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2008 American Indian Heroes

John Ammon

John Ammon
Native Doors Networking Senter

Spending over 40 years as a teacher and advocate for the American Indian community, John Ammon has been a constant mentor for American Indian youth in the Bay Area. After founding Native Doors Networking Senter (NDNS), a nonprofit after school tutoring/mentoring program for American Indian students, Ammon has seen the organization grow to serve the community in the past twenty years. During a time when devastating federal budget cuts had closed many school district outreach programs for the American Indian youth demographic, Native Doors Networking Senter was there to help boost academic performance and outreach to American Indian families, communities, and school districts.

As an American Indian born on the Hoopa Indian Reservation, Ammon understands the concerns of his community and has dedicated his career to find solutions for a more robust American Indian education. Native Doors Networking Senter not only helps American Indian youth excel in math, English, and other vital humanities, but also provides an enriching supplement of Native American culture, music, and arts. Working with the organization Native American Students from Stanford University, Ammon has helped youth find role models and mentors within their own Northern California American Indian community.

Ammon can also be found serving on the board for the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, and San Jose's American Indian Center. In March 2008, Ammon was chosen as "Honored Elder" at the California Indian Education Annual Conference. Ammon was also recently honored at the American Indian Heritage Day in San Jose and acknowledged as "Honored Elder."

Veda Gamez

Veda Gamez
Native American Health Center

Veda Gamez, from the Umpqua tribe, has worked in the Native American community in the Bay Area for over 15 years in both outpatient and residential treatment settings. Gamez began her career with the Native American Health Center 10 years ago as a Case Manager, taking on more responsibilities and holding the titles of Substance Abuse Counselor, Program Coordinator, and her current title of Director of Substance Abuse and also fulfills the role of Project Director for the SAMHSA funded Native Women's project. Additionally, Gamez continues to maintain a caseload, provide individual, group, crisis intervention, and aftercare counseling, facilitate clinical case conference, as well as supervise intake, case managers, care coordinators, and substance abuse counselors.

Gamez has been an effective advocate and has worked diligently for people in recovery at the local and national level. Her leadership helped the Native Women's Circle project get funded for an additional five years (FY 2008-2012) in the amount of $2,250,000 to continue providing substance abuse and HIV prevention services to Native women in the Bay Area. Over 7 years ago, Veda planned the first annual Gathering of the Lodges, one of the biggest events the Native American Health Center sponsors, with about 500 clients, staff, and community members attending each year. Gamez also organizes quarterly events for clients and staff, holiday events, and sage (medicine) gathering and community wrapping of the medicine.

Gamez's world view includes a joy for life, a strong cultural belief system, commitment to recovery, and dedication to her community. She brings with her a strong cultural belief system, and she is capable of integrating both traditional and western therapies with her Native clients.

LaVerne K. Roberts

LaVerne K. Roberts, CADC I, AA, BS
Yerington Paiute Tribe

LaVerne K. Roberts (Yerington Paiute Tribe) came to San Jose by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the relocation program in 1971 with a bus ticket and fifteen dollars. She has been in the counseling field for over thirty years, currently as a Rehab. Counselor, CADC I, for the County Santa Clara Department of Alcohol and Drug Services. Over the years she has performed a variety of counseling services, including individual counseling, psychosocial evaluations, concurrent problems, dual diagnosis, education of AOD, criminal justice systems, homeless population, domestic violence, drug assessments, case management and prevention.

Roberts also works full time as president and founder of the American Indian Alliance in Santa Clara Valley. The organization started as a grassroots organization with the help of the Community Partnership headed by Andrea Schneider. In 1993 an invitation went out to the community and organizations to come and discuss how to make the community successful. Thirty three people from Stanford University to Hollister attended to discuss what everyone wanted. At that meeting a reality statement was formed that is still read every meeting: "Each and every member of the American Indian Community of Santa Clara County will know respect, and be kind to each other, as we work together and educate one another (and Others) about our diverse, yet common, traditions and histories and prepare our youth for healthy, productive and strong futures while remaining steepen in our best traditions."

Roberts coordinates and publishes the Yearly Bay Area Powwow Calendar. She is a poet and has been published in the Journal of the American Library (1981) and Poetry Gems (2000). She has two sons and three grandsons.

Patricia Shirley

Patricia Shirley
Friendship House Association of American Indians

Patricia Shirley was born on Navajo reservation lands in Arizona and spent her early childhood tending the family's 3,000 sheep. When she was only nine years old, United States authorities arrived to forcibly remove her and her four brothers and sisters from their parents' home. Separated from her siblings and with no way to contact her parents, Shirley was sent to the Inter-Mountain Boarding School in Utah. Then at age seventeen, she and other boarding school students were transported to urban areas in a tragic and misguided government attempt to assimilate American Indians into mainstream American culture. Shirley vowed at that time to find a way to be self-sufficient and to help her American Indian people.

Among her six girlfriends from the Indian Boarding School arriving in San Francisco was Helen Waukazoo, co-founder and now CEO of Friendship House Association of American Indians. Shirley began working at Friendship House in 1978, helping American Indian women find housing and medical assistance. Since then, she has worked as Substance Abuse Counselor, House Manager, Director of Family Services, Director of Women's Services, and Director of the Friendship House Lodge program for women and their children.

Patricia Shirley continues to work full-time at the Friendship House, even after the loss of her beloved husband Wilson last year. She has four children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Kim Shuck

Kim Shuck
Insights 2008

Kim Shuck has spent countless hours teaching and lecturing in schools around the bay, making math and vocabulary fun, while making sure that contemporary Ohlone communities are represented. For her students, Shuck is a caring friend and confidante.

Shuck was born in San Francisco and is descendent from Tsalagi, Sauk, Fox and Polish. Graduating from San Francisco State University with an MFA in weaving, as well as pursuing a passion for poetry, Shuck has always been deeply invested in the arts. As a co-founder of the de Young Native American Advisory Committee, Shuck has spent her efforts to make sure that the Native American community is represented at the de Young and other museums. Shuck has also helped to bridge communications between the Native American community and her colleagues at the de Young and pays great attention to all curatorial details to protect the special work of each Native American artist.

As an artist herself, Shuck's work has been shown around the world, including shows at the National Museum of Taiwan in Taipei and the Art, Women, California Show at the San Jose Art Museum. In the summer of 2005, Shuck toured her poetry through Jordan with a group of international poets in the interest of peace and communication.

In her free time, Shuck is a mother of three children, cares for her 91-year-old grandmother, and is the Curator at the Lighthouse for the Blind.

Also on KQED.org this week ...

Taos Pueblo
American Indian Heritage Month

KQED proudly celebrates the richness and diversity of the greater San Francisco Bay Area by commemorating American Indian Heritage Month in November. KQED Public TV 9 schedules a special lineup of programs, which are highlighted in a guide along with listings of community resources and local events.

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