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The Mission of the Denver American Indian Commission is to enhance present and future communications between the Denver American Indian Community and the City and County of Denver, to advocate for social and cultural awareness and to promote economic and political equality.

Commission Meetings

Monthly meetings take place on the second Wednesday of every month.

Meeting Time: 
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science (in the Harry T. Lewis Room)
2001 Colorado Blvd

2018 Meeting Dates:
Jan 10
Feb 14
Mar 14
Apr 11
May 9
Jun 13
Jul 11
Aug 8
Sep 12
Oct 10
Nov 14
Dec 12

Commission Members

Kristina Bad Hand(Sicangu Lakota & Cherokee)

Ms. Bad Hand is an artist that hails from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for community and social justice have led her to create, through the genre of comic illustration, a place in which indigenous youth, and particularly indigenous women, are empowered.  She studied for four years at the Art Institute of Colorado and is an entrepreneur with big dreams. Kristina is currently a Community Liaison with Jeffco Indian Education and is an active volunteer in community programs, animal shelters and after-school programs throughout the Denver metro area. She is also a member of multiple socially engaged groups and non-profit organizations such as Red Team Go!: An Artists’ Collective, Write Our World, Pop Culture Classroom and the Stronghold Society

Venus Boatner(Bois Forte Ojibwa/Oglala Lakota) Venus Boatner is currently an Associate City Planner at the City and County of Denver. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design from The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver. Venus is a Native of Minneapolis, MN and is passionate about serving her community. As a mother of 2 children, Rodric Jr. and Jahquin, she engages in their educational and extracurricular activities.  Since 2009, Venus has been a dedicated civil servant and forward-looking community member.  In addition to working for the City she has volunteered with the Salvation Army and Palmer Elementary (Denver Public Schools) respectfully.  

Derek Brown(Dine’) 

Derek Brown loves to make videos and is a founding member of Café Cultura, a poetry-slam organization. His many honors and awards include the President Scholarship of the Art Institute of Colorado (Winter 2010), scholarship winner from the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce, awarded student of the quarter at The Art Institute of Colorado (Spring 2009), nominated for the 2009 Regional Heartland Emmy® Award for the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run/Walk.  Derek served as the Production Associate on the 2013 Emmy® Award (Heartland Chapter) Winner – Best Cultural Documentary for Urban Rez

Donna Chrisjohn is Sicangu Lakota and Dine. She is a native of Denver, Colorado and has recently returned to Colorado with her family.

Donna stays active in the Native community by volunteering and participating in several community organizations. She is a public speaker and has been presenting historical information about Lakota people to schools and organizations for over 35 years. Donna is on the steering committee for PASS, which is a parent organization for the Cherry Creek School District.

Donna is a legal professional for a prestigious law firm in Downtown Denver. More times than not, she is found participating with her children in sports and youth activities in the Denver Metro area.

Chenoa Crowshoe-PattersonChenoa Crowshoe-Patterson was born on the Piikani (Blackfeet) Nation of Alberta, Canada. 

She moved to Denver in 2012 to complete her master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on historical trauma at University of Denver. She currently works for DPS Native American Student Support Program and is an Education Partner in middle and high schools. Her focus is to bring equitable education opportunities and cultural support to DPS students and families.

She has a strong desire to bring Native values and awareness to the schools she works in and empower her students by exposing them to cultural events in the community and connecting them to opportunities to learn and grow from. She in turn, learns a lot from her students and values the strength that comes from sharing their stories and culture.

Chenoa is rejuvenated by music, the mountains, being in water, attending Ceremony, being with family, being around youth, listening to spoken word, walking her dog, and hearing the drum. She is hopeful that her future work involves running an organization that focuses on cultural connectivity and visibility by bringing Native families and organizations together as a strength unit in the larger community.

Jonathan NelsonJonathan Nelson is a visual artist. He is Diné (Navajo) and born into his mother’s clan, the Towering House Clan (Kiiyaa'áanii), and born for his father’s clan, Mexican clan (Naakai Dine’é). Jonathan holds a masters degree in visual communication from the University of Arizona and specializes as an illustrator, fine artist, and creative consultant.

Born and raised in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Jonathan began his art experience drawing on wide-ruled paper on the kitchen table at age 5. He collected comic books and started tracing Spiderman, X-Men, Hulk, and many others. Elementary tracing evolved into freehand drawings with No. 2 school pencils. His drawing has evolved into a career as a creative professional.

Nowadays, he works in ballpoint pen and paint to showcase modern vast high desert landscapes filled with sheep. The landscapes, and his other works, bring to light the sustaining life of indigenous culture and its on-going struggle in a Eurocentric driven society.

Visit to view other works on politics, racism, tribal identity, stereotypes, and environment.


Michelle Perez(Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians/Apache)

Michelle volunteers with Indigenous youth in the Denver-Metro area, as the Director for the Medicine Heart Dancers. 

Through her non-profit work, Michelle has  helped to create opportunities for youth members to actively participate in cultural activities, including performances at schools and events statewide. 

At the Denver Indian Center, Michelle works with youth teaching Pow-Wow style dancing and encouraging healthy lifestyles. 

As a student of Anthropology and Journalism at Metropolitan State University, Michelle supports her community through her own education. She recently presented at the High Plains Society Annual Conference on Historical Trauma and Cultural Preservation through Traditional Education. 

Michelle also works in Public Relations for a local minority-female owned firm.

Sasha StrongZhashki “Sasha” Strong is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians located in Red Lake, Minnesota. She is the proud mother of her five year old son, Blake, who just started kindergarten.

Sasha is a recent graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder holding a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in philosophy. Throughout her tenure at the University of Colorado Boulder, she participated on the Dean of Arts & Sciences Student Advisory Board as a voice to Native American students on campus. Sasha also contributed as a member of the Center for Values & Social Policy Council through the Philosophy Department. In addition, she was inducted into the Political Science Honors Society, Pi Sigma Alpha, the pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta, and the Native American Student Organization, Oyate.

In the community, Sasha serves as secretary and budget-committee member for the Boulder County Head Start Policy Council. Currently, Sasha works as a Legislative Policy Assistant to the Chief Policy Officer at the Colorado Department of Higher Education. In her spare time, Sasha enjoys hiking, playing basketball and soccer, and reading. 

Mervyn L. Tano Mervyn L. Tano (Native Hawaiian/Indigenous Puerto Rican) is an attorney and for the past 15 years, the president of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, a law and policy research institution.  Mr. Tano has worked with Indian tribes and organizations for over 25 years with stints as the director of planning and budget at the Administration for Native Americans and as general counsel and director of environmental programs at the Council of Energy Resource Tribes.  He was a member of several national advisory boards including EPA’s Federal Facilities Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, DOE Office of Science and Technology’s Community Leaders Network, and several committees of the National Academy of Public Administration and National Research Council.  Mr. Tano has written extensively on Indian law, risk, cultural resources management, environmental justice, climate, environmental restoration, technology development, environmental law, and radioactive waste management.

Lance TsosieLance Tsosie was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. His immediate family was moved from Diné Bikéyah in search for a prosperous future. After completing high school, Lance was a finalist for the Daniels Fund Scholarship and moved to Denver to attend the University of Denver. While at DU, Lance strove to make the campus a more inclusive campus where he founded the Native Student Alliance. 

Now, he is the Operations Manager for College Track Aurora, an educational non-profit. Through his work, he is able to work one on one with students who come from underserved communities and shed light on Native American social justice issues. 

His dream is to one day return to the Navajo Nation and work with students who dream to attain a four year degree. 

Kimberly Varilek (Eastern Shoshone/Oglala Lakota)

Kimberly Varilek is an Eastern Shoshone tribal member who recently returned to Denver, CO and is a practicing attorney working with emphasis on federal Indian law issues, including jurisdiction and tribal environmental concerns. Ms. Varilek is the former-Attorney General for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in WY, where she worked for over seven (7) years on general Indian law issues, policy, and litigation, and was in private practice in Colorado prior to working internally for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.



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For questions, comments, or more information please contact:
Darius Smith, DAIC Liaison

Are you interested in joining the American Indian Commission?
Apply online today!



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