Chenoa Egawa is a member of the Lummi and S’Kallam Nations of Washington State. For the past ten years, she has worked as the First Nations MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) Coordinator through the University of Washington to encourage Native students to pursue higher education and careers in science, math and engineering. Her work with MESA includes developing curriculum, workshops and classroom models that celebrate and integrate Native American culture, values, contributions, accurate history, current issues and spirituality in an effort to foster self-empowerment among Native youth and greater equity in the public educational system.
Chenoa is also a gifted teacher, singer, songwriter and performance artist and a powerful advocate for indigenous peoples. As a vocalist, she has released five CD’s— Songs of Strength and Beauty (Cool Runnings, 2007), Spirit of Salishan (Swan Clan Productions, 2007), Heartbeat of Life (Swan Clan Productions, 2006), Road of Life (Swan Clan Productions, 2002) and Sacred Fire (Sound of America Records, 1997). She was a grant recipient of the First Nations Composers Initiative in 2007 and a grant recipient of the Jack Straw Foundation Artist Support Program in 2005, and again in 2010. Her experience as an actor includes performing in lead roles in the World Premiere of Ghosts of Celilo at Portland, Oregon’s Newmark Theatre in 2007, where she also won the Portland Area Musical Theatre Award for ”Best Original Score” (co-writer); in Sacagawea, at the Oregon Children’s Theatre in 2003, and at the New Visions, New Voices series at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center in May 2002. She is also host of the Native news television programs Northwest Indian News and Native Heartbeat both viewed across the Western United States, Canada, Hawaii, Alaska and New Zealand, and hosted the one-hour documentary, Inside Passage, for PBS shown nationwide. She has performed as a singer and storyteller at numerous schools, and music, arts and cultural venues.
Chenoa has long been active in international work for Indigenous peoples. In 1991, she worked as an intern at the United Nations Center for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, serving as a member of the Secretariat during the 10th Session of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples. In 1996, she was part of an international Native delegation that traveled to Chile to support Mapuche and Pehuenche Indigenous communities in their efforts to halt construction of large-scale dams on their homelands. In 1997, she received a two-year international fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to study, write and publish on issues concerning Indigenous peoples of Mexico and Guatemala. She is the first, and only Native American to date, to receive an ICWA Fellowship.
In January 2010, Chenoa and her partner, Alex Turtle, were invited to Colombia, South America to participate in a cultural gathering where they shared some of their teachings with indigenous peoples of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.