Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
January 15, 2000 - Issue 01

Female Role Model of the Year
The Board of Directors of the American Indian Law Alliance proudly announces that our President and Founder, Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Esq., has been named one of ten Female Role Models of the Year by the National Womanís fund of the Ms. Foundation for Women. Other recipients include the U.S. Womenís World Cup Team, J.K. Rowling and Amalia V. Betanzos.
Tonya is a citizen of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. The oldest of the eight children of Maxine and the late Henry Gonnella, she was born and raised on her peopleís territory in upstate New York. In 1980, Tonya Gonnella Frichner earned a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Johnís University, New York City and graduated magna cum laude. In 1987 she earned a Juris Doctor degree from the City University of New York Law School at Queens College.

Tonya now resides in New Jersey with her husband, businessman and professor, Herb Frichner.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner photo by Carrese P. Gullo

In 1989 she fulfilled a life-long dream when she founded the American Indian Law Alliance in New York City. The Law Alliance was established to fulfill the responsibility that Tonya had learned as a child and as a young woman: namely that it is every personís responsibility to work for their people. Accordingly, the Law Alliance is mandated to support the traditional leadership and elders of Indigenous nations and community based organizations in the struggle to preserve the landbase, treaties, environment and cultures of Indigenous territories around the world. In 1997, the Law Alliance opened a second office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1999, the American Indian Law Alliance, in recognition of its international advocacy on behalf of Indigenous issues, received its designation as a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

As an active leader in the Native American community for many years, Ms. Frichner has earned credibility among Native American colleagues and clients in many venues. She is respected for her professionalism among the many segments of the private sector and international agencies with which she deals in the furtherance of her work on behalf of Native Americans. Her own people and Indigenous communities and leaders from around the world seek her input and consultation relative to contemporary issues of Indigenous survival.

In making its award to Tonya and the other recipients, the President of the Ms. Foundation for Women, Marie C. Wison, stated that "these women have enormous courage and strength of conviction to speak and live for what they believe in and have made it possible for other women and girls to learn and lead by their example."

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