Lhaq’temish Foundation

Board of Directors

Rita Jefferson - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Rita Jefferson (Lummi Nation)


Rita is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Silver Reef Casino Resort and a lifetime resident of the Bellingham/Lummi area.  Her unique experience includes government, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors.  Rita has eleven years of experience in the gaming industry, of which almost six years are in operations.  Her executive strengths are business acumen, strategic planning and implementation, change leadership, project management, operations and performance management, senior team leadership, financial planning and analysis, and communication.

Rita holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from WGU and is a SHRM – CP.  She is passionate about team development and prides herself on being a team player.  Rita loves raising her two daughters and spending time with her family.  In her free time, she is an active participant in outrigger & canoe pulling events and fundraisers for Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Rita has been a Foundation Board member from 2006-2008 and has continued serving from 2020 to present, as the Board Treasurer.

Cathy Ballew - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Cathy Ballew (Lummi Nation)

Vice Chair

Lifelong member and resident of Lummi Nation, Northwest Indian College alumni, Native Environmental Science, focus on traditional Native Plants; lifetime student in Traditional teachings, (teachers; Grandmothers, Sadie Celestine-Jones and Aurelia Balch-Celestine). Traditional knowledge verses scientific knowledge: I am attempting to acquire a respectful way to balance each in collaborative approach, without offending science and tradition.  Born to Richard J. Ballew Sr. and Ernestine Lane (Ballew-Gensaw); third of nine siblings, all traditional artists of sorts.

Growing-up along the waters of the Nooksack River and Hales Passage, water is valued part of my life, alongside, fishing, native plants, art, sustainable food, native healing, treaty right, women’s rights and traditional ways of life. Life today compared to this westernize living of present day, I attempt to implement tradition in anyway needed.  I am retired commercial salmon fisher; retired traditional canoe puller, I worked for the Lummi Nation for approximately 35 years in various programs, departments, committees, commissions, boards, and projects.

My Traditional teachers were and still are my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and parents. Our classroom is a 24/7 opened sessions; the world is/was our living classroom. One difference is we never received a piece of paper acknowledging our achievement of that traditional education.

Cathy has served on the Foundation Board since 2014, many years as the Board Chair and currently the Vice-Chair.

Nicole Brown - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Nicole Brown


Nicole moved to the South Fork Valley of the Nooksack River in 2002, which is when she became involved in protecting the life ways of the Salish Sea.  She holds a Doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition and is an Associate Professor at Western Washington University, where she builds courses in systems thinking and the digital humanities.

As a board member with the Lhaq’temish Foundation, she supports the strengthening of Indigenous communities and understands Indigenous knowledge systems and sovereignty as pathways for truth and reconciliation efforts to benefit indigenous communities.

Nicole has been on the Foundation Board since 2017 and has served as the Secretary for several years.

David Hillaire - Lhaq'temish Foundation

David Hillaire (Lummi Nation)


Pelokten aka David Hillaire works throughout Indian County to bring awareness to our tribal culture and showcase tribal arts as a radio host and DJ, emcee, communications professional and media personality.

David is a proud father of four, devoted and grateful husband, and committed community member who acknowledges that life is full of ups and downs and that the journey is worth more if you focus on working from a place grounded in our traditional teachings of service, gratitude, and love.

His media work has focused on community outreach, native vote initiatives, cultural and wellness events reaching underrepresented and underserved native populations.

David joined the Board in 2022.

Julia Ortiz - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Julia Ortiz


Julia is a Mexica Nahua Mayan and long-time Lummi community and family member who is a proud mom, grandmother and daughter.  She loves to travel to beautiful and faraway lands and experience all this world has to offer. 

Julia has worked many years in tribal mental health services, building programs for supporting the wholistic health of our tribal families.  She is currently the Mental Health Director for the Swinomish Tribe and is engaged in several health research projects that focus on developing native focused healing for our people.

Tam Lutz - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Tam Lutz (Lummi Nation)


Tam has worked over 30 years in Public Health in Indian Country building experience in maternal child health, chronic and infectious disease and motor vehicle injury focused projects, studies, and surveillance.  She began her career at the Lummi Nation working as an assistant health planner, a Cedar Project graduate intern, and a public health policy analyst before spending more than twenty-four years at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board’s Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center, where she last served as the Director of Maternal Child Health Programs. She has been responsible for communicating with tribes, supervising and mentoring staff, providing broad and subject area expertise, developing collaborations, and communicating and reporting to funders.  Tam returns to Lummi in June 2024 to serve as Lummi Tribal Health Center’s Director of Population and Public Health.

Tam’s grandmother was Josephine, the daughter of Peter James and Ada Descanum and her grandfather was James Oliver, the son of Sampson Oliver and Cecilia Johnson.  Tam and her husband Ed have two children Josephine and Rowan attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO and two rambunctious but loving pups Norman and Lulabelle.  She enjoys walks on the beach with her dogs, vegetable and herb gardening and cooking meals for friends and her canoe family.

Gerald James Sealth - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Gerald I James Sealth (Lummi Nation)

Lummi Indian Business Council Delegate

GI has long been committed to the service of the Lummi Community.  He has been an elected tribal leader many times over the past four decades and is currently serving as Treasurer of the Lummi Indian Business Council.

GI is a vigorous advocate for the preservation and protection of our Natural Resources, whether working for the tribal, city and/or state governments and has always served to build bridges between stakeholders.

GI is a dedicated father and grandfather, spending his free time with them and Linda, his wife of over 50 years.

Maureen Kinley - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Maureen Kinley (Lummi Nation)

Lummi Indian Business Council Delegate

Maureen Kinley is serving her first term on the Lummi Indian Business Council and is appointed to the Lhaq’temish Board as their alternate delegate.  As a long time champion for tribal self-determination, Maureen is committed to supporting the tribe’s development of specialized treatment and recovery services and sufficient funding to support all of the tribe’s services and needs.

Maureen is a dedicated daughter, grandmother, wife, friend and community member who enjoys the outdoors, supporting all our local sports teams, traveling and serving the tribal communities throughout the Nation.

Foundation Staff

Karyl Jefferson - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Karyl Jefferson (Lummi Nation)

Executive Director  

Shannon Carruthers - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Shannon Carruthers, MBA (Samish Nation)

Finance & Grants Manager

Kelli Johnson - Lhaq'temish Foundation

Kelli Johnson (Lummi Nation)

Project Manager