(Sacramento, CA) – As part of Women’s History Month celebrations, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) is proud to announce tribal leader and higher education advocate, Theresa Mike, as Woman of the Year for the 56th Assembly District.
“It is a privilege to award Theresa Mike as our Woman of the Year. Theresa Mike is a tremendous leader and higher education advocate who has been an instrumental force in the creation of the California Indian Nations College and advancing opportunities for tribal members. Theresa is a doer who has forged paths ahead for others where none existed before. She has dedicated her life to empowering others and helping to bridge healthcare and educational disparities for Native Americans,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.
“Wherever life’s journey has taken her, Theresa has worked to make a difference and improve the circumstances for those around her, and our Coachella Valley is blessed that she choose to make a home here. Theresa is incredibly humble, and I am not sure she realizes how much of an inspiration and role model she is within our community and beyond.”
Theresa Mike, also known by her traditional Coast Salish name “Si Mi lhot” (pronounced see-me-laht), was one of many founding Lummi Tribal members who helped create the Northwest Indian College that is thriving on the Lummi Reservation to date.
In the 1990s, Theresa moved to the Coachella Valley to support her husband, Dean, and the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians during the development of the Spotlight 29 Casino. At the casino, she established a GED program that graduated more than 200 employees over a 3-year period, Spotlight Cares, and Native Plus Health Consulting.
Theresa is devoted to education and actively sought opportunities to help students achieve their academic goals. In 1998, Dean and Theresa established the Theresa A. Mike Scholarship Foundation in memory of their daughter. The foundation has assisted over 800 native and non-native students with financial resources. In efforts to address decades of disparities in education for tribal members, Theresa helped found the California Indian Nations College located in Palm Desert, California. The college was chartered by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians in September of 2017 and began classes at the University of California Riverside’s Palm Desert extension campus in the fall of 2018.
“There are a lot of great causes in need of support. I never dreamed that our projects would come together as one great vision. Native American Land Conservancy, Theresa A. Mike scholarship foundation, and California Indian Nations College, and the emerging California Indian Nations College Foundation. We have decades of traditional and cultural knowledge to share,” said Theresa Mike.
Theresa knew that the creation of the California Indian Nations College was necessary to ensure that Native American students were able to pursue their studies with curriculums rooted in Indigenous culture surrounded by peers with a shared heritage as well as to accommodate pathways for students enrolling right out of high school, or adults returning to education.
Additionally, Theresa helped launch the Native American Land Conservancy, whose mission is to protect and preserve sacred lands, and she remains a member of the American Bankers Association, American Legion Auxiliary Post 33 Lummi, Northwest Indian College Foundation, and California Indian Nations College Foundation.
Theresa continues her quest to rectify injustices and create a better future for Native American communities to thrive.