Melissa Leal, Ph.D.



 Doctor of Philosophy (Native American Studies)

University of California, Davis. June 2012


Bachelor of Arts (Ethnic Studies)

California State University, Sacramento. May 2005


Career Profile

Successful at implementing and maintaining a strategic plan within educational and social service institutions.

Demonstrated leadership skills and commitment to social justice, diversity, and equality.

Ability to promote and maintain excellent relationships with constituents including community agencies, businesses, educational institutions, and equal rights     associations.

 Resourceful in the completion of projects, effective at multi-tasking and strong analytical and problem solving skills.


Over 10 years experience in program planning, grant writing, funding, eligibility and delivery of educational development and instruction for diverse and under-represented populations.

 Knowledge of developing and implementing initiatives that further diversity of faculty, students, and staff.

Designed, developed curriculum, and taught classes in various cultural/ethnic disciplines to a wide variety of individuals from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds including youth.

Established and maintained strong network communications with local and state policy makers, their staff, and other relevant organizations that promote diversity and inclusion.

Achieved educational standards of cultural competence within local communities, including Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino/Chicano, and Women.

Assumed administrative responsibilities when needed to manage complex projects.

Assured compliance with granting and partnership agencies; County, State, Federal, and Tribal Nations.

Communicated and collaborated with school sites, district personnel, county, state and federal agencies.


Work Experience

 Executive Director of Education, Wilton Rancheria, March 2015 to Present.

 Production Contributor, Little Thunder Films.,  April 2013 to Present.

 Faculty (Part time), Ethnic Studies, Sierra College, January 2015 to Present.

 Outreach Manager, EchoSlim, December 2014 to January 2016.

 Lead Researcher, Curriculum Author, Advisory Board Coordinator, Rebel Music Season II/MTV World, March 2014 to December 2015.

 Co-Creator, Global Local: A Co-Created Celebration of Arts, Culture, Activism, and Healthy Living hosted by Sol Collective, August 2014.

 Hip Hop Dance Instructor for Native Youth, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, July 2014 to December 2014.

 Cultural/Academic Instructor, Capitol Area Indian Resources, Inc., Sacramento, CA, January 2001 to Present.

 Faculty (Adjunct), Native American Studies, California State University, Sonoma, March 2012 to Present.

 Behavioral Health Program Manager, Sacramento Native American Health Center, December 2013 to August 2014.

 Program Educator, Title VII - American Indian Education Program, Elk Grove Unified School District, May 2012 to December 2013.

 Instructor, Urban Youth Empowerment Program, Greater Sacramento Urban League, May 2012 to December 2013.

 Executive Director (Interim), Our Kids Community Breakfast Club, Sacramento, CA, August 2012 to October 2012.

 Teaching Assistant, Native American Studies, University of California, Davis, September 2010 to June 2011

 Vocational Assessment Counselor/Re-entry Liaison, Adult Education, Sacramento City Unified School District, August 2007 to August 2011.

 Human Services Specialist, Native American Special Skills, Department of Human Assistance, County of Sacramento, February 2006 to August 2008.

 Director, LUMA Motion Academy, Elk Grove, CA, January 2004 to November 2004.

 Spanish Teacher, Merryhill Preschool, Elk Grove, CA, July 2001 to May 2003.


Credentials and Certifications

 Adult Education Teaching Credential-California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Designated Subjects: Elementary and Secondary Basic Skills, English as a Second Language, Social Sciences, and Spanish.

 Certificate -Indian Child Welfare Act Training Course

 Certificate -Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Initiative

 Certificate -Child Protective Services Citizen’s Academy


Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships (As lead applicant or grant writer)

  • Rumsey Rancheria Scholarship, 2003 and 2004. ($2,000 total)
  • Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship, 2008-2010. ($61,200)
  • UC Davis Graduate Studies Research Travel Grant, 2011. ($1500)
  • Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation Community Fund for EGUSD, 2013 and 2014. ($20,000 total)
  • Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation Community Fund for GSUL, 2014. ($20,000)
  • Wilton Rancheria for EGUSD, 2013 and 2014. ($1500 total)
  • Cultural Resource Fund - MICA, Phase 1, 2015 ($15,000)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Sciences - Basic Library Grant, 2015 ($6,000)
  • Indian Health Services - SDPI Grant, 2016, 2017 ($25,000 each year)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Sciences - Basic Library Grant, 2016 ($7,000)
  • CITE grant from California Rural Indian Health Board - $8,000
  • Cultural Resource Fund - MICA, Phase 2, 2016 ($40,000) 


Service to the Community/ Positions Held

 Advisory Board Member, Sol Collective, 2014 – Present.

Inmate and AIRFA Advocate, Maza Tipi Oyate, 2014 - Present

 Council Member, Sacramento’s Creating Community Solutions Network, 2014 – 2015.

 Secretary, Sacramento County Native American Caucus, 2007-2008.

 Leadership Advisor/Youth Mentor, Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, 2006-2010.

 Committee Member, Washoe Native TANF Foster Youth Culture Camp, 2007.

 Committee Member, Sacramento American Indian Youth Resource Coalition, 2007.

 Researcher, Re-Entry Roundtable, Charles A. Jones Skills and Business Education Center, 2007.


Consulting, Advisory, and Archival Work

Story Producer - AlterNative, ITVS, Present (in production)

Production Contributor - Little Thunder Films, 2013 to Present. 

Advisor – Rebel Music: Native America, MTV World. 2014 – Present.

Creator/Coordinator – Knowledge, Wisdom, & Understanding: Native Youth Hip Hop Symposium and Concert, The Fifth Direction. 2012 –Present.

Advisor – The California Museum - Oral History and New Media Project. 2012 – 2014.

Selected Participant – Washington D.C Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages. June 2011.

Contributor – Uneasy Remains Film Project. Wren USDI. 2010 – Present.



 “Student Voice, “Arts and Sciences Today Magazine for CSUS, Spring 2004

 “Soul,” America at the Millennium: The Best Poems and Poets of the 20th Century. 2000.

“Asumpa (To Flow): Native American Language and Cultural Revitalization through Hip Hop.” Red Ink Magazine. Vol. 16.2/17.1. April 2013.

 “Frank Waln: Everything’s Coming up Red.” Lakota Country Times. Volume 10, Issue 43. July 17, 2014.

 “Rhymes for Young Ghouls Media Review” in Comparative Education Review. The University of Chicago Press. Spring 2015.

 “Tupac and Native American Studies: Creating Connections Through Linguistics, Historical Activism, and Photography” in Cummings, Tibbs, Bridgewater, ed., Hip Hop and the Law: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement.  Carolina Press. 2015 

“Through His Eyes: Life in the South Dakota State Penitentiary” in American Indian Culture and Research Journal special issue on Native Criminalization and Prisonization. University of California, Los Angeles. 2016.


Forthcoming Book Publications

 “The Native American Experience in the Hip Hop World” (completed manuscript being reviewed by Wesleyan University Press)


Forthcoming Book Chapters, Articles, and Reviews

"K-12 Best Practices (working title) in On Indian Ground: California. A Return to Indigenous Knowledge: Generating Hope, Leadership, and Sovereignty through Education. Information Age Publishing. 2017 

"Leadership as a Ladder" (working title) in Women of Color Presidents in the Academy (working title), edited by Menah Pratt-Clarke and Johanna B. Maes. Peter Lang Publishing. 2017

"I Dance to Survive: Music and Movement as Empowerment" in Spiritual Herstories: Call of the Soul in Dance Research. Intellect. 2017


Community Workshops

Youth Workshop on Motivation and Music - Scotts Valley Tribal TANF Fall Gathering, Concord, CA, November 21, 2016. 

Hip Hop Dance Workshop - Native College Motivation Day, CSU Sacramento, November 7, 2016

Movement and Mind! NERDS Conference: Getting Fit - Exercise for Mind, Body, and Soul, Jackson, CA, February 13, 2016. 

What is a Rebel? Rise in Revolution Workshop and Empowerment Session:Federated Tribes of Graton Rancheria Tribal TANF Program, July 2015; Rock the School Bells Sacramento, October 2015; Rock the School Bells Skyline College, March 2016.

Song Writing, Video Production with EchoSlim. June 2015 to Present

Native Hip Hop as Healing: Stand against Stigma, Wintu Cultural Resource Center, Shasta Lake, CA. November 2, 2014.

Learn Your Tribal Language, Capitol Area Indian Resources, Inc., Sacramento, CA, 2008 to Present.

Abalone and Pine Nut Necklace Making, Capitol Area Indian Resources, Inc., Sacramento, CA, 2005 to Present.

Hip Hop for Education, Capitol Area Indian Resources, Inc., Sacramento, CA, 2012 - 2014.


Guest Lectures 

"Hip Hop and Pipelines" - Cosumnes River College (Native American Heritage Week), November 15, 2016. 

“Criminalization, Incarceration, Resistance, and Hip Hop” – UC Davis, NAS 001 (Introduction to Native American Studies), November 6, 2014.

"Intimate Partner Violence" - Uintah River High School, Ute Tribe, October 26, 2016. 

 “Native Hip Hop as Counter-Narrative” – UC Berkeley, IAS 158A (Social Movements, Urban History, and the Politics of Memory). May 19, 2014.

 “Native Americans: Identity and Education” – CSUS, EDS 104 (Teaching Diverse Learners in Vocational/Adult Education.)  Spring and Fall 2010.

 “Hip Hop as Decolonization” - UC Davis, NAS 05 (Native American Experience). Winter 2011.

 “Hip Hop and Indian Activism” – UC Davis, NAS 01 (Intro to Native American Studies). Winter 2011.

 “Hip Hop’s Musical and Visual Texts as Unique Literatures.” – UC Davis, NAS 181B (Native American Non-Fiction). Winter 2012.


Conference Presentations

"Emotional Resilience." Fancy Shawls Women's Conference, Ute Tribe. June 1, 2016.

"Indigenous Hip Hop: The Weapon and the Shield." Native American Indigenous Studies Association Conference. June 6, 2015. Washington D.C.

“Social Justice Film Series, Rebel Music: Native America Film Screening and Discussion.” California State University, Sacramento Multicultural Center. April 8, 2015. Sacramento, CA.

“Rebel Music – Hip Hop, Culture, and Activism.” Sierra College Indigenous Peoples Days. March 17, 2015. Rocklin, CA.

“Social Justice Film Series, The Cherokee Word for Water.” Panel Discussion.  California State University, Sacramento Multicultural Center. March 9, 2015. Sacramento, CA. 

“Rebel Music: Native America Film Screening and Keynote.” 2015 Annual N.E.R.D.S (Native Education Raising Dedicated Students) Youth Gathering. February 8, 2015. Jackson, CA. 

“MTV’s Rebel Music: Native America Film Screening and Panel Discussion.” The White House. December 1, 2014. Washington D.C.

“Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Future: Statistics and Methods of Cultural and Linguistic Revitalization.” Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation Spiritual Conference. October 17, 2014. South Dakota State Penitentiary – Jameson Annex. Sioux Falls, SD.

“Lost in Translation: Telling Our Story: A Demographic Overview.” California Institute for Mental Health, Community Defined Practices for Ethnic Populations Webinar Series. February 19, 2014. Sacramento, CA.

“Belonging, Being, and Breakdancing: Cultural Contact Zones between Hip Hop Dance and Native American Performers.” South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference. November 7, 2013. Atlanta, Georgia.

“Chris La Marr and WithOut Rezervation: Paving the Way for Native Hip Hop.” 28th Annual California Indian Conference and Gathering. October 5, 2013. California State University, Sacramento. Sacramento, CA

“Being Indian: Learning History, Encountering Activism, and Sharing Cultural Traditions through Contemporary Music.” Native American Council of Tribes, Cultural Awareness Conference. September 20, 2013. South Dakota State Penitentiary. Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Keynote. Weaving the Roots of Knowledge: 2nd Annual Native American Studies Graduate Student Symposium.  April 26, 2013. University of California, Davis.

“Tupac and Native American Studies: Creating Connections through Linguistics, Historical Activism and Photography.” Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection Conference: Hip Hop, Education & Expanding the Archival Imagination. September 28, 2012. Atlanta University Center. Atlanta, Georgia.

“Envisioning Home, Finding Beauty: The Visual Legacy of Walkerville Road.” Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Symposium.  April 26, 2012. University of California, Davis. Davis, CA. 

“Employing Alalu to Connect the Hub and the Deejay.” 1st Annual Native American Studies Graduate Student Symposium; Engaging the Indigenous Americas. April 13, 2012. University of California, Davis. Davis, CA.

“Asumpa (To Flow): Native American Language and Cultural Revitalization through Hip Hop.”  2011 American Academy of Religion Conference. November 22, 2011. San Francisco, CA.

“Ernie Paniccioli and the 5th Branch of Hip Hop: The Hip Hop Archive via an Indigenous Lens.”  2011 Native American Art Studies Association Conference. October 29, 2011. Ottawa, Canada.

“Vision Quests: Creating an Image of Hip Hop through a Native American Cultural Lens.”   2011 Hawaii International Conference for the Arts and Humanities. January 09, 2011. Honolulu, HI.

“Vocational Education: The Other Education.” 30th Annual California Conference on  American Indian Education. April 4, 2007. Sacramento, CA.


Film/Radio/Television Interviews and Contributions

Bay Native Circle

Host - Morningstar Gali

Topic - Language Revitalization and Youth Empowerment

June 2016.


A Conversation with Dawn Karima

Talktainment Radio

Host - Dr. Dawn Karima

Topic - Youth  Empowerment

April 14, 2016


commUNITY Talks

Success Native Style Radio Network

Host - Maggie Hundley

Topic - Black and Native Alliances

February 20, 2016


Bay Native Circle, Community Empowered Radio

Host - Vince Medina

Topic - Native Hip Hop and Language

May 27, 2015


Rebel Music: Native America

MTV World, Nomadic Wax 2014

Billy Luther and Eric Becker, Directors


Rain: An Interlude

Little Thunder Films, 2013

Asata Radcliffe, Director


Idle No More Documentary

 Little Thunder Films, 2013

Asata Radcliffe, Director


Lawyers Guild Radio Show, Pacifica Radio, KPFK- 90.7 FM

Host – Jim Lafferty, Executive Director – National Lawyers Guild

Interview Topic – Disappearing Native languages and the impact on culture and diversity with a focus on California.

November 18, 2010


 Within the Democratic U.S., KDVS – 90.3 FM

Host – Ya-nah Mandujano

Interview Topic – Hip Hop and Activism

April 27, 2011


Ancestral Languages Heard Again: The Revitalization of California’s Tribal Languages

Tribal Eye Productions, 2011

Gary Robinson, Producer/Director


Research Interests:  Community Engagement, Youth Studies and Empowerment, Language and Cultural Revitalization, Hip Hop Studies, Traditional and Contemporary Dance, Music, Media and Performance, Incarceration and Criminalization.