Southern California Rights of Nature Conference Registration


September 21-22, 2023
Hosted by the Bioneers’ Indigeneity Program
at Agua Caliente’s Rancho Mirage

Sponsored by Bioneers and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, this 2-Day gathering explores rights of nature-based strategies for protecting ancestral homelands, waters, sacred sites, plants, and animals. 

Join us at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage September 21-22, 2023.


Keynote Speakers

Patricia Garcia

Patricia Garcia

THPO, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Patricia Garcia is the Director of Historic Preservation and the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Ms. Garcia has over 20 years of experience as an archaeologist, preservation officer, and as an advocate of Indigenous sovereignty and stewardship of heritage resources.

As the Tribe’s THPO, Ms. Garcia is charged with preserving, protecting, and managing the cultural heritage of the Tribe. Ms. Garcia consults with a variety of local, state and federal agencies on California Environmental Quality Act review, Section 106 review, and other historic preservation laws, to reduce potential impacts to resources within the Tribe’s traditional homelands.

Garcia is a recipient of the Society for California Archaeology’s award for “Excellence in Cultural Resource Management,” a founding member of the Indigenous Archaeology Collective, has served on the executive boards of the Society for California Archaeology and the Society for American Archaeology, is a member of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Samuel Gensaw, III

Samuel Gensaw, III

Founding Director, Ancestral Guard

Sammy Gensaw III, a dedicated member of the Yurok Tribe, stands out as a powerful voice for the restoration and health of the Klamath River. As a cofounder of the Ancestral Guard, Sammy has committed himself to bridging the gap between indigenous youth and their ancestral traditions, particularly those rooted in the river’s rhythms. His tireless advocacy emphasizes the intertwined fates of ecological balance, cultural preservation, and sustainable economic futures. With a gift for public speaking, he’s brought the stories, challenges, and indigenous perspectives on river restoration to numerous platforms, ensuring the Yurok voice resonates in the broader environmental Discourse.

Britt Gondolfi

Britt Gondolfi

Law Student and Community Organizer

Britt Gondolfi, born and raised in Southeast Louisiana, is a law student, community organizer, future state legislature candidate, and mother. Since 2017, Britt has worked with the Bioneers Intercultural Conversation Program facilitating programming for students from Atlanta and from Bogalusa and Houma, Louisiana. While in Law School, Britt has supported the Bioneers Rights of Nature initiative by researching the intersection of tribal sovereignty and federal Indian law and facilitating workshops on the Rights of Nature at the Ho-Chunk and Mashpee Wampanoag nations.

Julia Horinek

Julia Horinek

Plains Coordinator, Movement Rights

As the new Plains Coordinator for Movement Rights, Julia Horinek brings decades of Tribal Grants and Contracts experience and a lifetime of activism to her position.  The understanding that Human Rights and the Rights of Nature are one in the same is intrinsically woven into her life philosophy and she strives to bring this Indigenous Perspective to her work.

Michael Madrigal

Michael Madrigal

Board President, Native American Land Conservancy

Michael Madrigal is the current board president of the Native American Land Conservancy. He is a member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians.  He has dedicated much of his life to support efforts that protect and strengthen the traditional cultural and spiritual ties of tribal communities to their homelands. Increasing understanding of these original and ongoing relationships between Indigenous peoples and the land is key to the survivance and vitality of tribal communities.  He is honored to have learned from many tribal elders and acknowledges these elders who have dedicated their lives to keeping Indigenous wisdom vital in our communities. Michael is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, in the Native American / Ethnic Studies PhD program.

Candace Patencio Anderson

Candace Patencio Anderson

Vice Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Candace Patencio Anderson is the Vice Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, having been elected March 21, 2023. She previously served as a Tribal Council Member 1996 to 2000 and in 2002.

Ms. Patencio Anderson has a deep commitment to protect the security and general welfare of the Tribe and its members.

Prior to her service as Vice Chairman of the Tribe, she served as Director of Player Development for the Tribe’s Agua Caliente Casinos for more than a decade. She also previously served on the Agua Caliente Gaming Management Commission.

While serving previously on Tribal Council, she helped establish Tribal gaming operations, working on and supporting California Proposition 5 in 1998, which allowed Tribal Indian Gaming Compacts with the State of California allowing gaming devices at tribal casinos. She was serving on Tribal Council during the construction and opening of the Tribe’s second casino, Agua Caliente Casino Rancho Mirage.

She is a long supporter of improving access for Tribal Members to obtain higher educational goals. In addition, she currently serves on the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce Board, and is a delegate to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Indian Gaming Association, Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations and California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA).

Ms. Patencio Anderson earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego. She was one of the first participants in the Agua Caliente Tribal Management Internship Program.

Cara Romero

Cara Romero

Co-Director, Bioneers Indigeneity Program

Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Program Director of the Bioneers Indigeneity Program, previously served her Mojave-based tribe in several capacities, including as: first Executive Director at the Chemehuevi Cultural Center, a member of the tribal council, and Chair of the Chemehuevi Education Board and Chemeuevi Headstart Policy Council. Cara is also a highly accomplished photographer/artist. (

Samantha Skenandore

Samantha Skenandore

Attorney/Of-Counsel, Quarles & Brady LLP

Samantha Skenandore (Ho-Chunk/Oneida), Attorney/Of-Counsel at Quarles & Brady LLP, has vast knowledge and experience in working on matters involving both federal Indian law and tribal law. Her extensive previous experience includes serving as a Tribal Attorney for the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice and clerking for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Indian Resources Section. She currently advises tribal and corporate clients in tribal governance, governmental affairs, corporate transactions, real estate, labor issues and litigation.  Samantha represents clients before members of Congress, congressional committees and agencies through federal lobbying services.


September 21: Rights of Nature 101

7:00 am – 8:15 am


8:15 am – 8:30 am

Opening Blessing

Opening Blessing by Sean Milanovich and Kim Marcus

8:30 am – 8:45 am

Opening Welcome

Welcome from Candace Patencio-Anderson, Vice Chairwoman of Agua Caliente.

8:45 am – 9:15 am

Opening Ceremony Invocation: Calling in the sprits; Bird Singers

John W. Contreras and invited guests

9:15 am – 9:35 am

Agua Caliente 101 – Land Stewardship


Patricia Garcia, Director of Historic Preservations and the Tribe’s Historic Preservation Officer

9:35 am – 10:00 am

Keynote Speaker: Samantha Skenandore

What Rights of Nature laws have to do for and with Indian Country

10:00 am – 10:20 am

Keynote Speaker: Britt Gondolfi

A Tale of Two Streams:
Our Legal System vs the One We are Trying to Build

10:20 am – 10:40 am

Keynote Speaker: Cara Romero

Story of Chemehuevi Rights of Nature

10:55 am – 11:20 am

Keynote Speaker: Julia Horinek

Story of the Ponca Nation Rights of Rivers

11:20 am – 11:45 am

Keynote Speaker: Michael Madrigal and Sean Milanovich – Cahuilla and NALC

Importance of Language, Culture and Landscape

11:10 am – 12:00 pm

Keynote Speaker: Sammy Gensaw

Story of the Rights of the Klamath River

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm


1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

Plenary Panel

Community Organizing for Rights of Nature

2:20 pm – 2:30 pm

Social Break

Coffee and Tea

2:45 pm – 4:45 pm

Break Out Workshops

Citizen Activists + TEK
– Cara Romero
– Julia Horinek
– Bette Billiot

Lawyers & Leadership
– David Greendeer
– Alexis Bunten
– Samantha Skenandore
– Frank Bibeau

– Sammy Gensaw
– Talia Landry
– Britt Gondolfi

6:45 pm – 9:00 pm

Gala Dinner

With Sherry Pocknett

Gala Dinner
Maple Baked Salmon
Roast Turkey +gravy
Three sisters Rice 
Mashed Potato

Mashed Butternut Squash
Garlic Green Beans
Seasonal Salad + Cranberry vinaigrette
Cornbread/ corn cakes

Dessert- Cranberry Pear Crisp

Sherry Pocknett is a Mashpee Wampanoag chef and caterer. She is the owner of the Sly Fox Den Too restaurant in Charlestown, Rhode Island. In 2023, Pocknett received the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast. She is the first Indigenous woman to be honored by the James Beard Foundation.

September 22: Cultural Landscape Excursion

7:00 am – 8:00 am

Breakfast (or take it to go)

We will leave early in the morning to spend time at important cultural sites in the Palm Springs area.

8:30 am

Arrive at Andreas Canyon

8:45 am – 11:00 am

Circle and Guided Walk

11:30 am – 12:00 pm

Box Lunch and Closing at Bent Palm

12:00 pm

Drive Back to Hotel

The Bioneers Collective Heritage Institute is engaging in a multi-year plan to support Indigenous communities codifying the Rights of Nature. If numerous tribes adopted a Rights of Nature policy, we could have greater power to stop unwanted environmental destruction in its tracks while driving the renewable energy economy.

Travel & Logistics

Drive in or spend the night. All guests are responsible for booking their own lodging.**

Registration includes breakfast, lunch and dinner September 21, and breakfast and box lunch September 22.  

We recommend arriving on Wednesday, September 20 to be ready for breakfast and the welcoming at 9:00 am the next day, September 21. The address for the hotel and venue is ​​32-250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

** Lodging is not included in the event registration. If you are traveling in and spending a night or two, please call Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage at (800) 854-1279 and tell registration that you are booking a room “for the Bioneers Intertribal Rights of Nature gathering” on Sept. 21 and 22 to receive a discounted price of $209/night (plus tax) for the dates of September 20 and 21.

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