The BEITC bids farewell to Executive Director Patrick Gonzales-Rogers and continues to honor Native leadership

Albuquerque, NM – July 14, 2022 – The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition bids farewell to our Executive Director Patrick Gonzales-Rogers; and welcomes new staff in addition to the promotion of Charissa Wahwasuck-Jessepe to the role of Managing Director of Administration & Strategic Partnerships.

We want to thank our outgoing Executive Director Patrick Gonzales-Rogers for his leadership over the past 4+ years, and we wish him the best of luck with his new endeavor as Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Yale Center for Environmental Justice and Lecturer at the Yale School of the Environment as well as a Fellow of Practice and a Visiting Resident Fellow and the Distinguished Simpson-Hewett Lecturer for the Yale School of Divinity.

We also want to recognize Charissa Wahwasuck-Jessepe for undertaking a transitory role as Managing Director of Administration & Strategic Partnerships. She was one of the original hires for the Coalition and we are proud to continue our advancement of Native leadership. Her exceptional grit and hard work over the last 4 years have been invaluable, and her tireless labor and leadership, no doubt, have contributed to the restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument as well as Tribal co-management of the Bears Ears landscape.

“As the Coalition embarks on its next chapter of realizing true co-management of the Bears Ears landscape, I look forward to onboarding and training our new team members during this transition period, and as the Bears Ears Commission comes into fruition,” said Wahwasuck-Jessepe.

We also want to send the warmest of welcomes to our newest team members Hillary Hoffmann, Lauren Henson, Liberty Kinsel, and Tristen George.

Hillary Hoffmann has joined the Coalition as the new Managing Director of Public Land Management and Intergovernmental Relations. For over a decade, Hillary was a law professor and consultant on several indigenous environmental governance projects and initiatives involving tribal lands, tribal resources, and federal and state public lands. She published a book on cultural resource protection: A Third Way: Decolonizing the Laws of Indigenous Cultural Protection (Cambridge U. Press, 2020) (with Monte Mills) and serves as a commissioner on a state Native American Affairs commission.

“At the signing ceremony, hearing Lt Governor Bowekaty’s words, in a language I do not speak but one that has likely been spoken for centuries in this sacred place, affected me very deeply and inspired me to continue learning about and advocating for the Monument. It’s a great honor to be in this role,” said Hoffman.

We also want to welcome Lauren Henson, the BEITC’s new Collaborative Management & Tribal Support Specialist. As a wildlife biologist Lauren is committed to collaborative management that recognizes, respects, and advances Traditional knowledge. Lauren has supported Indigenous-led monitoring and stewardship of grizzly and black bears for five First Nation Stewardship Departments in what is now known as British Columbia. She specializes in applied conservation science, specifically focusing on predator population dynamics, health, and connectivity across large landscapes. She is committed to stewardship that addresses the needs and interests of Indigenous communities and advances Tribal sovereignty.

“I am excited and honored to support Indigenous-led management of the Bears Ears landscape and to help facilitate the co-management of this beautiful, unique, and important place for future generations. The cooperative agreement and plan for co-management between the Bears Ears Commission and Federal Agencies is novel and lights a path forward for working together that will shape how Bears Ears is protected for many years to come,” said Henson.

Our new Administrative Assistant Liberty Kinsel has only been with the BEITC for a few months but has already become an essential member of the team. Liberty is Diné and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She comes from the Black Streak Wood People (Tsi’naajinii) born for the Charcoal Streaked Division of the Red Running Into the Water clan (Naaneesht’ ézhi Táchii’nii). She is from Brimhall, NM. Liberty has vast experience in administration, order processing and workflow planning. She hopes to leverage her knowledge and expertise to continue the protection of the Bears Ears landscape.

“As a Diné woman, I feel blessed and thankful to be a part of the Bears Ears movement. Working and collaborating with Tribal leaders, Traditional Knowledge holders and the broader Bears Ears community is one of the most rewarding parts of my role. It is a tremendous honor and privilege to work with the Coalition, and I’m excited to take on new challenges and look forward to preserving and protecting this cherished and sacred landscape,” said Kinsel.

Last but not least, we want to recognize and thank our summer Communications and Content Creation Intern Tristen George. He helps the Communications team in all facets including social media, digital content creation, and digital media strategy. Tristen is Diné and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, and he springs from the Tó’aheedlíinii, Naasht’ézhí Dine’é, Kinyaa’áanii, Tábąąhí clans. He was born in Albuquerque and raised in Georgia and is currently going to school at Fort Lewis College for Public Health and Nutrition, and currently serves in the New Mexico National Guard. We thank him for his hard work and dedication, and we hope that this experience will open many doors for him.

Elahkwa – Tog’oiak’ – Thank you – Ahéhee’ – Kwakwhay – Askwali