Erica M. Pinto, chairwoman of The Jamul Indian Village of California (JIV), was elected chair of the Southern Indian Health Council, Inc. (SIHC). The SIHC, founded in 1982, is a Native American organization which aims to protect and improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the Native American community. Having intermittently served on the 14-member SIHC board since 2004, Pinto will begin her two-year term as Chair in January 2021. The chairwoman, who was honored last month with the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California's highest honor, the Warrior Award, has become a recognized leader in the effort to improve the lives of Native peoples.
Based in Alpine, Calif., SIHC provides a comprehensive range of wellness, professional health care, dental, and social services. SIHC serves a seven-member tribal consortium, including Barona, Campo, Ewiiaapaayp, Jamul, La Posta, Manzanita, and Viejas; as well as other tribal and non-tribal members. The organization is supported by federal, state, and local funds.
Chairwoman Pinto states, "The SIHC board has a number of significant goals for the upcoming term, not the least of which is finding a bigger location. We also want to focus on provider retention, expanding our services, enhancing our quality of care, and educating staff. I also have a personal goal of streamlining communication between the board and administration so we can better serve our patients."
Chairwoman Pinto has been involved with the JIV Tribal Council since 1997. In 2015, she was the first woman elected chairwoman of the JIV, and has led the tribe to make significant economic progress on its path to self-reliance. Under Pinto's leadership on the Tribal Council, the JIV oversaw the groundbreaking of a world-class gaming facility on its reservation in February 2014. In October 2016, Jamul Casino opened, creating nearly 1,000 permanent jobs. She continues working to expand the tribe's land base and increase economic opportunities for members of the JIV. She is also co-founder of the Acorns to Oaks Tribal program, which organizes activities designed to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy, and promote education. Pinto also chairs the Health & Safety Task Force for the Tribal Government, Casino and Gaming Commission, which was created at the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the spring of 2020.