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The NC Native Leadership Institute (NLI) is a culturally tailored leadership training program in the state for current and emerging Native leaders who are interested in sharpening their leadership skills, expanding their networks, and fostering unity across all tribes and Indian communities in North Carolina.

The NLI takes place over two years. During year one, there are three weekend gatherings which rotate around the state. During year two, cohort members will be supported as they implement regional projects. The inaugural cohort consists of participants from seven different tribes and a variety of backgrounds, from recent college graduates and grassroots organizers to tribal administrators and council representatives.

The North Carolina Native Leadership Institute is offered by the UNC American Indian Center and supported by the North Carolina Community Development Initiative. At the American Indian Center, we believe leadership is about relationships and creditability. Further, it is about knowing one’s self, being able to work well with others, and serving communities. This is the foundation on which the NLI is built.


Marissa Carmi

Associate Director


Jillian Cady

Graduate Intern



NLI Second gathering

Impact statements from previous NLI cohort members:

The changes I have gone through emotionally and mentally have been the most rewarding for me. I better understand and accept who I am, allowing me to improve my relationships and understand my purpose within my community and other indigenous communities in NC.   –Teryn Smith (Sappony)

NLI came at a very critical point in my career. Proving to me that leadership is more than a position or a role, it’s part of an intricate journey that we are making, weaving exceptional parts of ourselves together for the betterment of our Native people. So as we embark on various career paths, it’s imperative to use the valuable resources we have gained through the inaugural NLI cohort experience.   –Kay Freeman (Coharie/Waccamaw Siouan)

I knew I held a leadership role in my community. However, through my participation in the NLI, I have recognized, accepted and appreciate the value and influence that I possess.  The retreats have validated that we are One People and we are the Future of Tomorrow.   The conversations from the retreats have inspired me as a Leader to, more than ever before, motivate those around me to our responsibilities to the next Seven Generations.  –Tony Locklear (Lumbee)

I had no idea that the Native Leadership Institute would not only provide me critical leadership skills but would truly set my heart on fire for my Native community.  –Leslie Locklear (Lumbee/Waccamaw Siouan)

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