Public Information Specialist
Office of the Executive Director Department Off-site teleworker
Jill-Marie joined the CRITFC Office of Information in February of this year as the Public Information Specialist. She works with the Communications Director to provide information about CRITFC’s work in river and salmon restoration in the Columbia River Basin. She will also provide communications to the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes and public about ongoing restoration work and historical First Food harvests at the historic Willamette Falls.
Jill-Marie is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). Her grandparents are Atway Ruth Tias and Laverne Shillal. Her Indian name is Kaa’Aaw Laykin, which means Morning Light on Water. She received this name at 16 from her uncle Atway Calvin Shillal. She was born in Kootenai Tribe of Idaho country and spent her early childhood there before moving to Portland, Oregon where she attended elementary, middle school and high school. She spent a few years on the Umatilla Indian Reservation and attended Nixyaawii Community School before returning to Portland.
In Portland Jill-Marie attended Portland Community College before transferring to Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC). She was the first Indigenous editor of the weekly collegiate newspaper, The Advocate. She first interned for CTUIR in the winter of 2011 when she worked as a reporter for former Confederated Umatilla Journal (CUJ) Editor Wil Phinney. After completing the MHCC Journalism Program she returned the Umatilla Indian Reservation to complete a summer internship at the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She was offered a full-time position at the CUJ in the fall of 2012, she worked there for two years. She started as the CTUIR Dept. Children and Family Services Social Services Caseworker in the fall of 2014 and made a move back to the CTUIR Communications Department in the fall of 2016. She took over the role as the CTUIR radio station assistant under KCUW Operations Manager Jiselle Halfmoon.
In the fall of 2017 Jill-Marie was asked to serve as interim CUJ editor before being asked to return to the CUJ full time. During that time Jill-Marie started an award-winning radio show, the Mission Minute. In the fall of 2019 Jill-Marie was elected to serve as a member-at-large on the CTUIR’s governing body, the Board of Trustees (Board). While on the Board Jill-Marie was appointed to be the Tribe’s delegate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Economic and Community Development, the Center for Tribal Nations Advisory Council, Science and Technology Committee and as the Hanford Advisory Board alternate. She continued her second radio show Tacmeywii Nixyaawii. Tacmeywii Nixyaawii was created by Jill-Marie and fellow Board member-at-large, Boots Pond. Boots and Jill-Marie started the show during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. They have led the show to two consecutive General Excellence Awards from the Native American Journalist’s Association (NAJA).
Jill-Marie has, to date, won 15 NAJA Media Awards. Three for her work in radio, four for photography and eight for news, feature story and editorial writing. She has won four first awards, overall. Jill-Marie won four NAJA media awards, while still serving as an elected official, for her continued writing and work in radio from 2020-2021. After vacating her seat as member-at-large and losing her bid for seat as Board Vice Chair Jill-Marie rejoined the staff of the CUJ as a reporter in February of 2022. By June of 2022 Jill-Marie was back at the helm of the CUJ and produced the monthly publication until October of 2022 when she accepted a position at Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center.
Her work in policy, journalism and public engagement led her to accept one of the newly-created public information positions at CRITFC. As a Cayuse woman she is passionate about cultural preservation of First Foods, restoration in the Columbia River Basin and protection of Treaty Rights and sovereignty of the four Treaty Tribes.
- A.A., Journalism, Mt Hood Community College, 2012