NCAI ponders next steps after executive director Jacqueline Pata resigns

National Congress of American Indians’ executive director Jacqueline Pata at the State of Indian Nations address in Washington DC in 2018. (Photo: Vincent Schilling)

NCAI ex-employee Nicole Hallingstad says Pata’s resignation is ‘fantastic news,’ while others are showing support for Pata on social media

On the Tuesday evening after the National Congress of American Indians’ winter session, the organization’s executive director Jacqueline Pata announced her resignation. The resignation came in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct by former lead counsel and attorney for the National Congress of American Indians, John Dossett.

See related: NCAI executive director resigns

“After having time for thought and reflection, I have decided to resign from my role as NCAI Executive Director,” she said in a statement. “Serving NCAI and tribal nations has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I am proud of that service and know that I leave NCAI with a strong foundation for continued growth under new leadership.”

Pata was the longest-serving executive director at the National Congress of American Indians having served 18 years over the course of three presidential administrations.

“During Jackie’s tenure, NCAI grew substantially as an organization, forged partnerships within Indian Country and among outside allies, and achieved significant successes in our advocacy with Congress, the Executive Branch, and in the federal courts,” President of the NCAI Jefferson Keel said in the emailed statement that came along with the announcement of Pata’s resignation. “NCAI is appreciative of the leadership Jackie has shown in her stewardship of the organization, and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Indianz.com correspondent Acee Agoyo, who has been covering much of the NCAI’s trajectory in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Attorney John Dossett, reported that former employee Nicole Hollingstad was glad to hear of Pata’s resignation.

“This is fantastic news," Hallingstad, Tlingit and Haida, told Indianz.com. "I believe it is the appropriate outcome after the lengthy suspension and investigation of NCAI’s executive director Jackie Pata."

Hallingstad said the NCAI needs to take further steps to ensure transparency. NCAI President Jefferson Keel assured Indian Country publicly that the NCAI would continue to be transparent.

In an email to members of the NCAI and press in October of 2018, Keel issued a statement based upon allegations made in connection to the employment of John Dossett and the internal handling of affairs by the NCAI.

I know that many of you are concerned by the recent news accounts you have read about NCAI. I understand that you would like greater transparency and that you may be frustrated by our inability to legally share more details about specific allegations or personnel matters. To some, our silence has raised questions about whether we are adequately addressing the situation. I want to assure you that we are. NCAI is committed to providing a safe and supportive workplace for all of its employees.

Though media organizations and tribes have said they wanted the findings of the ad-hoc study released, Keel has stated it would not be in the best interests of parties involved.

Some of you have asked for more specific information, such as providing internal investigation findings and outcomes for review. But to comply with these requests would jeopardize those parties who have chosen privacy over publicity.

Support for Pata

In the midst of the resignation, there has been a bit of support online for Pata including comments that Pata should run for office and other general well wishes.

Vice President of NCAI, Aaron A. Payment, tribal chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, stated on Facebook that he had great respect for Pata.

“I have the greatest respect for your contributions to our people. As someone who has dedicated my life in service to our people, I aspire to be the best tribal leader I can be. You already are,” he wrote. “I am sorry for the challenges we face. Sadly, that is the nature of service to our people and endemic of the need for healing from historical trauma.”

Aaron Payment FB

Yvette Joseph of Kaufmann and Associates wrote, “Hi Jackie, I just wanted to tell you today, you are awesome! I saw this meme and thought it is most fitting. I do hope you run for public office. With lots of love.”

Yvette Joseph

Next steps of NCAI

Currently, Pata will serve in the interim as the NCAI looks for the next executive director. No announcement has been made as to the possible candidate or the time frame involved.

Indian Country Today has reached out to a number of individuals in Indian Country who have yet to respond to our inquiries.

The National Congress of American Indians is the owner of Indian Country Today and manages its business operations. The Indian Country Today editorial team operates independently as a digital journalism enterprise.

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