Nominees For the NIEA Board of Directors

Voting for NIEA Board Candidates will take place on Friday, October 6th at the NIEA Convention and Trade Show. Only members in good standing are able to vote, for information on how to become a member, please click here. If you would like to receive an absentee ballot, please contact NIEA directly.

General Board Candidates


Samantha Benn-Duke
Cherokee/Muscogee Creek

As a classroom teacher for 20 years and a certified educator for 30, Samantha has worked with Native students throughout her career and even before she became a certified teacher. As president-elect of Oklahoma Council for Indian Education, she works to bring attention to the needs of Native students in her community, in Oklahoma, and throughout the country. One of her educational priorities is better preparing pre-service teachers to meet the needs of Native children in classrooms.

Of Cherokee and Muskogee Creek descent, Samantha has been involved in cultural activities and events throughout her life. Samantha earned her PhD in Education from Oklahoma State University. Her research topics have all been relevant to Native children: professional development for teachers of Native students, education of Native students, and perceptions and experiences of first-language Cherokee speakers.

An assistant professor of curriculum and education at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, with more than one third of students who are Native, Samantha teaches pre-service teachers. Additionally, her leadership on campus at NSU includes being a member of the Diversity Committee for the College of Education and a member of the American Indian Heritage Committee, an appointment made by the university president. She has become connected with a new grant program called NETSTAR (Native Educated Teachers Successfully Taught Academic Rigor), intended to better prepare Native pre-service teachers to work with Native students. She is president of the non-profit Tsotsadalvi (3 Sisters) Foundation, which develops and promotes curriculum with a focus on sustainability and indigenous perspective.


Samantha Eldridge
Navajo Nation

Samantha Eldridge is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She received a Bachelors of Science in Sociology and a Masters of Public Administration and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Utah. Her research examines the historical and institutional structures that create inequitable policies, practices and barriers that impede the success of Native American communities; specifically matters of public administration, representation and governance.

Until recently, Samantha was the Senior Program and Policy Analyst in the Office of Minority Community Organizing & Partnerships (MCOP) at the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington, D.C. She served as NEA’s liaison to the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) community from 2014-2017 and worked to connect NEA’s 3 million members to parent, community, and youth organizing around educational and social justice issues and increasing access and opportunities for Native youth. During 2015-2016 Samantha served on the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) Board of Directors as a student board member and in 2014, Samantha received the University of Utah Equity and Diversity Award, presented on the basis of excellence in fostering leadership and continuing commitment to enhance diversity.

Samantha is passionate about serving as an advocate for her community to create and increase equitable access and opportunities. She also understands the importance of being a part of a larger movement of shared experiences that unites all communities and hopes to bring about social justice and change by raising awareness, organizing individuals and communities, and empowering others to confront and address cultural and institutional racism.


Darrick Franklin

Mr. Darrick Franklin is from the Diné (Navajo) tribe from Twin Lakes, New Mexico.  He graduated from Tohatchi High School in Tohatchi, New Mexico.  He earned is Bachelors of Science degree from Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona and minored in Navajo.  Mr. Franklin also attended San Diego State University and earned a Master’s of Science degree in Education, Specialization in School Counseling.

Mr. Franklin taught within the Gallup McKinley County Schools and the Window Rock Unified School District which are located on the Navajo Nation.  He was also a School Counselor for the Flagstaff Unified School District, Pleasanton Unified School District in Northern California, and Oceanside Unified School District in Southern California.  He also worked for Phillips Exeter Academy Summer School for two years in Exeter, New Hampshire as a Career Counselor, Assistant Dean of Students and Activities Co-Coordinator.  Currently, Mr. Franklin is working for the Navajo Nation’s Department of Dine Education Office of Dine Accountability and Compliance where he works directly with Tribally Control Schools within the Navajo Nation.

While at NAU, Mr. Franklin was a Student Athlete where he competed in Cross Country and Track and Field.  Darrick also coached Cross Country and Track and Field for Window Rock and Flagstaff Unified School Districts.  During his coaching career, some of Coach Franklin’s athletes received State Championship and Runner-up team honors.

While at SDSU, Darrick enrolled in a study abroad program at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand where he studied the Maori people.


Marita Hinds
Tesuque Pueblo

I’m a member of Tesuque Pueblo and a mother of two adult daughters. I’m an active member in my tribal community and take part in our cultural activities. I come from a family of artists, and grew up with parents who strongly encouraged higher education. I was in the Museum Studies Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and studied Art History focusing on Southwest Art at the College of Santa Fe.

I spent a cumulative period of 18 years at the Institute of American Indian Arts, working in fundraising, special events and exhibit’s. I accepted a position at the Te Tsu Geh Oweenge School in 2017. My daughters attended the school and I was a past member of the School Board. I like to think that I’m giving back to the community, since my daughters received such a good, solid education here and I’m able to work within my own community and with the children.

The school was the fasted school that switched from being a BIE school to a Tribal Grant School. There were many things to learn about the funding process, budgets and overall operations. It was challenging but very exciting at the same time. The main priority is the students, their education, their needs and working with the parents.

I curate exhibits and do fundraising projects when the time permits. I take pottery classes and I’m making our traditional pottery Rain Gods. I enjoy time with my family, friends and traveling.


Brian Jackson
Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe

Teach in a manner that respects and cares for strong identity of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.

Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe Tribal member  from Wisconsin

  • Family Focus: Married to Melissa Doud with 5 Children; Grason 6, Alton 10, Maquain 17, Misha 21, Marquis 23
  • M.Ed University Minnesota,  (current Doctoral Candidate) Indigenous Education Teaching & Learning @ University Minnesota
  • Veteran of Army National Guard
  • Employed by Lac Du Flambeau Public School as the Behavioral Health Director – Cultural Connections team- Adminstrative Cabinet
  • Wisconsin Indian Education Association President and part of WIEA board since 2005

Michael Vendiola

Michael Vendiola (Swinomish/Lummi/Visayan) is the Program Supervisor for the Office of Native Education (ONE) at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. ONE oversees the implementation of the Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State curriculum, the State’s State-Tribal Education Compact schools (STECs), and provides consultation and support to Tribal and Indian Education programs across the state. Vendiola served previously as the Swinomish Communications director, a coordinator/activities adviser at Western Washington University, and the director of student activities at Northwest Indian College, totaling over 20 years in education. Vendiola is in the dissertation stage for his doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Washington. He earned a master’s degree in adult education administration from Western Washington University, and also earned his bachelor’s in American Cultural Studies from Western Washington. Michael is happily married to his wife, Michelle. They have raised two beautiful children.


Elese Washines
Yakama Nation

Elese Washines has balanced commitment to achieving the highest level of mathematics research and scholarship as a doctoral candidate at Oregon State University with working full-time within her tribe as a mathematician.  As an assistant professor in mathematics education at Heritage University, Elese’s work with pre-service teachers has translated into over 300 of her students becoming more effective math teachers in the tribal community.  She was selected by her peers as Faculty of the Year in 2017 for her dedication and teaching. She is becoming a recognized leader in education.  She wrote the secondary-level curriculum for the Washington State Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum, gave the keynote address at the First Nations Science Fair in Manitoba, CA, and has delivered several STEM research talks and workshops at NIEA, AISES, and SACNAS.  Most recently she was appointed by the leaders of the Yakama Nation to be the Director of Higher Education, has a book chapter coming out on teaching algebra to Native high school students, and will finish a Ph.D. in mathematics in December 2017.  Elese was one of five doctoral candidates selected as a Cobell Graduate Student Summer Fellow to contribute the knowledge gained during her doctoral research to a national conversation about best practices for training and educating math teachers in and around tribal communities, and she is proud to be selected as a research presenter at this year’s NIEA conference.  Elese would bring a powerful voice for STEM education to the NIEA Board of Directors.