New CEO takes helm at United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

Phil Lane Jr., the new chief executive officer of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF), has big plans for the organization.

An internationally renown and award-winning activist and educator for indigenous peoples, Lane said he is looking forward to the local, regional, statewide, national and international growth of the UIATF.

Appointed to the position in December after serving as interim CEO since last summer, he replaces former United Indians CEO Michelle Sanidad, who has taken the position of chief financial officer with the organization.

In a way, it's a return to his roots for Lane, a compact 61-year-old who gives the impression of perpetual motion even when sitting down.

Lane was part of the original group that founded the United Indians in the early 1970s under the direction of the late Bernie Whitebear, a man Lane describes as a friend and a mentor. Lane served as planning director, assistant director and director of education services at United Indians, which started out in a four-person office in downtown Seattle. "The office was so small, when we had a staff meeting we just turned our chairs around," he remembers with fondness.

A hereditary chief of the White Swan Dakotas, Lane holds a number of degrees, including a master's in public administration from the University of Washington's Graduate School of Public Affairs and a master's in education from National University in San Diego.

In addition, Lane also attended the University of California in San Diego, Whitman College near Spokane and Eastern Washington University in Cheney. Studying under a fellowship, he also completed course work at Harvard University Business School's International Institute for the Arts.

Lane left the UIATF in 1980 to become a tenured associate professor of native education at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. In 1982, he took on a second position at the school by co-founding the Four Worlds International Institute with native elders and spiritual leaders from Canada and the United States.

Four Worlds is a human-, economic- and community-development organization that in 1995 became independent from the Canadian university. The organization incorporated the following year as Four Directions International, an aboriginal company that became the economic arm of Four Worlds. Lane serves as president of Four Directions.

An international traveler, Lane hitched around Europe after he graduated from high school, and he later headed up community-development and literacy programs for Indians in Bolivia.

An award-winning author and filmmaker, Lane was the first indigenous native to win a Windstar Award. It was presented to him in 1992 by the late John Denver's Windstar Foundation, which acknowledges outstanding service to humanity. And Lane won the 2000 International Award for Freedom and Human Rights from the Swiss Foundation for Freedom and Human Rights.

Lane-a deeply spiritual man-said he sees his work with the UIATF, both at its founding and in his present position, as the fulfillment of a prophecy made in the 1850s by Black Elk. "It was just a natural unfolding," Lane said.

The prophecy arose from a vision Black Elk had when he was 9 years old, Lane added. In the vision, two men came to him from the east, and between them arose the Daybreak Star, an herb of understanding.

The men gave Black Elk the herb and told him to drop it on the earth. When it struck the earth, "it rooted and grew and flowered, four blossoms on one stem, a black, a white, a red and a yellow," according to an introduction of a Framework for Future Action prepared for the UIATF by Lane and Michael Bopp. "And the rays from these streamed upward to the heavens so that all creatures saw it and in no place was there darkness."

Board members of the United Indians appear happy to have Lane back. "Phil's powerful leadership style, wisdom and international experience will help usher in a much needed organization renaissance," said board chairman Ed Claplanhoo in a Feb. 10 press release. "Our board is unanimously honored that Phil has chosen to return to us."

Reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at 461-1309 or by email at

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