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Leadership Institute


The LI was launched over 20 years ago based on the nonexistence of any forum to discuss the most critical policy issues that impact the Native tribes of NM. Modeled after some of the nation’s top think tanks, the LI is unique due to its culturally and community-based approach.


1) to provide sustainable opportunities for the appreciation of the uniqueness of Indigenous cultures within the context of a changing global society; 2) to provide meaningful and solution-oriented engagement in intellectual discourse regarding critical Indigenous issues of our time; and 3) to transform the impacts of externally-developed policy on Tribal community institutions by cultivating emerging intergenerational Indigenous leaders.


The LI is culturally and community-based. There are three main points that the LI incorporates into all of their programming: 1.Core Values; 2.100 Years of Federal Indian Policy; 3.The question: “What will be your contribution?” The LI also believes in cultivating generations of Native communities through Leadership, Community Service, Public Policy and Critical Thinking.


The 22 Tribal Nations of New Mexico (19 Pueblos, Navajo Nation, Mescalero Apache, Jicarilla Apache). LI programs have served thousands of community members and students over the past decade, with a “ripple” effect (those served go out and serve others).
There are currently five programs under the LI, which also prides itself on incubating concepts:
  • Community Institutes: Drawing up to 40 invited participants, Institutes function as policy “think-tanks” and connect tribal community members with policymakers and other stakeholders on current policy issues
  • SPA: Designed for NM rising juniors (Year I), rising seniors (Year II), and college students (Years III and IV); SPA convenes students each summer for intensive sessions that focus on the most pressing local, national and global Indigenous issues today. Partnerships include UNM Law, Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, state, local and international partners
  • Program and Curriculum Development: Staff work with community members and school faculty alike to create rich and innovative program and curriculum design that impacts youth (i.e. Senior Honors Projects at SFIS)
  • Enrichment Opportunities (EOs) for School and Tribal Program Development are geared towards school and Tribal institutions and provides direct funding through "mini-grants;" EOs for Individuals are specified for student academic development through internship and/or other placement opportunities in NM, nationally and internationally
  • American Indian Higher Education Resources (AIHER) network: Established in the 2009-2010 year by the LI in partnership with American Indian educators, professionals and other volunteers, AIHER provides a centralized hub of information (on institutions, application processes, financial resources and fellowships) for parents and other stakeholders in American Indian students, like colleges and universities
For more information on The Leadership Institute and its work, please visit at or find us on Facebook.