Meet the Unkitawa Staff
Our dedicated board, 13 employees, and approximately 30 contractors provide services to indigenous people from all walks of life across Washington State, from grandmothers and veterans to children and inmates. We regularly bring Ceremony, cultural services, and community to our brothers and sisters. We live “unkitawa” (Lakota) – what is mine is equally yours, and we are equally responsible for caring for each other.
- Edna Wyena, Executive Director
- Misty Smiley, Innovations Program Director
- Phyllis Grant, Innovations Program Manager
- Jeremy Garretson, Reentry Program Director
- John Romero, Veterans Program Manager
- Brenda Suddenbrave, Community Outreach Coordinator
- Marne Schierbeck, Finance Manager
- Megan Garretson, Human Resource Specialist
- Dakota Case, Youth Program Specialist
- Brian Henry, Program Specialist
- Leslie LaFountaine-Bill, Apprenticeship Lead
- Chloe Schierbeck, Innovations Program Administrative Assistant
Edna Wyena, MPA
Executive Director, Yakama
As Unkitawa’s executive director, Edna serves the Native American population through Ceremony, arts, and culture. She is a tribal member of the Yakama Nation and is known by her people as “Last of the Wanapum,” meaning “Last of the River People.” Edna earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA)
Innovations Director, Lummi Nation
Misty has a strong history in management and customer service. She is an effective multi-tasker and easily manages high-stress situations and challenging environments. Her passion is humanitarian work and actions that lead to growth, healing, and knowledge. Her drive to create change led her to the Innovations Program.
Misty has innovative ideas, worldly views, and a passion for growing Unkitawa’s Innovations program. She is deeply involved in indigenous community outreach. She implements cultural programs, provides additional resources, looks for new funding sources and opportunities, and continually deepens her understanding of the Native community’s needs.
In addition to being our Innovations Director, Misty enjoys baking, organizing events, and crafting. She has worked within substance abuse programs on reservations to bring wellbriety to native communities.
- Sisters in Common
- Kent Farmers Market
- Black Farmers Collective (BFC)
- Native Families Program, Harry S. Truman High School
- United Indian Health Services
- North Seattle Community College G.E.D.
- Nathan Hale High School, Seattle, WA
Misty will attend Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington, to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Tribal Governance and Business Management.
Phyllis Grant, LMHC
Innovations Manager, Hunkpapa Lakota
Phyllis is our Innovations Program manager. She has worked in mental health services for 26 years, including 18 years on reservations in Eastern Washington. She has been a licensed mental health counselor unrestricted in Washington since 2001. She has expertise in a wide range of modalities and culturally-based practices as an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. She has experience in sexual assault therapy under the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV).
Reentry Director, Northern Arapaho
Jeremy Garretson, a Northern Arapaho tribal member with lived experience and previous incarceration, directs and oversees Unkitawa’s Reentry program.
Jeremy was born in Tacoma, Washington, and spent most of his youth in Yelm, Washington, a small town just outside the Nisqually Reservation. Unfortunately, Jeremy was incarcerated at an early age, during his formative years, and consequently began a cycle of incarceration that led him from the juvenile justice system to the state prison system. His recidivism continued until his final release from prison in 2017.
Jeremy earned his GED, college credits, and educational certificates during his incarceration. After his release, Jeremy enrolled in Northwest Indian College and is studying part-time to earn an associate degree.
Due to incarceration and other life choices, Jeremy lacked extensive work experience before his release and reentry. His incarceration, recidivism, and additional life choices made Jeremy the ideal candidate to work in the reentry field. In 2020, Jeremy began doing just that as the Reentry Case Manager at Chief Seattle Club. He poured his lived experience and life skills into helping others navigate the community, their life changes, and society as a whole while they re-entered their families and communities. He helped create and build the program, supporting supervisors, and an amazing team, and was promoted to Reentry Program Manager. Jeremy will always be grateful for the responsibilities they entrusted him with, and proud of the reentry work he accomplished and that continues at Chief Seattle Club.
In 2022, Jeremy joined the Unkitawa team to manage the Reentry program and oversee a contract with the Washington State Department of Corrections to provide Native American Services to all our relatives within the state’s prison system. Jeremy expanded the program beyond helping our relatives re-enter the community to going inside prisons to help individuals prepare for their release and reentry. He further expanded the program to include youth. Jeremy oversees Unkitawa’s contract with the Washington State Division of Children, Youth, and Families to provide Native American Services to youth with a history or risk of incarceration, gang or drug involvement, or affected by gun violence.
Jeremy applies his first-hand knowledge of incarceration, the justice and prison systems, and rebuilding his life to help others discover how to build the life they want. He is relatable and passionate about helping others.
John Romero Sr.
Veterans Program Manager, Eastern Shoshone
John is our Veterans Program manager, a veteran, and an accomplished Native American artist. As our Veterans Program manager, John orchestrates several monthly programs and is instrumental in building our Veterans canoe.
John has created art using different types of media since his very early years living and growing up on the Wind River Reservation in Ft. Washakie, Wyoming. He moved frequently in his youth and developed his style and techniques in acrylic media while maintaining his skills with pencil, ink, and limited watercolor and oil. John attended some schooling in the arts but is primarily self-taught. He enjoys creating images with a storyline and directing attention to life struggles and positive teachings. John recently developed skills in jewelry-making and basic Native American dancing regalia. John generously shares his artistic talents in our veterans programs.
“I outline in my mind what I want to say on the canvas and create the image that best represents the story. Although I mostly paint images of the Plains and Southwest, I have been introduced to a whole new life force in the Northwest and enjoy the various water creatures and The Great Journey of the Coastal Clans and Families. We are made aware daily of many teachings, and it is up to us to choose the path of our life.”
Community Outreach Coordinator, Cree/Dunne-Za
Brenda regularly brings new and exciting groups to our monthly Women’s Wellness gatherings and the Unkitawa Community.
Brenda has two decades of outreach and case management experience. She helps people connect to needed services and encourages changes for a healthier life. She enjoys working with her community, fostering connections, and sharing traditional knowledge and skills she has learned throughout her life and those she has learned from community members.
Marne Schierbeck (she/her)
Since 2016, Marne has been deeply involved in forming Unkitawa and its many changes. Working at Unkitawa enables her to embrace her passion for helping people and being of service.
Born and raised in Washington, Marne has always been passionate about numbers. Honoring this passion, Marne earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from Central Washington University. She worked many years in residential home lending for some of the largest national lenders, then her own small company, helping many achieve their dream of home ownership. Then, Marne went in a completely different direction, working eight years in the Highline School district as an elementary school para-educator and with the 2010 and 2020 Census.
In her free time, Marne enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Human Resource Specialist, Filipino Indigenous Woman
Before working at nonprofits, Megan and her family spent years engaged in service work in their community. She feels grateful and blessed to do nonprofit work full-time. In addition to being Unkitawa’s Human Resource Specialist, Megan offers her time to go into both Washington State Correction Centers for Women to help our incarcerated indigenous relatives through our Reentry Program. She provides services for sweat lodge, Ceremony, beading classes, drumming lessons, and regalia making. Helping women in cultural learning and healing helps us all throughout our daily struggles and brings meaning to what we do.
One of Megan’s hopes and goals is to help rebuild our communities. By helping all those around us to find balance and stability, we can ensure our children and yours will have a healthy environment to grow and excel in.
- Management – 8 years
- Administrative Assistant – 2 years
- Nonprofit – 3 years
- Service work – 5 years
- South Puget Sound Community College, Associate Degree
- Spokane Community College – various programs and certificates
- PRYOR Learning – human resources (2 years)
Megan was born in Olympia, Washington, lived in Spokane, Washington, for most of her youth, then moved back to the Olympia area. She is a wife and a mother to a beautiful family that fills her life with meaning and adventure.
Youth Program Specialist
Innovations Program Administrative Assistant, Hunkpapa Lakota
Han mitakúyapi, Chloe Schierbeck emaciyapi. Hunkpapa lakota hemacha. Inyan Woslal Han ematahan.
Hello relatives, my name is Chloe Schierbeck. I am Hunkpapa Lakota. I am from Standing Rock.
Chloe is passionate about helping the Indigenous community and has been involved in the Native nonprofit world since 2016. She is an artist and owns Igmuthanka Ihanble LLC. She earned an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Haskell Indian Nations University.