Instructional Leadership, emphasis: K-12 School Leadership (MEd)
Rug weaving loom in the Native American Cultural Center

NACC Elders Program

Elders weave traditional knowledge into the fabric of Lumberjack life

The Native American Cultural Center’s Elders Program at Northern Arizona University is a unique initiative designed to support and enrich the educational journey of Indigenous students. At the heart of our program are the Elder Cultural Advisors, who offer one-on-one guidance to students, blending traditional Indigenous knowledge and wisdom with the university experience. These esteemed Elders, funded through private gifts and grants, are not faculty members but serve as cultural and spiritual mentors. Over the years, Elders have represented diverse Tribal traditions, including Diné, Hopi, Maya, and others. Their role extends beyond the classroom as they engage in various activities, including community outreach, research, and an annual lecture series.

The program’s impact is profound, providing Indigenous students with a sense of community and cultural continuity. It’s more than just academic support; it’s about maintaining a connection with one’s roots and traditions while navigating university life. The Elders’ presence on campus bridges the Indigenous philosophies and the modern educational environment, fostering a balance crucial for our students’ holistic development.

Furthermore, the Elders Program plays a pivotal role in recruitment and retention efforts, helping students address both academic and personal challenges. They also contribute their expertise to staff, faculty, and the broader student body, enhancing the cultural competency of the NAU community. They address various cultural, spiritual, and educational needs through workshops, presentations, and individual mentoring. For individual guidance on cultural issues, to schedule a meeting, or to have an Elder reach out to you, email

“Sharing, I think, is so important. There’s so much to share in terms of our stories, in terms of the language, in terms of culture and beliefs. And a lot of times, it’s just sharing from the heart, just being together.”
– Elder Viki Blackgoat, Diné

2023–2024 Elder Cultural Advisors

Read about past Elders

Paul Long (Diné)

Marina Vasquez (Mayan) and Lorenzo Max (Diné)