1. Update
  2. Native Americans

No Such Thing as One Native Voice

By Alex Frandsen, November 1, 2019


We asked Kerri Colfer, our new congressional advocate in the Native American advocacy program, about her background, her motivations, and how FCNL can improve going forward.

What attracted you to FCNL?

Since I grew up in Pennsylvania, the Quaker aspect stuck out when I saw the job posting. When I saw that FCNL works on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), I got really excited because that’s what I focused on as a student, especially as it relates to Alaskan Native villages.

When did you first decide to pursue a law career?

In high school, I knew I wanted to study law, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Federal Indian Law. I eventually became more interested in bringing attention to domestic violence and how it affects Native communities. My tribe is matrilineal— we trace our ancestry through our mother’s lineage, and we belong to our mother’s clan. Women are a central part of our identity. I was raised by a single mother, and she has always been an example of the strength and resilience of Native women that I look up to. Because of her, I knew I wanted to use my voice to bring attention to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and stop this violence in our communities.

Tribes aren’t monolithic. They’re all very different and there are many perspectives that all should go into our work. There’s no such thing as one Native voice.

Native issues have been long ignored by decisionmakers and the media. Is it difficult to remain positive?

It can be frustrating, sometimes, when Native people are left out of policy conversations in Congress and the mainstream media, especially when Natives are disproportionately affected. Shutdowns, climate change, health care—these things really mean something different for Natives. But I stay positive because it motivates me. As a Native person, it drives me to speak out more.

Is there anything that’s surprised you about the advocacy world in D.C. so far?

I’m new to D.C., so everything is a surprise. But in the legislative advocacy world here, what struck me was the amount of collaboration that goes on between different organizations and constituents. There are so many people working towards the same goals.

What ways can FCNL improve in advocating for Native rights and issues?

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a great step forward. FCNL can continue along the same lines by remembering Natives in all the other things that we do. Recognize that we’re on indigenous land when we work in D.C. and around the country.

We should remember that Native issues aren’t just one category and that the other issues we work on also affect Native people, so we should bring that understanding to our advocacy.

Tribes aren’t monolithic. They’re all very different and there are many perspectives that all should go into our work. There’s no such thing as one Native voice.

Kerri Colfer (Tlingit) joined FCNL in September as the new congressional advocate in the Native American Advocacy program. She earned a B.A in English Literature from Brown University and J.D. from Temple University. Colfer is a member of the Tlingit tribe of southeast Alaska.

Alex Frandsen

  • Digital Communications Associate

Alex Frandsen is the Digital Communications Associate. Through close collaboration with the office’s various teams, he strives to highlight the impact made by FCNL and connect our messaging with the outside world.