Native American Veterans Association
Serving and Honoring Native American Vets and Their Families

About Us

Serving and Honoring our Legacy.

History

Started in 2002, the Native American Veterans Association began as a mutual fraternal non-profit organization 501 (c)(3), built around the American military culture with a rich history and legacy that dates back to and around the creation of our great nation. We are a Native American based organization that stretches its helping hand out to all tribal and non-tribal veterans and their families.

NAVA is also an advocate for veterans and their families. Our services include assisting veterans and dependents when applying for Federal, State, and County benefits and all other rights to which they are entitled in the most expedient manner possible.

The official colors of NAVA are black, red, purple and gold. The black represents our POW/MIAs and those who still have not returned to us. The red is a very strong color to veterans and represents the blood of those shed in battle. The purple represents the Purple Heart, and the gold respresents Honor in Service.

 
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Board Members

 
 
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President

Ted Tenorio 

I am a descendant of the Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, and served in the U.S. Army as a Communication Specialist, then received an honorable discharge. I became active in the Native American community after finishing college, and was working at California State University Northridge where I received an honorarium and taught in the American Indians Studies Department and mentored transitioning native students from the reservations. I served for three years with the California Rural Indian Health Board, developing traditional tobacco education programs for American Indian Health clinics on California reservations and rancheras. I am a member of the California Gourd Dance Society a Kiowa/Comanche warriors society.

For the past 12 years I have served on the Native American Veterans Association (NAVA) Executive Board of Directors as Vice President and now President since 2015. NAVA has received Veterans Excellence Service awards from Senators, Assembly members, County and City Councils and California American Indian Reservations for its many service activities.    

I was also appointed to the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission in 2019.

 

United States Army

 

 
 
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Vice President

Mario Salgado

I was born in Los Angeles, CA and grew up in Boyle Heights near downtown Los Angeles. I am a member of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians of San Juan Capistrano, traditionally the Acjachemen Nation. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1980 during my senior year of high school on the delayed entry program, and served for 6 years as a 4421; Legal Services Man working with the Judge Advocates office and was Honorably Discharged as a Sergeant. 

I was, and still am, proud to have served my country and my family, and to have represented my people. I have been active in the Native community since 1999, working with United American Indian Involvement and Torres Martinez Tribal TANF, and helping to found the Native American Veterans Association along with Glenna Amos, William Givens and Tony Lil'Hawk. As a husband, father, and grandfather, I am proud to serve the Native community, all other Tribal Nations, and those who have also served; Native and Non-Native alike. 

I firmly believe that it is our duty to carry our heritage on to our children and grandchildren.

As proud Native people, we will all be known by the tracks we leave behind us.

 

United States Marine Corps

 
 

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Co-founder / commander & Chief

Bill Givens 

Bill Givens Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Native American Veterans Association Founder.

I am a community employment and training coordinator who helps Native American veterans find gainful careers and jobs working with the unrepresented Native American communities in the County of Los Angeles. Before starting my community role as a public servant, I served my county in the United States Air Force. After my tour of duty I reenlisted with the California United States Air Force Guard and was honorably discharged with 10 years in service.  After a successful career in the United Air Force I enlisted in the United States Army reserve where I served for the next 20 years before retiring from the Army with another honorable discharge. I am also is a disable veteran.

I took full advantage of my GI Bill and attended California State University Northridge, studying political science and public administration, and achieved a Bachelor of Administration Degree. Prior to entering the higher education institution, I attended Los Angeles City College, majoring in political science and received my Associated Arts Degree.  

I worked as an Indian Police-Light Horseman, Los Angeles Unified School District as a High School Teacher. Although I loved my work with the general public, I longed to worked directly with veterans and got the chance when the State of California Employment Development Department, Workforce Services, offered me a job as a Local Veteran Employer Representative working directly with veterans. I worked for the State of California for 20 years before retiring.

There is a saying “You can retire from a career, but you cannot retire from life” and I was born with a mission to serve my Native American community, and have worked tirelessly as the founder of the Native American Veterans Association, United American Indian Involvement, member of the Board of Directors, helping veterans get their military records and aiding Native American with their tribal enrollments.

United States Air Force & Army


 
 
 
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Treasurer

Ron Gallegos

I attended Pasadena City College, and upon graduation was employed as a draftsman. I served in the United States Marine Corps for four years, was afterwards employed by the County of Los Angeles as a construction cost estimator, and have since retired. I went on to work as a construction superintendent, as an engineering construction estimator, and have started my own construction engineering company. I currently work as a business engineering cost estimator. As a widower, my current family consists of my son and daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson. My son is a proud member of the Alabama National Guard.

 

United States Marine Corps

 

 
 
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BOARD MEMBER

Belinda Smith

My name is Belinda Smith, LCSW Psychiatric Social Worker II at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health-American Indian Counseling Center AICC. I am a proud member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.  Growing up in Wisconsin, I spent much time listening to stories about my father and grandfather being proud members of the US Air Force.  I felt the same calling to honor my family and to serve my county. I joined the United States Navy in 1992 as an Air Man. I was station in Florida with VS-27 an antisubmarine unit and AMF Auxiliary Military Force. While in the Navy I received training as a Dental Technician and also Field Medical Forces. I was then stationed in Californian on the El Toro Marine Base.  Upon leaving the military I worked in the medical field. I obtained my Masters of Social Work from CSULB. I have worked with US-VETs and AmeriCorps as an Outreach Worker for homeless Veterans. I have worked with Telecare Corp. as an Employment Specialist for Homeless adults.  I then worked for United American Indian Involvement as a child and family therapist for the Native American community. I am currently working for LAC-DMH at AICC as a therapist with the target population being Native Americans. I am also a proud mother, wife, Native American and Veteran.

United States Navy

 

 
 
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Board Member at large

Jenni McCown

Halito, I’m a Native Californian Choctaw who grew up most her life in Los Angeles county. I have worked in the printing industry for the last 30 years. I am happily married and in my spare time I love spending time with my four grand-girls and riding horses. Being raised by a single mom, it couldn’t have been easy on her. I am the oldest of four and I can remember being signed up for every Indian program available to us. At the time, I didn’t think too much about it. As an adult now, I understand and thank those individuals who took the time, volunteered, made these programs available, and made a difference. I have helped my mom with NAVA events when needed over the past 10 years. I was honored to be elected to the board as an advisor in 2017. This is my chance to give back and keep (Glenna Amos, NAVA co-founder) my Mom’s spirit and dream alive. Over the years I have made so many friendships through NAVA and can’t help getting attached to our faithful members. I consider them my second family. Aho

 

 
 
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Board Member at large

Fred McCown

Hello, I am a friend of and volunteer for NAVA. I was born in Cairo, Illinois, in 1952 and came to California in 1976. I have worked in student housing at the University of Southern California for the last 27 years. My wife has been involved with NAVA for over 10 years. Her passion to help Native Americans has always impressed me. I truly feel the need for this Organization. My interests are my grandchildren and horses.

 
 

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Member at Large

Nani Escudero

I serve on the Board of Directors for the Native Americans Veterans Association (NAVA), a Los Angeles based Veteran Collaborative advancing the field of Veteran Services and bringing cultural awareness of Native American traditions through NAVA events. I have been a NAVA member since 2012.  My interest includes coordinating conferences for the dissemination of best practices and innovative solutions in the field of education, access to healthcare, veteran services, and workforce development. Supporting the veteran community and serving as an advocate for veterans and their families since 2006, I have received congressional recognition for my distinguished work in the community and bring a wealth of experience to NAVA. My experience includes Affordable Care Act implementation, integrated managed healthcare, behavioral health leadership, training, workforce development, business development, marketing, community relations, and strategic planning.

 
 

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NAVA Photographer

Rick Ussery

I was born in 1953 in Long Beach, CA, then raised in Norwalk where I attended Norwalk High School. I graduated in 1972, then attended Humboldt State University, where I graduated in 1976 with a degree in Geography. I worked at several jobs before becoming a crane operator for a small company for 11 years, 1982 to 1993. Then I went to work at the Port of Long Beach, aka, City of Long Beach Harbor Department as a crane operator in 1993. I have been working there for 26 years this month, currently as a Manager of Infrastructure. I have been shooting photos all my live; however, I really became serious and started taking photography classes in about 2011 to become a better photographer. Now I shoot for fun and profit, though not much profit.


A Message from the President

It’s Official! We are a Non-Profit Organization! Our work thus far without this designation was only possible through the tremendous supports from our community . . . YOU!  Now, as an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we can do So Much More. !! You may be asking: “Like what?” Well, allow us to share with you:

  • Apply for grants - before we were limited as most funders want you to be a non-profit organization

  • Accept Interns - College students and budding researchers can receive credit to intern with us on special projects such as the Annual Summit and other literary works

  • Accept Donations - Thank you to those who donated without the tax exemption, or who served as members and paid dues . . . now you can not only claim -your previous donations, but all of the ones you will make in the future and for sure you are “our friend”

  • Solicit Donations - Most large businesses and small businesses love the opportunity to give back, you just gotta ask! …. And provide your non-profit status. We are there!

This also solidifies our commitment to our community by attending to and honoring men and women who have served active duty and their families’ transition from their warrior’s journey to civilian life.  NAVA will continue to provide readjustment assistance; strengthen family ties; offer links to mental health and wellness services and career and educational training.

Join us during Veterans Day weekend for NAVA Veterans Pow Wow.

NAVA’s Annual Summit held in the Fall; is right on target - stay tuned for more info!

We recognize it is the perfect time to recommit to what should never change. Our work must always be consistent with our vision and mission…NAVA is a partner and stakeholder to agencies, government and municipal entities, community health agencies, government leaders, educational institutions, and the Native American community . . . to bring the deserved services to veterans, Native American veterans and their families in the communities we serve.

I look forward to working with the NAVA Executive Board of Directors as we continue to bring the highest level of veterans’ services to the Native American community.

In the Spirit of Gathering,
Ted Tenorio, President