Humboldt State University

California Conference on American Indian Education

Turning Vision Into Action

Speaker - Mary Jane Oatman


Mary Jane Oatman

Ms. Oatman is the President of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and was appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE) as a liaison to Secretary Arne Duncan in the United States Department of Education. Ms. Oatman currently serves as the Senior Liaison to the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/ AN) communities for the Office of Minority Community Outreach at the National Education Association (NEA). She is in charge of connecting the AI/AN community to NEA’s 3.2 million members and ensuring that NEA’s policies and programs are relevant to America’s indigenous communities. Prior to joining NEA, she served as the first appointee as the Director of the Office of Indian Education at the Idaho State Department of Education.

Ms. Oatman has two children- Jackson (9) and Wayne (3) and loves to spend time fishing for salmon, huckleberry picking, and volunteering in youth development initiatives. She says, “My greatest accomplishments and blessings from the Creator have been the gift of motherhood. My little guys are what keep me motivated and inspired to represent Indian country. Though my career has taken me far from the reservation, I will always remain tied to my roots.”


Speaker - James C. Ramos, MBA


James C. Ramos

James C. Ramos, MBA James Ramos was first elected to the office of chairman for the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians on March 1, 2008. In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Ramos to the California State Board of Education making James the first California Native American to be appointed to the Board. The Board is the governing and policy-making body of the state Department of Education, and sets state-wide, K-12 education policy in the areas of standards, instructional materials, assessment, and accountability. Ramos believes that education is the key for the United States to maintain a leadership position in global affairs.

Ramos has a deep commitment to the preservation of California Indian Culture. Ramos is co-founder of the cultural awareness program at San Manuel and serves as director of the California Indian Cultural Aware- ness Conference held annually at Cal State San Bernardino. Recognizing this commitment, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the California State Native Ameri- can Heritage Commission in January 2008. He currently holds the position of Chairman.

Ramos is a proven civic leader in the Inland Empire region and has served on the boards of a number of groups and organizations promoting business, economic and social opportunities, including the San Bernardino County Museum Association, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation, Foundation Board of Governors, California State University San Bernardino, Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, St. Bernardine Medical Center Foundation, San Bernardino Valley College Foundation, Arrowhead United Way, and the KVCR (Public Television) Foundation for Education and Operating Board Member of FNX - First Nations Experience, the nation’s first television channel rooted in the Native American experience and broadcast by KVCR.

In 2010, Ramos was re-elected to the San Bernardino Community College Board of Trustees for a second term. He served as president of the board for two terms. He is the first Native American to be elected to the board and received strong bi-partisan support from federal, state, and local elected officials and community leaders. In addition to tribal government issues, Ramos continues to work with the tribe’s agenda of community involvement by reaching out to the surrounding communities and local governments to work collaboratively on issues that improve the quality of life for all citizens.

Ramos is a successful entrepreneur, operating restaurants in the San Bernardino region. He was born and raised on the San Manuel Indian Reservation. Ramos and his wife Terri are proud parents of four children. Ramos earned an Associate of Science Degree from San Bernardino Valley College, Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from California State University – San Bernardino, and a Masters in Business Administration Degree from the University of Redlands. In December 2009, he received an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters from Northern Arizona University, for his leadership and contributions to education.


Speaker - Craig Cheslo


Craig Cheslo

Craig Cheslog currently serves as the Principal Advisor to California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at the California Department of Education.

Craig's responsibilities in this role include providing strategic policy advice to Superintendent Torlakson, directing the Superintendent’s special projects and initiatives; serving as the Superintendent’s liaison to other high-level individuals and organizations; managing the Superintendent’s Initiatives Office, Executive Office Support Unit, Awards Unit, and Superintendent’s Correspondence Unit; and representing the Superintendent at speeches, meetings, and other events.

Prior to joining the California Department of Education in January 2011, Craig served as the District Director for Assemblymember Tom Torlakson, after previously serving in the same capacity for then-State Senator Torlakson. Among his responsibilities then were managing the day-to-day operations of Torlakson’s district offices, serving as the primary liaison with local elected officials, directing constituent outreach and assistance activities, and representing Torlakson at meetings and events.

Craig also served as the Political Director for Torlakson’s successful campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in November 2010.

Prior to joining Torlakson’s staff, Craig served as a communications and government relations staff person for nonprofit issue advocacy organizations, including Oakland’s Redefining Progress and the Washington, D.C.-based Concord Coalition. He is also the national president of the Alpha Delta Phi Society, a coeducational literary and social society with chapters at colleges and in cities around the United States.

Craig graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, with a bachelor’s degree in government and legal studies with a minor in education. He lives in Lafayette, California, with his wife Kari Dahlen, and their two children, aged 11 and seven.