Nikki’s Indian name is khwhele’ which means Meadow Lark. She is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and is of the Red Bird Clan. She is also Kalispel, Yakama, Nisqually, Cowlitz, and Squaxin Island. She is a direct descendant of Chief Spokane, Chief Ignace, Chief Kamayakin and Chief Leschi. Nikki takes pride standing on the shoulders of her ancestors, honoring the foundation they have laid and being as a vessel for her grandmothers to uplift the next generation. With a true passion to support Native youth and youth-led programming, Nikki serves as the Executive Director at the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute.
As Executive Director, Nikki works closely with the Board of Advisors and Youth Advisory Board, manages staff and sets the vision, strategy and priorities for the Center. Nikki oversees finances, manages development of communications, advocacy, programs and is the lead in resource development, partnership development and collaborative strategies.
Before her appointment as Executive Director, Nikki was Acting Director, Associate Director and Program Manager at CNAY. Prior to CNAY, Nikki served in several capacities at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, including Student Success Program Director, Federal/ Tribal & Special Initiatives Associate, Advocacy Associate and Student Outreach Coordinator.
Nikki sits on the Partnership with Native Americans Board of Directors and serves on the Miss Indian World Committee for the Gathering of Nations Pow-wow. Nikki is also a commissioner for the Aspen Institute’s K-12 Climate Action. Nikki has worked on behalf of her people her whole life. Her biggest inspiration comes from her daughter, Aplnmarimn’tsu’tn (Carries the Medicine). Nikki maintains her culture through language, ceremony, powwows and honoring her teachings passed on to her. Nikki enjoys sewing regalia for her daughter, listening to podcasts, spending time in the outdoors, running, doing yoga and baking.