Juana Majel-Dixon, a force behind the passage – and subsequent renewal and expansion – of the Violence Against Women Act, is seeking election to the presidency of the National Congress of American Indians.
She is a former first vice president of NCAI and ran for president in 2013. The election will take place during NCAI’s 72nd annual convention October 18-23 in San Diego, California.
Also running: Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish, who is seeking a second term.
NCAI’s president serves a two-year term and is not salaried. NCAI has a staff of 33. If elected, Majel-Dixon would be the third woman president in the organization’s 70 years. Veronica Murdock, Mohave, served as president in 1977-78. Susan Masten, Yurok, served as president in 2000-01. (In an earlier interview, Majel-Dixon said she believes the presidency is a calling, and that gender has never been a factor in NCAI presidential elections.)
Majel-Dixon is a busy leader. One interview attempt was cut short because she was tending to an emergency on the reservation. During another attempted interview, she was keeping an eye on wildfires near her people’s lands in Southern California.
She’s the Pauma Tribe’s policy director and a legislative council member, and she is an adjunct professor of U.S. policy and federal Indian law at Palomar College. She also serves on the U.S. Justice Department Task Force on Violence Against Women, and on an advisory committee of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Her priorities during her previous campaign give some insight into what’s important to her: protection of sovereignty; education in grades K-12 of Native American history, culture and self-government; building economic sustainability, including more investment in clean-energy technology; and restoration of the authority of the U.S. Department of Interior to place land into trust for all Native Nations, regardless of when they were recognized by the U.S.
NCAI is a force where Native leaders come together as one voice, where unified efforts on issues develop and are taken to the Hill, she said in an earlier interview. And such a force is needed, she said, particularly on issues related to sovereignty.
Majel-Dixon said many people hear the term “sovereignty” but don’t really know what it means – that Native Nations have ultimate authority in Indian country, which is defined in the U.S. Code; that Native Nations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States; and, that under the U.S. Constitution, the treaties signed by the U.S. and Native Nations are “the supreme law of the land.”
Majel-Dixon believes that if children in grades K-12 – America’s future local, state and national leaders – were taught about Native Nations’ inherent right to self-govern, it would “shift how we do business in the United States.”
When she’s not lobbying on Capitol Hill, teaching a class, or tending to Pauma policy matters, Majel-Dixon enjoys golf, art and music.