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2020 AIANEA National Council

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Melissa Sturdivant,  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.

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VACANT, 1st Vice President
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VACANT, 2nd Vice President


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VACANT, Southeast Region Rep
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VACANT, 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.

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Kristi Harper, West Region Rep
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.  

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Susan Looper, Secretary
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