Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada plays vital role in serving Silver State’s 27 tribes
SPARKS, Nev. — For more than 50 years, a group of dedicated Nevadans has been working countless hours to ensure the state’s Native American residents are getting proper care.
The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada (ITCN) serves the 27 American Indian Tribes living in Nevada and the Great Basin region.
ITCN was originally founded under Nevada State Law on February 23, 1966, as a nonprofit organization to serve the member reservations and colonies throughout the state of Nevada.
According to the ITCN website, the main intent of ITCN is to serve as a large political body for the small Nevada Tribes.
Since it was incorporated, ITCN has played a vital role in promoting health, education, social, economic and job opportunity programs.
ITCN now manages Federal- and State-funded programs aimed at improving the wellbeing of tribal community members throughout the State of Nevada.
The office in Sparks, Nevada, offers eight different programs to help the tribal members.
These programs include, but are not limited to: Administration of Aging; Child Care Development Fund; Domestic Violence; Head Start; Inter-Tribal Emergency Response; ITCN Court of Appeals; Native Workforce Development; and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
All departments are strictly for tribal member use, with the exception of WIC, which is open to all ethnicities.
From client to employee
Many of the employees of ITCN started out as clients themselves, said receptionist Suly Gillig, with WIC being a strong proponent in bringing people into the office.
“WIC helped me out a lot,” Gillig said in a July 2017 interview with First Nation’s Focus. “My job ended and WIC was the only food that my family had at that time.”
Gillig has been with ITCN for more than seven years and says it has been the best job she has ever had.
“I came here to get a little help, but ended up getting a job,” said Gillig.
WIC is a USDA-funded supplemental program that serves close to 3,000 participants in the Reno/Sparks area alone.
Initially starting out as a service for only American Indians, WIC eventually open to all ethnicities who are pregnant and/or have children up to 5 years of age.
“I was a WIC participant myself; now I have been working for WIC for seven years,” said Marlen Izquierdo.
Izquierdo is a certified lactation consultant and educator, working with mothers and educating them how important breastfeeding is.
“I get to help moms make healthy decisions when it comes to eating — not only for their babies, but for themselves too,” said Izquierdo.
Other important programs
At ITCN, the Head Start program provides 220 children, ages 3-5, with comprehensive learning and readiness skills needed for kindergarten.
The program is open to parents to volunteer, and that is where Gloria Smith got her start more than 30 years ago.
Now, Smith has been ITCN’s Head Start Director for more than 13 years. She works with the state’s 10 Native Colonies and Reservations to help students and their families.
“I get to help by providing training, free meals and both child and adult care programs to our community members,” she told First Nation’s Focus.
Meanwhile, the Native Workforce Development program assists with academic, occupational and literacy skills, and it also promotes economic and social development to achieve self-sufficiency for Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiians in the state of Nevada.
Scott Sumpter, the Native Workforce Specialist at ITCN, utilized this program to renew his commercial driver’s license and other job-related needs.
When his health started to deteriorate, he was forced to leave construction and get an office job with Native Workforce Development last year.
“I never thought I would be working behind a desk,” said Sumpter. “I always wanted to give back to my community, I just never thought it would be helping people accomplish their goals.”
Considering all its important programs and job opportunities, the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada has been a great tool for the community members of Nevada — its employees are skilled in their departments and love helping those in need, no matter what kind of assistance they seek.
“It’s hard to ask for a helping hand,” said Sumpter. “But that’s what we do here at ITCN — we help our people.”
Jarrette Werk (Aaniiih) is a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno, who worked last summer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group as an intern, writing and taking photos for First Nation’s Focus.