2019 AIANEA National Council
Cameron Clark, President
Cameron has a contagiously great attitude, genuinely cares about people and the AIANEA cause and regularly attends the AIANEA National Council meetings. He reaches out to other members and helps keep them informed. Cameron helped lead and organize a WEWAI training in Lander, Wyoming. It was an excellent training and his attitude and humor added something extra.
Cameron currently serves as the Northern Plains AIANEA Regional Representative and helps keep the AIANEA membership list up-to-date. Staying connected to other AIANEA members is what keeps Cameron active in AIANEA. He is also the Male representative for American Indians/Alaska Natives on the National Civil Rights Action Committee.
Melissa Sturdivant, 1st Vice President
Melissa is an enrolled Tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and of Choctaw and Chickasaw descent.
Melissa is a lifetime member of the AIANEA, and became actively involved in 2013 when appointed as Secretary for the National Council. Melissa also serves on the Scholarship Committee and the Special Projects Committee for the Cookbook Project.
Melissa Sturdivant, 2nd Vice President
Melissa Allen, Southeast Region Rep
Melissa serves as a Soil Conservation on the Soil Resource Conservationist’s staff in Virginia. Prior to working in the state office, Melissa served as a Soil Conservationist in the Culpeper and Warrenton Service Centers. For the last five years, she has served on the Southeast American Indian Workgroup and as the Virginia AIAN SEPM and Tribal Liaison. This work led her to become a life-time member of AIANEA. In fall of 2017, Melissa was asked to serve as the AIANEA Southeast Region Representative when the position was left vacant mid-term. Through the position, she hopes to increase membership and involvement in the Southeast.
Melissa hopes to encourage an interest in American Indian culture and history in her two daughters, Sarah and Mattie. During her free time, Melissa enjoys spending time with her family outdoors, refinishing antique furniture, and crafting jewelry.
Debe Walchuk, Midwest Region Rep
Midwest Regional Rep
Cassius Spears, East Region Rep
Cassius Spears Jr. is a Soil Conservationist for Rhode Island NRCS and a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island. From an early age Cassius was taught to respect all of creation. His paternal side taught him the physical ways of the earth; to appreciate the land, water and soil for all the gifts they provide. His maternal side taught him the spirituality; by teaching him to dance, sing and participate in ceremony for his people. These experiences lead Cassius into the environmental planning field, in order to support the continuation of his people’s lifeways through the conservation and management of “aúke” (the land).
Pam Crow, Treasurer
Bill Parrish, Co-Treasurer
Derek Kelso, So. Central Region Reg
Hello my name is Derek Kelso I am a member of the Choctaw Nation Tribe of Oklahoma. I was raised in McCurtain County Oklahoma on a small agricultural operation. I started working as an Earth Team Volunteer in high school for a FFA Service Project out of my local NRCS Office.
Which led to me looking into the internship field for the NRCS. I started as an intern the summer of 2007 and worked many areas in Oklahoma as a summer intern and also out of the Stillwater Field Office as a part time intern employee while completing my education.
I went full time as an employee upon completion of my Bachelor’s degree. In the Miami and Vinita, Oklahoma Field Offices while working this dual office position I was able to work with several of the Native American Tribes that call extreme Northeast Oklahoma Home. I moved to the Hugo, Oklahoma field office in the fall of 2011 and have served as the soil conservationist there to current date. In February of 2013 I took on the role of Tribal Liaison for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma along with my duties of being the soil conservationist of Choctaw County Oklahoma in the Hugo FO.
In the time between 2013 and now I have seen many changes within the Choctaw Nation and NRCS some good some bad. But I continue to strive to do the best job I can of getting good sound conservation on the ground to improve the quality of life of the land for my Tribe (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), my Agency (NRCS), my home (Southeast Oklahoma), and my country.
Susan Looper, West Region Rep
My career with NRCS has been scattered across the west since 2002, working in Northern California, South Central Idaho, and currently working with Nevada NRCS at the Reno State Office with Programs. I am an enrolled member of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma and a Lifetime Member of the AIANEA.
I have served on National Council as the West Regional Representative since 2014, and I also Co-Chair the AIANEA Scholarship Committee. As an AIANEA Member, I currently serve NRCS by appointment as the AIANEA alternate representative on the West Regional Tribal Conservation Advisory Council (RTCAC), along with (12) other Tribal Representatives and NRCS Regional Leadership.
What I value most about my experiences with NRCS and AIANEA, are the people and communities we serve. Collectively, there is a lot to learn from each other. The picture is a selfie with the girls from the Atmore, AL Working Effectively With American Indians in 2014.
Kelley Barkell, Northern Plains Region Rep
In October of 2007 I was selected to be the American Indian Alaska Native SEPM on the Indiana Civil Rights Committee. I stayed in this position for the next 9 years. During those 9 years I was fortunate that I had a very supportive State Conservationist.
I attended my first AIANEA national training conference in Spokane, Washington in 2008, and during the conference I had the great pleasure of meeting Carol Crouch and some other great members of AIANEA. I left that conference with my eyes wide open about NRCS and a new excitement about my SEPM position.
Which brings me to where I am now: Montana! I knew after that first AIANEA conference I attended that I was not going to stay in Indiana my whole NRCS career and that the world of NRCS was this huge network of some great people and opportunities.
So back to Carol, after meeting her in Spokane, I became a member of AIANEA and then became the Midwest region representative for AIANEA in 2008 and 2009. So, I guess I don’t find it strange that once again Carol recommended me for my new position with AIANEA except this time it is the Northern Plains region representative for AIANEA.
I was excited to hear the next AIANEA training conference was going to be in Spokane in 2019. I feel like it’s meant to be, and I hope that I have the opportunity with my new position with AIANEA to reach out and meet people like I did at my first AIANEA conference and maybe change someone’s life like mine was in Spokane.