The Role of the Movement in Native Political Power Building from an Indigenous Perspective

The Role of the Movement in Native Political Power Building from an Indigenous Perspective

Session Type(s): Panel

Starts: Thursday, Jul. 11 10:15 AM

Ends: Thursday, Jul. 11 11:15 AM

Room: 115C

Across the country, Native communities are building political power, and taking their rightful place as elected officials against all odds. The first two Indigenous women were elected to Congress. In San Juan County, UT, several Native organizations and allies built a coordinated strategy around engaging first-time voters on the Navajo reservation to make history in electing the first ever Navajo-led County commission to help protect the cultural sites and natural beauty of the area. In North Dakota, Indigenous leaders fought and won against voter suppression, and are continuing to make progress towards representative leadership. Join us to learn more about these efforts, how to center Indigenous voices, and how to be a true ally in Native political power building in the 21st century.


Chrissie Castro


Chrissie Castro, Diné and Chicana, 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.

Castro is a seasoned leader with more than 15 years of community organizing and consulting experience. Currently, she is spearheading a research project, funded by the Women’s Donor Network, to address historical and contemporary reasons for Native Americans remaining grossly underrepresented in the local and state political landscape, as well as to propose viable strategies to increase representation.

She also leads a national collaborative network of Native American families and organizations that mobilize through indigenous cultural values to inspire positive change in Native communities; is the vice-chairperson of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission; and is an elected member of the Native American Caucus of the California Democratic Party.


Ruth Buffalo


Ruth Buffalo is originally from Mandaree, North Dakota which is located along the southwestern edge of the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation. She is a citizen of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation and a descendant of the Chiricahua Apache. She currently resides in south Fargo with her husband and four children. She recently was elected into office in 2018 to serve North Dakota as a House Representative for District 27 in south Fargo.

Ruth is a public health professional and educator. She is a volunteer to several local, statewide and national boards which focus on improving the quality of life for all people. She has served on advisory councils focused on women’s health, women’s leadership development and local food systems. Ruth served one term as the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Secretary (2017), she was the first Native American elected into a leadership role within the state party. She actively recruited four Native Americans to run for leadership roles within the state party in 2019, two were successfully elected.

She is also the former chair of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and recipient of National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 40 under 40 leadership award. The Fargo Forum newspaper named her among local leaders to watch in 2019.

She is an independent consultant with a focus on research and advocacy, community capacity-building and continued reconciliation efforts through education. Ruth hopes her efforts will contribute to policy changes in all levels of government for future generations. She is a community organizer for all people and works diligently to ensure all people are informed of the electoral and legislative process. Her passion is safe and healthy communities.

Ruth earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Master degrees in Management, Business Administration and Public Health.

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