November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. Did you know the National FFA Organization includes more than 12,000 Native American members?
Marco Ovando, a citizen of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation, made history when he became the first Native American to be elected FFA state president in any state or territory. He served as the Nevada state FFA president from 2018-19. Ovando says his FFA experience looked different from most.
“My FFA chapter is the Duck Valley FFA Chapter, and it’s unique because many students here consider themselves to be from both Idaho and Nevada. I live on the Idaho side of town, but I went to high school on the Nevada side,” says Ovando, who graduated from Owyhee High School in 2018. “My high school is on the reservation, so it serves a lot of Native Americans. Our FFA chapter has one of the largest enrollments of Native Americans in FFA.”
Now a third-year student at Boise State University in Idaho, Ovando is double-majoring in political science and communications. He says his FFA experience developed his public-speaking skills, which he uses to help ensure a better future for his people.
“FFA helped build my confidence as a public speaker,” Ovando says. “I have a lot of social anxiety, but FFA helped curb that anxiety so I could engage with a wide range of audiences. FFA also helped me realize I like engaging in policy work, which sounds boring to some, but policy affects our everyday lives.”
While attending college, Ovando works at the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Emergency Operations Center as the public information officer. In 2020, his role shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he informs the public about COVID-19 and how it spreads, and he implements safety protocols such as mask mandates and curfew orders.
“We provide COVID care packages with sanitizer, masks, wipes and thermometers for families where someone has tested positive,” he says. “We also provide food resources and work with other tribes in our state.”
Ovando further serves his tribe by acting as a legislative liaison between his tribe and Nevada and Idaho state legislatures, helping tribal leaders decide which bills and legal processes to act upon.