Native American advocate named first director of Indigenous Peoples’ Center

A former top Senate adviser on Native American affairs will serve as the first director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy, the University announced Monday.

Wendy Helgemo will lead the advocacy center, which aims to highlight research and education on Native populations. The director search began in January, a month before the center was officially established within the College of Professional Studies.

Helgemo, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, has more than 20 years of experience in indigenous policy, including work at the National American Indian Housing Council, according to a University release.

In taking the director position, she ended an eight-year tenure as adviser on Indian affairs to alumnus and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

AT&T donated $450,000 last November to start the new center.

Helgemo said the center will work with tribes to identify and study areas of need – like economic issues or health care – and partner with other indigenous programs across the nation.

“CIPP is a place where politics and policy meet GW’s research capability and expand upon its existing commitments to diversity and to the Native American community,” she said in the release. “Our goal is to be a bridge between GW, lawmakers, tribes and tribal leaders to develop stronger policy in support of Native Americans.”

The center will also take over the University’s two other AT&T-sponsored initiatives for Native Americans – the Native American Political Leadership Program and the INSPIRE Native Teens Pre-College Program. Both programs award full scholarships to Native American high school students to study at GW.

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