Adventist Named Native Leader of 2011

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise and Development named Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish Tribal Community chairman, Native Leader of the Year earlier this year.

Cladoosby and his wife, Nina, are members of the Lummi (Wash.) Church and drive 45 miles to church each week.

Cladoosby began his tribal leadership 28 years ago when he was elected to the Tribal Senate. He won the election for chairman, the tribe's highest position, in 1996.

Monthly council meetings went well, but the tribal constitution set the annual council on a Saturday. People warned Cladoosby that if he failed to appear, he would not be re-elected.

He wrote out his State of the Nation address and gave it to a trusted council member to read for him, then took his wife and daughters to church as usual, leaving the outcome to God, who sets up rulers and deposes them.

Cladoosby was re-elected.

After a few years of by-proxy speeches, the council voted (in his absence) to change the constitution, moving the annual meeting to a different day of the week. Cladoosby has been chairman ever since.

Cladoosby had "serious reservations" about the idea of building a casino in the community but consented at the urging of council members and tribal elders, with the clear stipulation that profits be used for the good of the community. As a result, funds were used to repair and winterize elder housing, improve schools, create job opportunities, build and staff a medical clinic and addiction rehab center, improve childcare and youth recreation facilities, and more.

Three years ago, Cladoosby was also elected president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest American Indians, where he works with 57 tribal leaders from nine states. Cladoosby was also appointed to a Native American national committee that facilitates cooperation between tribal and federal governments.

On the state level, Cladoosby is often invited by the governor to offer opening prayer at official events. This year, Swinomish was also the host tribe of the week-long Tribal Journeys festival for representatives of more than 60 West Coast tribes from the U.S. and Canada, some of whom had paddled for weeks to be there. This may well have been the first such gathering where no alcohol or drugs were allowed on the premises.

Cladoosby was surprised to learn he had even been nominated as Native Leader of the Year, let alone won, but Lummi Church members who know him and enjoy his monthly sermons in the small shared-pastor church were not. They have seen God do great things through Cladoosby and heard him consistently give God the credit and glory.

December 01, 2011 / Washington Conference