Tribal Transit Awards


2019 Tribal Champion AwardsBernadette Kniffin


National RTAP Executive Director Robin Phillips presented the Tribal Champion and Tribal Systems Awards at The 4th National RTAP Technical Assistance Conference, Charting New Trails for Rural & Tribal Transit (#RTAP2019) on September 16, 2019. "Each of the award members and honorees provide amazing service that goes above and beyond," said Phillips.


Tribal Champion Winner


The 2019 Tribal Champion is Bernadette Kniffin, Director of TANF and Transit for the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Bernadette has created TANF partnerships we only dream of and has built critical transportation resources for her Tribe through leadership and innovation. 

Tribal System Winners


The two 2019 Tribal System Award Winners are the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is leading the nation on integrating sustainable fuel and environmental waste management.  By turning waste oil from restaurants on their reservation into fuel for their buses, they are creating cleaner fuel at lower prices. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation created a vision for regional mobility for Tribal members throughout the historic Tribal lands.  The partnerships they forged with the State DOT, adjacent counties, and small towns, have enabled the building of a regional system and engaged non-tribal stakeholders to implement the vision.



About the Tribal Awards

National RTAP presented the first biennial Tribal Transit Awards to honor innovation, efficiency, commitment, and performance in the tribal transit industry. These awards were presented at the 4th National RTAP Rural and Tribal Technical Assistance Conference in Portland, Oregon on September 16, 2019.

The two awards recognize challenges overcome and best practices that raise the bar for tribal transit. The recognition distinguishes the award recipients as champions in this industry. Three selected finalists were provided with complimentary registration to the National RTAP Conference. The winners were announced at an awards ceremony on September 16 during the conference.

In addition to the winners, National RTAP would like to acknowledge the honorees for their achievements and successes in Tribal transit:

  • Jeromy Groves, Transit Coordinator, UTE Tribe
  • Wesley Hare, Director-Ihanktowan Transit Service, Yankton Sioux Tribe
  • Todd Naktewa, Transit Director, A:shiwi Transit
  • Nnee Bich’o Nii “Helping the People” Services of San Carlos
  • Susan Johnson, Kayak Public Transit Program Manager
  • UTE Tribe Public Transit


National RTAP will be soliciting nominations for our next Tribal Transit Awards in 2021. If you have any questions, please email conference@nationalrtap.org.



First photo: Robin Phillips, Executive, National RTAP; Arla Ramsey, CEO, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe; Jeromy Groves, Transit Coordinator, UTE Tribe

Second Photo: Bernadette Kniffin, Director of TANF and Transit for the San Carlos Apache Tribe

Photo Credit: Cara Marcus, Resource Center Manager, National RTAP



Congratulations to all our awardees!