Ann Marie Chischilly, the vice president of Native American Initiatives at NAU, was one of 20 women named to AZ Big Media’s 2023 list of Most Influential Women in Arizona Business.
She was one of 34 women chosen from more than 1,900 considered for the award, which highlights women who have demonstrated fearlessness, leadership and innovation in their work to shape Arizona’s legacy for future generations. She attributed the award and the accomplishments that led to it to her entire team, as well as to the leadership of President José Luis Cruz Rivera and his commitment to Indigenous Peoples.
“I am so proud of this recognition of VP Chischilly, given her dedication to advancing our work as an Indigenous-serving institution for the betterment of the Native nations of Arizona and beyond,” President Cruz Rivera said. “She is tireless in her efforts to ensure NAU is working to better partner with and serve Indigenous communities in Arizona by expanding access to Native American students and supporting their success.”
Chischilly, who is Diné, has spent her career working for future generations. Prior to her position as vice president, she served as executive director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at NAU and as senior assistant general counsel to the Gila River Indian Community. She also serves on several federal advisory committees, including the EPA’s National Advisory Committee and National Safe Drinking Water Council and the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. Additionally, she works with the United Nations on issues of the protection of traditional knowledge and co-wrote “Guidelines for the Use of Traditional Knowledge in Climate Change Initiatives.”
But her inspiration comes from the past and the matriarchs who shaped her life, including her mother, Marie, and grandmothers Katherine and Stella. Her mother is her greatest influence.
“She was a single mom raising four kids,” Chischilly said. “She went to school for nursing and served our community for 36 years, and everyone knows her as the nice nurse. She taught me that my faith was the most important factor along with hard work. She sacrificed so many things for us four, always supporting and praying for our health and happiness. I continue to learn from her and am so thankful she is my shíma (mom).”
Now, Chischilly leads NAU’s work in outreach and partnerships with Native American communities as laid out in NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence. Chischilly believes in the 7th Generation philosophy—”that we are now raising the incredible 7th Generation who were foretold by Lakota Elder Black Elk in the 1800s to be the ones who would help the broken hoop of life”—including her own son.
“My job, along with many at NAU, is to guide, protect and love them so they rightfully take their place in history,” she said. “We as humans are also asked to think, plan and make decisions in consideration of the next Seven Generations, so that they may have what we have today.”
Watch her interview with AZ Big Media.