Native American Indian Commission

Commissioner Biographies

  • Cheri Thomas

    NAIC Chair

    Cheri L. Thomas

    LANAIC Chair

    Supervisor Holly Mitchell Appointed Commissioner

    Quinault & Yurok

    Cheri L. Thomas is an enrolled member of the Quinault Indian Nation and also of Yurok descent.  Chair Thomas was community-elected to the Commission in 2002 and is a Principal Administrative Analyst at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    As a member of the Commission, she has presented at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education (Australia 2022, New Zealand 2005), Harvard University, Haskell Indian Nations University and the California Department of Education.  Every March she returns to Washington State to participate in Quinault Nation General Council meetings.

    Her main areas of interest are education, organizational change and climate issues.As an American Red Cross volunteer Chair Thomas has been deployed to New York for September 11 efforts; Houston with Hurricane Katrina evacuees; and 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake relief.  She has also volunteered locally for President George H. W. Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle, Special Olympics World Games, Super Bowl 56, and the 9th Summit of the Americas.

    She also enjoys being a member of philanthropic community organization Epsilon Sigma Alpha. Cheri has traveled to Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe and South America and written a book about her travels over the years.

  • Chrissie Castro

    NAIC Vice Chair

    Chrissie Castro

    LANAIC Vice Chair

    LA City Mayoral Appointed Commissioner

    Diné & Chicana

    Chrissie Castro is the Vice 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

  • Kimberly Morales Johnson

    NAIC Secretary

     

    Kimberly Morales Johnson

    LANAIC Secretary

    Community Elected Commissioner

     Gabrieleno Tongva

    Kimberly Morales Johnson (Gabrieleno/Tongva – San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians). Joined the Commission in 2021 and was previously on the commission in 2001. Her family maintains tradition and continuity to their tribe by living on the tribal traditional land and knowing its precious history.

    Ms. Morales Johnson has been active in Native American politics and culture, maintaining her family traditions all of her life. Her father served as tribal chairman and was one of the first to serve as a Native American Monitor for the State of California. She and her family have been featured in documentaries and several books, regarding the Native people of the Los Angeles Basin. Kimberly has given various presentations to several local colleges and universities about the Gabrieleno/Tongva and maintaining cultural traditions.

    After teaching elementary school for several years, in 2010, Ms. Morales Johnson earned her Master’s in Public Health and taught Diabetes Education with Riverside San Bernardino County Indian Health. She recently stopped working as a Special Education Teacher in Pomona, California to pursue her PhD in Native American Studies at UC Davis. Her passion is to tell the story of the Tongva with, by and for the community.

  • Shawn Imitates Dog

    NAIC Treasurer

    Shawn Imitates Dog

    LANAIC Treasurer

    Community Elected Commissioner

    Lakota

    Shawn Imitates Dog, Oglala Sioux Tribal Member, joined the commission back in 2017 as a community elected commissioner.

    Shawn is currently the Vice President, Head of Human Resources for Cosm Inc. In this role, he oversees all Talent Acquisition, Learning and Development, Employee Relations, Safety, as well as Diversity for the organization. Cosm has operations in the U.S, and India, but does business globally.

    Prior to Cosm, Shawn worked at other large entertainment brands such as; Live Nation, House of Blues, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), where he led the HR team to open the LA Live Entertainment complex.  In Shawn’s 20+ years, he’s successfully opened over 50 venues worldwide.

    Shawn also has a passion for helping Veterans build their careers. He created a Veteran Apprentice Program while at Live Nation, and previously sat on the board of directors for Veterans in Entertainment and Media.

    Shawn’s main passion is working with his American Indian community. He enjoys volunteering for different cultural and community events.

  • Dr. Andrea Garcia

    Dr. Andrea Garcia

    LA City Mayoral Appointed Commissioner

    Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara

    Andrea Garcia is a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation on her maternal side, and Mexican on her paternal side. Andrea works at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health where has the privilege of focusing exclusively on the health and wellbeing of the Native American community through her clinical work, larger community initiatives, and through research. As a Mayoral appointee for the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, she serves as Chair of the subcommittee on homelessness as well as for the ad hoc Natives in LA COVID-19 Response Working Group. She also has the privilege of serving as Board chairperson for United American Indian Involvement, and Vice Chairperson for We Are Healers. Through all of her work, research, and volunteer endeavors, Andrea is most interested in centering the brilliance and inherent wisdom of Native people in addressing the structural determinants of health.

  • Allison Hicks

    Allison Hicks

    Native Community Appointed Commissioner

    Potawatomi & Choctaw

    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.

  • Dawn Jackson

    Dawn Jackson

    Native Community Elected Commissioner

    Saginaw Chippewa

    Throughout her career within the entertainment industry, Dawn has served as a liaison to the Native American community.  She is an enrolled member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.  She has served as a community elected Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commissioner and Self-Governance Board Member since 1994.

    As a Commissioner, she has served in a variety of capacities including press liaison for a historic White House Urban Policy Initiative, art curator and was part of the team that successfully lead the call for Los Angeles to ban Columbus Day and establish Indigenous People’s Day.

    Dawn joined The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) in 1993 working in product design, brand marketing and creative development. In 2005 she became Executive Director of the American Indian National Center for TV & Film at ABC/Disney Prospect Studios. For over twenty-eight years Dawn has continued to work with business units throughout TWDC as a strategic cultural advisor.

    As an independent film producer, Ms. Jackson has a produced three PBS documentaries, including MANKILLER (2017). She served as co-curator of Through Indian Eyes: 100 years of Native Cinema in association with the UCLA School of Film & Television.  She is a board member of the American Indian Scholarship Fund of Southern California, and a member of the Producer’s Guild of America.

  • Robert Judkins

    Robert Judkins

    Native Community Elected Commissioner

    Apache 

    Born and raised in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, Robert descends from several generations of proud Native Americans and Angelenos.  After attending the University of Southern California, Robert began his career in the Movie and Television Industry holding management positions at notable Hollywood Post Production facilities such as Technicolor, The Post Group, Complete Post, Matchframe Video, Cinema Research Corporation and Video Transitions Robert recently served 13 years as Manager of Production Application Development and Design for the National Football League at the NFL Network where he was responsible for On-Air production software and re-designing the NFL Networks Telestration software for remote and in-game laptop use.  Robert also served as a Committee Co-Chair on the National Football League’s Diversity Council.

    Since leaving the National Football League, Robert has concentrated his efforts on Native American Communities, brining awareness, and exposure to Native American youth sports across the country. His most recent activity was as Executive Producer for the Television broadcast of the 2022 NABI (Native American Basketball Invitational) Championships on ESPN.

    Robert’s full-time focus and dedication is now to provide access to Professional athletes, Technology/Education experts, industry contacts, resources and exposure for Indigenous youth in addition to proudly serving the Native American Community.

  • Randall Murphy

    Randall Murphy

    LA City Mayoral Appointed Commissioner

    Choctaw & Lakota

    Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Yale Law School.  Admitted in Connecticut, New York and California, federal district courts, Second and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.  Recipient Wiley M. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services.  Numerous other awards and honors.    

    Currently serving on the Yale Law School Executive Board, and the Yale Law School Diversity Council.  Adjunct Professor of Law, La Verne College of Law, serving on the College’s Diversity Committee.  Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay runner 1999-2022.  Active member of the American Indian Movement , 1972-current.

  • Rudy Ortega, Jr.

    Rudy Ortega, Jr.

    Supervisor Kuehl Appointed Commissioner

    Fernandeño Tataviam

    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.

  • Joseph Quintana

    Joseph Quintana

    LA City Mayoral Appointed Commissioner

    Kewa Pueblo

    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 establishing one of the largest budgets in its almost 50-year history.

    Over the past 17 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 US 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.

  • Ted Tenorio

    Ted Tenorio

    Supervisor Solis Appointed Commissioner

    Tiguan Nation

    Ted Tenorio (Tiwa Pueblo) is a United States military and veteran activist and president of the Native American Veterans Association (NAVA). He helps and has brought awareness to Native Americans in the military, veterans, and their families.  His leadership on the various Native American Boards and civil community committees has received many Veterans Excellence Service awards from the City of Los Angeles Office of the Mayor, State of California, Congressional, and recognition for services to all Native and non-Native veterans.

    Mr. Tenorio has been an invitee and speaker for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense military committee. He lectured on veterans’ issues at conferences and training seminars to address veterans’ issues. He was appointed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as Veterans Administration Affairs, Tribal Advisory Committee Office of Tribal Government Relations. A congressional committee appointed him for the National America 250 Foundation of the U.S. Semi-quincentennial Advisory Commission on Military, Veterans, and Family.

  • Rich Toyon

    Rich Toyon

    Supervisor Barger Appointed Commissioner

    Choctaw & Lakota

    Rich is a lifetime southern California resident and a cinematic Production Designer and most recently designed DEAD TO ME, RESERVATION DOGS, and WINNING TIME. He has multiple Emmy and Art Directors Guild nominations and awards in each. Rich is active in his professional guild (Art Directors) and holds numerous guild positions. He guest lectures at UCLA, USC, and CSUN but is passionate about mentoring disadvantaged youth considering careers in cinema.

    Originally trained in architecture and landscape architecture from Cal Poly SLO he later specialized in urban adaptive architecture and urban native landscapes such as Skid Row Park, Hollywood Bowl, Getty Villa, MOCA, and numerous commercial and residential projects. While at university Rich was a certified wildland firefighter Hotshot and backcountry ranger for the USFS and a FCC licensed on-air discjockey for several radio stations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

    Rich derives from the Acjachemen Nation though is active with Gabrielino/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians and was responsible for the naming of Tongva Peak in the Verdugo Mountains and actively liaisons for the tribe. He authored the Verdugo Wash Sustainability project and responds to EIRs and regularly lectures on Tongva tribal history.

    Rich is a community activist in the Crescenta Valley/Glendale area and has served on the CV Town Council, Foothill Design Committee, Glendale-Crescenta VOICE, Historical Society of CV, Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, Boy Scouts, and Haramokngna Indian Cultural Center.

  • Mark Villasenor

    LA City Mayoral Appointed Commissioner

    Fernandeño Tataviam

    Mark Villsenor (Fernandeño Tataviam) is an active and determined member of his community both culturally and politically. Mark Villasenor has been an engaged leader and citizen of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, a sovereign tribe of Los Angeles County, for his adult life. He is the descendent of lineages/villages of Ta’apu, Tapo Canyon, Siutcanga, the village at Encino, and Chaguayanga, a village in Santa Clarita Valley. As the current Tribal Vice President for his tribe,

    Mr. Villasenor collaborates with Federal, State and Local municipalities, as well as other sovereign nations, in efforts to better his tribe. Engaging in civic activity and responsibility, Villasenor has been active in City sponsored initiatives.

    In addition to advocating for his tribal community, Villasenor supports other City residents. He is often called upon by his alma mater, CSU Northridge to support student-initiated programs and provide guest lectures or songs. Additionally, Villasenor supports programs by other community-based organizations providing services to the broader local community.

    To better accomplish financial, political, or cultural objectives for his tribal community, he graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration with a focus in Global Supply Chain Management from California State University, Northridge.

  • Rene’ Williams

    Supervisor Hahn Appointed Commissioner

    (Colville Tribes)

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