Affie Ellis has been a Wyoming state senator for three years and has no plans to stop, but it also was “never something I thought about when I was little.” Affie Ellis was raised in a working Navajo family and didn’t truly consider becoming a state legislator until she took her 8-year-old daughter to the capitol for a visit “and [her daughter] asked if they allowed girls to be in the Senate.” Wyoming was the first state to grant women suffrage in 1869 and yet there was only one woman serving in the state Senate when Affie ellis decided to run in 2016.
Senator Ellis taps into her natural curiosity as a state senator and uses the job as an opportunity to learn about different cultures, histories, and problem solving. She had grown up curious about what it meant to be Navajo, but now she realizes “we are who we want to be,” and for Affie Ellis that is a Navajo, woman state senator. Senator Ellis now uses her Navajo heritage to help inform her decisions as she attempts to break down the “us versus them” mentality that has fissured a divide between government and Native Americans. But she also understands that “in today’s society we’re looking for quick answers and easy solutions. But the relationship between the United States and federal Indian tribes has been one in the making since contact.”
Senator Ellis knows that there will come a day when she doesn’t have the same passion and energy that she has now for politics and when that comes she’ll step aside “to allow another generation to have that opportunity to see what they want to work on.” But until then, she will continue to serve the beautiful state of Wyoming while inspiring others to know their value, know their brand, and eat more fry bread.
Join Affie Ellis “In the Arena” for a thoughtful discussion about cultural history, representation and problem solving that extends beyond the great plains of Wyoming.
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- Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, Calif.
- Ed O’Keefe, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation
- Blair Milo, Ind.'s first Secretary of Career Connections and Talent
- Phil Bertolini, Co-Director, Center for Digital Government
- Jo Ann Davidson, Ohio State Representative
- Dow Constantine, Executive of King County, Wash.
- Harry LaRosiliere, Mayor of Plano, Texas
- Rebecca Rhynhart, City Controller of Philadelphia
- Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University
- Mayors Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn.; Jenn Daniels of Gilbert, Ariz.; Jacob Frey of Minneapolis and Francis Suarez of Miami
- Chris Castro, Director of Sustainability for Orlando, Fla.
- Kim Foxx, State's Attorney for Cook County, Ill.
- Doug Burgum, Governor of N.D.
- Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio
- Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, S.C.
- Kristen Cox, Executive Director of Utah Office of Management and Budget
- Acquanetta Warren, Mayor of Fontana, Calif.
- Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, Ky.
- Themis Klarides, Minority Leader of the Conn. House
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