Skenandore learning to lead as AIO Ambassador


By Dawn Walschinski - Kalihwisaks

Candice Skenandore was selected to be part of the Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) Ambassador Program, and hit the ground running at a week-long training held July 6-12, 2013 in Albuquerque, New Mexico

“We’ve been going nonstop all week,” said Skenandore who is a legislative analyst in the Oneida Legislative Reference Office (LRO).  

The AIO selected 18 indigenous people from around the world to develop their leadership skills in order to strengthen their communities. The AIO spearheads the program in the belief that today’s Indigenous communities and tribal governments require strong leadership to ensure their cultural, political, and economic growth and well-being.

“They’ve been around for 20 years. This is the first class that has international students,” said Skenandore. The ambassadors hailed from Peru, Japan and Bolivia.

During the two-year Program, Skenandore will meet with leading Native decision-makers, national policymakers and international dignitaries.  She will develop and implement a community-based initiative, explore family and tribal histories, expand her knowledge of personal “medicine” (or inner strength), and gain a more global perspective. 

Skenandore enjoyed her week of training where she did presentations on Oneida and learned about the other ambassadors’ communities.

“We did this family history project where we explained the history of our tribe, and our community and our families and then talked about the values,” she said. “To see how everyone else, like the obstacles they’ve overcome and about their other tribes, has made me want to learn more about our tribe, so I’m going to take some cultural classes at Cultural Heritage and then try and take some language classes.”

Skenandore was recommended to the AIO program by an alumnus Jennifer Hill-Kelly who used to work with Skenandore in the LRO. The intense week of training and self-examination created a bond between the ambassadors and other people involved in the program. The bond is heightened by the participation of previous ambassadors to the program.

“It’s nice to see that the alumni come back every time. So it’s not just your ambassadors, but it’s like a family. LaDonna Harris, we all call her Momma LaDonna and she calls us all her children, so the people we meet, they’re not like Jim or Bob, they’re like brother or sister,” said Skenandore.

The ambassadors will meet three more times, the next meeting taking place overseas, over the two-year program.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Skenandore. “It’s just a really great experience, very rewarding.”