as nationally. During this time she also worked with many organizations to create opportunities for Native people interested in pursuing careers in entertainment.
    In 2010 Dawn was able to return to being an artist and dedicating a majority of her time to painting. Over the past four years she showed her paintings in major art markets throughout the US, including Santa Fe Indian Market, The Heard Museum Marketplace and the Autry Art Marketplace. In March 2014 she was part of exhibit of Ojibwe women artists at the Gustave Heye Museum (Smithsonian) in New York City.

  • Ted Tenorio

    (Tiguan Nation)

  • Cheri Thomas

    Cheri Thomas (Quinault & Yurok,) has been a Los Angeles resident since 1987 and actively participates with her tribes. Ms. Thomas supports American Indian constituents and events throughout Los Angeles County and District 2. She has spoken on behalf of the Commission as a panelist at Harvard University, the World Indigenous Peoples Conference and the California Department of Education.

    Ms. Thomas graduated from USC with a BA in Journalism and Masters of Public Administration and works for the Los Angeles Unified School District as a Principal Administrative Analyst.

  • Allison Hicks

    Allison Hicks (Potawatomi & Choctaw) is an enrolled member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and is also of Choctaw of Oklahoma descent. She is an actor, mother, wife, aunt, sister and community member. She is a Trustee on the Board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Allison Hicks also served as co-chair of the National Council of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She has performed in numerous Native plays throughout the country, recently in the world premiere of Devilfish, written by Vera Starbard (Tlingit & Dena’ina Athabascan) at Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska. Allison is also an ensemble member of Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles, California.

  • Cynthia Begay

    Candidate Biography 

    Yá’át’ééh shí éí Cynthia Begay yinishyé. Kiis’áanii nishłį́. Naakaii Dine’é bashishchiin. Tódích’íi’nii dashicheii. Naakaii Dine’é dashinalí. Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́. Cynthia Begay is Hopi born for the Mexican people. Her maternal grandfather is Navajo from the Bitterwater clan, and her paternal grandfather is Mexican. Growing up as an urban American Indian, she learned first-hand about health disparities at a young age. Her involvement with the American Indian community began from childhood with her tribe. The most impressionable experience in her childhood was her first summer spent on the Hopi reservation at age 7. She witnessed the hardships her mom grew up with and wanted to make her reservation a better place to live—and thrive. She entered UC San Diego (UCSD) as an undergraduate with the hopes that she could go on to medical school and become a medical doctor. Through her time at UCSD, she became a mentor and tutor for the American Indian Recruitment Program. In addition, as a Native American Student Alliance member, she helped plan UCSD’s first pow wow, establish the first Native American student center at UCSD, and planned UCSD’s first Native American high school conference (bringing out over 200 students from Tribal schools throughout Southern California). 

    As Cynthia continued her studies, she participated in several American Indian accelerated graduate programs: Harvard Medical School Four Directions Summer Research Program, CA-Native American Research Center for Health (CA-NARCH), Minority Access to Research Careers, and National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Native Graduate Health Fellowship. Through these fellowships, she deepened her love for the health field but found her niche through research. After college she worked a senior case worker for the Indian Human Resource Center (IHRC). This was her first experience working intimately with the urban San Diego American Indian community in a social work capacity. Understanding the basic needs of the community members and leveraging grant funding was priceless; this was her first experience, outside her family, in understanding social determinants of health that affect the Native community.  

    After IHRC, Cynthia worked for Indian Health Service (both urban and rural). It was her time at the Indian Health Council on the Rincon reservation (San Diego, CA) that completely inspired her to pursue a Master of Public Health in epidemiology. Through the Pill Take Back project, she worked with Tribal communities in educating and understanding the opioid epidemic. During her time on this project, she began to understand the delicate balance of advocating for Native communities, working with the federal government, and navigating tribal sovereignty as it pertains to federal regulation. As she facilitated educational workshops, administered semi-structured interviews, and conducted focus groups about prescription drug disposal and opioid addiction to Tribal youth through elders, the concept of drug addiction wasn’t novel and most had experienced the repercussions from their own addiction or a family member’s. Her experiences in research programs through the CA-NARCH and working for the Indian Health Service opened her eyes to the challenges and issues specific to conducting research within Indian country. Cynthia witnessed the impact of health policies and social determinants of health that have shaped disparities in our communities, but through these experiences, she realized the true power of community-based participatory research. It is the connection with her culture, community, and innate understanding of social justice and the complexities of health equity that has motivated her throughout her education – this is her motivation for pursuing a PhD in Preventive Medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine. Cynthia hopes to extend her leadership outside of academia and more closely within our community. 

    She moved to Los Angeles after graduate school and worked with the United American Indian Involvement Center (UAII) as a program evaluator, and worked as a project manager for the CA Native Vote project. Currently, Cynthia is a PhD student in Preventive Medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine working under the mentorship of Dr. Claradina Sota (Navajo/Pueblo) on a state funded Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program and the California Department of Health Services funded Tribal MAT (Medicated Assisted Treatment) statewide assessment. They work with tribal communities (rural and urban) throughout the state to implement and assess various interventions. She has previous experience working with the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission through attending the City Council vote for Indigenous Peoples Day, conference calls about removing the Columbus statue, and assisting Commissioner Dr. Andrea Garcia’s projects (Native American Access to Affordable Healthcare in LA and the assessment of Native American Homelessness.) Working with UAII and Commissioner Chrissie Castro, as her mentor and supervisor, in a public health and civic engagement capacity has been the catalyst for Cynthia’s interest in serving as a member for LA City/Council Native American Indian Commission.  

     Candidate Statement 

    One of my goals as a public health researcher and epidemiologist is using evidence-based research to inform funding. As a commissioner, I would provide my perspective as an American Indian woman, a former case worker (under the Workforce Investment Act Grant and Community Service Block Grant) coupled with my experience as a researcher using a community based-participatory research design and mixed-methods approach within tribal communities throughout California (both urban rural) to help relay our communities needs to inform funding.  

  • Dr. Andrea Garcia

    Dr. Andrea Garcia (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) is a Physician Specialist with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. She completed a fellowship in research and policy with the National Clinician Scholars Program at UCLA, and she trained in General and Preventive Medicine with the California Department of Public Health. Her current work focuses on research and systems improvement pertaining to urban Native American health and wellbeing, looking broadly at the structural determinants of health to improve heath equity, and improving workforce diversity. She is a Board Member for the United American Indian Involvement, We Are Healers, Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians, and is proud to serve as a Mayoral Appointee for the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission.

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