Our Team

Chris Newell




Tribal Community Member-in-Residence; Director of Education, Akomawt Educational Initiative - christopher.newell@uconn.edu

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Nation: Passamaquoddy Tribe

Chris Newell is co-founder/director of education for Akomawt Educational Initiative; a majority Native-owned educational consultancy based in Connecticut and author of Scholastic's If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving. He is a multi-award-winning museum professional born and raised in Motahkmikuhk (Indian Township, ME) and a proud citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the New England Museum Association, Tides Institute, and Maine Public.
Chris is a long-time singer with the acclaimed Mystic River singers based out of Connecticut and has traveled the US and Canada singing and participating in cultural celebrations, pow wows, and live stage performance. Chris was the Senior Advisor for the Emmy-award winning documentary Dawnland and co-director of the short documentary Weckuwapok (The Approaching Dawn) (2022) chronicling a historic sunrise concert collaboration in 2021 with Wabanaki musicians/storytellers and 18-time Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Sage Phillips



Graduate Assistant - sage.phillips@uconn.edu


M.A. Candidate: Human Rights

Nation: Penobscot Nation

Sage Phillips is a Penobscot Nation citizen and graduate student at the University of Connecticut. 

Phillips is originally from Old Town, Maine, where she grew up close to her community and elders. As a 2021 Truman, Udall, and Cohen Scholar, Phillips has committed herself to a life in public service. 

She began working with the Native American Cultural Programs at the University of Connecticut (UConn) as an undergrad in 2018, determined to transform and expand the programs. Centering her work in creating good relations between UConn and the land it currently occupies, Phillips is a strong advocate for future ancestors and generations at land-grant institutions, especially UConn. 

In 2020, Phillips received a grant to begin a research effort surrounding UConn’s history as a land-grant institution (LGI). The project today, known as LandGrabCT, was developed in partnership with Native American Cultural Programs, the Dodd Center for Human Rights, and Greenhouse Studios. The effort has received resounding support and positive feedback, as it serves to educate the community-at-large about the historical traumas LGIs were permitted to commit against Indigenous peoples and their lands. In 2022, LandGrabCT was namedas a 20 for 20 Connecticut Game Changer for Innovation in Connecticut History.

This summer, Phillips joined the Wabanaki Alliance as a Summer Fellow working to defend Wabanaki sovereignty. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in human rights at UConn and works in the Native American Cultural Programs as the graduate assistant. Her main focus is Indigenous education rights as human rights, specifically equitable solutions for Indigenous youth seeking access to higher education institutions, primarily land-grant institutions. 

She credits her opportunities and successes to her grandfather and father, from whom she learned leadership at an early age while watching their work in the Penobscot River Restoration Project.

Samantha Gove

Samantha Gove



Student Coordinator samantha.gove@uconn.edu


Major: Human Rights & Sociology  Minor: Political Science and Psychological Sciences

Nation: Mashantucket Pequot

Samantha Gove is a Senior from Granby, Connecticut, and is a proud member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Alongside being the Student Coordinator of NACP, Samantha is the President of the Native American and Indigenous Students Association, the Coordinator of the UConn Indigenous Nations Cultural and Educational Exchange (UCINCEE), and the Coordinator of the UConn Native and Indigenous Students and Scholars Network (UNISSN). Samantha has completed two related research projects, including one examining fatal police encounters with Native victims and one examining anti-Indigenous iconography throughout New England. She also is the NACP team lead for the Minoritized Languages Project, which hosts a workshop series on minoritized languages throughout the North Atlantic, starting with Southern New England Algonquian and Irish Gaelic, to bring awareness to language revitalization efforts. Samantha has been named a 2022 Udall, Cohen, and BOLD Scholar, as well as a Newman Civic Fellow. In her time at NACP, she has worked hard to develop a sustained community of Indigenous students on campus. As a citizen of a Connecticut tribe, Samantha aspires to foster better relations between the university and local Native communities.

Nina Reines



Student Staff - nina.reines@uconn.edu


Major: Animal Science  Minor: Wildlife Conservation

Nation: Mam

Nina is a Junior from Sherman, Connecticut. She is a member of the Indigenous Mam Tribe located in Guatemala. She is majoring in Animal Science with a Minor in Wildlife Conservation. Nina is a Student Coordinator for NACP as well as the Vice President of the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA). Outside of working with NACP, she is the Vice President for Paws and Claws.

Christina Yett



Student Staff - christina.yett@uconn.edu


Major: Allied Health Sciences  Minor: Psychological Sciences

Christina Yett is a senior majoring in Allied Health Sciences. It is her third year working with NACP and she is excited to see what this year will bring!

Kylene Chino



Student Staff - kylene.chino@uconn.edu


Major: Sports Management

Nation: Santa Ana Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, and Navajo Nation

Kylene Chino is a Sophomore from Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. She is majoring in Sports Management. Kylene is a staff member for the Native American Cultural Program (NACP) and a participating member in the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA).



Student Staff jillian.watt@uconn.edu


Major: Honors Allied Health Sciences (Concentration in Health Sciences)  Minors: Spanish and Molecular & Cell Biology

Nation: Mohegan Tribe

Jillian Watt (Whitefeather) is a senior from Norwich, CT, and she is a proud member of the Mohegan Tribal Nation. She is majoring in Honors Allied Health Sciences with a concentration in Health Sciences, and she is minoring in Spanish and Molecular & Cell Biology. Jillian is a staff member for the Native American Cultural Program (NACP) and a participating member in the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA). Jillian is also a participating mentor in the UConn Indigenous Nations Cultural and Educational Exchange (UCINCEE).

As a first-generation, Native American college student, Jillian's primary research focus is on understanding the opinions that Elders of both the Mohegan Tribe and sister Tribes have on the roles that Traditional foods play in health and what types of cultural foods they value in different environmental settings. The ultimate goal of her research is to better inform efforts to encourage healthy eating in Mohegan Tribal members with messages and materials that are grounded in culturally important food beliefs and patterns through qualitative interviews with elders of the Mohegan Tribe and sister Tribes about the meaning of foods and practices and culturally relevant nutrition education, as well as perceived availability of culturally relevant and healthy foods in their environment.

Jillian also works as the Project Manager to Dr. Christina Ross in the UConn School of Nursing to provide educational materials on sexual health and reproduction to African American adolescents in the form of an app. Additionally, she is a part of the UConn Healthy Family CT Nutrition Team, making frequent posts in the Healthy Toddlers private Facebook group for parents of toddlers. Outside of the classroom, Jillian is a fourth-year veteran of the UConn Dance Team, and she is employed as a Chiropractic Physical Therapy Assistant at Thames Chiropractic and Acupuncture Center. She is also an intern in the Nurses Improving Care for Hospitalized Elders Program at UConn Health. Jillian aspires to attend UConn Medical School and become a Reproductive Endocrinologist.