photos by Mel Ponder and Chantel Baker
Native Action Network (NAN) was founded in 2001 by Claudia Kauffman (Nez Perce) and Iris Friday (Tlingit). NAN received the Bernie Whitebear Unity Award in 2003 and the Flying Eagle Women Award for Community-based Philanthropy in 2011.
Native Action Network is a nonprofit organized to promote Native women’s full representation, participation, and leadership in local, state, tribal, and national affairs. NAN achieves this by hosting intergenerational leadership forums, youth academies,10-month Legacy of Leadership cohorts, leadership luncheons, nonprofit capacity building workshops, as well as other community development and civic participation activities. All of NAN’s programming and resources are intended to empower Native women of all ages.
Our mission is to enhance the beauty, strength, and integrity of American Indian and Alaskan Native communities through personal empowerment and civic participation.
Our greatest inspiration comes from the founding members of the American Indian Women's Service League who recognized early on the social issues Native people would face when the federal government passed the Indian Relocation Act in the early 1950s. Thousands of Native Americans across the U.S. were relocated to major cities and Seattle became a stopping point along the way. The American Indian Women's Service League welcomed Native newcomers to the area, and provided resources including food, clothing, and shelter, along with a wide range of health and human services. Recognizing this vital legacy inspired NAN's founders to document the strength, endurance, and contributions of Native women through an annual Native Women's Leadership Forum and Enduring Spirit Honoring Luncheon, and more programs soon followed.
Native American traditions teach us respect through many different actions and ceremonies. Many Native American traditions also teach us the value of looking beyond the past, to look at our present and to the future. Native Action Network's Leadership development work incorporates these Native values.
Provide an environment in which Native daughters, mothers, granddaughters, and great-grandmothers can interact with one another and share knowledge
Unite Native women of all ages and create a forum that celebrates the power which women have in creating positive change within their families and communities
Honor Native women making a difference in their communities
Create lasting achievements and strengthen Native populations through community organizing, skills building, leadership development, and by advocating for equity and preservation of culture
Our Network is comprised of committed volunteers who give their time, energy, and expertise to make a positive impact on community affairs. We extend a huge thanks to those who have participated! Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering.
Iris Friday, President and Co-Founder
Iris Friday, Tlingit, is a Native American Program Specialist with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Performance and Planning in headquarters where she works to bring affordable housing and homeownership opportunities to tribal communities and Native families both on and off reservation. She is a founding member of Native Action Network, a grassroots organization focused on civic engagement, leadership development and community development.
Iris has served as a past chair of the Center for Women and Democracy, on the Seattle Tlingit and Haida Community Council delegate, and on the Kake Tribal Corporation Board of Directors. Currently, she serves as Treasurer of the Seattle Indian Services Commission, a public development authority, that recently published King County’s Native Housing Needs Study and is in the predevelopment stages of a major housing development.
She is a past recipient of the Antone Minthorn Economic & Community Development Award, Excellence in Public Service Award, NWIHA HUD Employee of the Year, HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Volunteerism, Flying Eagle Woman Award for Community Based Philanthropy, Heritage Keepers, Bernie Whitebear Unity Award; and, is a past graduate of Leadership Kitsap. She’s participated in international delegations to Morocco, Rwanda, and Panama.
Iris is passionate about advancing Native Women’s contributions to building strong, healthy Native communities and volunteers her time organizing leadership forums, youth academies, and the Legacy of Leadership cohort to expand Native women’s leadership at all levels. Iris has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Washington and an MPA in Tribal Governance from Evergreen State College. She resides in Bremerton, WA with her husband, four children, and granddaughter.
Claudia Kauffman, Co-Founder
Claudia Kauffman, former state senator, co-founded Native Action Network with the mission to strengthen our Native community through organizing, leadership development and civic engagement.
Claudia’s dedication to the community is found in her long history of community involvement projects, nonprofit boards, and fierce advocacy and public service. Currently she is the Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Claudia was elected and served as the State Senator from the 47th Legislative District. She has been foster mother to ten foster children, and advocates for foster children, developmental disabilities, and the improvement of our education system.
Claudia has received numerous awards including the Anne Foy Baker Award from the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Association, the Adeline Garcia Community Service Award from Seattle Indian Health Board, the Governor’s Award of Excellence for a Lifetime of Volunteering from Governor Gregoire, and the Ruby Award for Women Helping Women from the Soroptomist Int’l.
Claudia resides in Kent, WA, with her husband Larry Cordier and is mother to three children.
Asia Tail, Program Manager
Asia Tail is an artist, curator, and community organizer based in Tacoma, Washington. She attended the Cooper Union School of Art in New York on a four-year full-tuition scholarship and graduated with a BFA and the Brandon Burns Stewart Memorial Prize for Excellence in Painting in 2014. Her studio practice includes oil painting, collage, beadwork, and other media. Asia was recently the recipient of Artist Trust’s first Vadon Foundation Native Artist Fellowship, and was named one of Seattle Magazine’s Most Influential People in 2019.
As an extension of her art making, Asia also curates special projects and art exhibitions, with an emphasis on Indigenous artists. In 2016, she independently curated the exhibition, Protect the Sacred at Spaceworks Gallery in Tacoma, which showcased work from 26 Native American artists and raised funds to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction in North Dakota. In 2019, she co-curated yəhaw̓ with Tracy Rector and Satpreet Kahlon, a year-long project culminating in the inaugural exhibition at Seattle Office Of Arts & Culture’s King Street Station featuring work by over 200 Indigenous creatives.
Asia works as the Program Manager for Native Action Network. She is also a freelance consultant on advisory committees and selection panels for local arts organizations including City of Tacoma's Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality, Seattle Art Museum, Artist Trust, Pratt Fine Arts, 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Spaceworks Tacoma, Potlatch Fund, Seattle Aquarium, Washington State Convention Center, and others.
She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and a proud member of the diverse Urban Native community in the Pacific Northwest.