Her life of public service began when she was elected one of the original Presidents of the Native American Student Association at Oregon State University. After graduation, she returned home to the Reservation and found herself on the front lines of the salmon wars, a battle to protect her people’s natural resources, cultural identity, tradition and fishing rights. Susan Masten was instrumental in securing the Yurok’s rights to the Klamath River Basin, which were reaffirmed in her uncles’ U. S. Supreme Court case Mattz v. Arnet.
Susan Masten was elected President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in October 1999 and served for one term and she served as the Yurok Tribal Chairperson from 1997-2004. NCAI is the countries oldest and largest Tribal membership based organization representing and advocating for tribal governments and the rights of Native People.
Since NCAI’s foundation in 1955, Susan Masten is only the second woman elected President and is the first President from the State of California.
Prior to NCAI Presidency, Susan Masten served as the NCAI First Vice President from 1994-1996, and the NCAI Sacramento Area Vice president from 1992-1994. She served as the Marketing and Promotion Specialist for United Indian Development association and was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to serve as a Yurok transition Team Member to implement the Hoopa-Yurok settlement Act, 1998-1991, and was elected by the base roll members of the Yurok Tribe to serve on the Interim Yurok Tribal Council 1991-1994 where she was instrumental in organizing the Yurok Tribe. She served on the Intertribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds as the Vice Chair, and she served as Co-Chair of the Department of the Interior Trust Reform Task Force in 2002, was the president of the Klamath Chamber of Commerce, the Vice Chair for the Klamath Fisheries Management Council, and Chair for the Klamath River Traditional Indian Fishers Association.
Since 1976, Susan Masten has annually served as the Mistress of Ceremonies at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, as well as a Festival Board Member, she has also served as the Del Norte Democratic Central Committee Chair, has been a delegate to two Democratic National Conventions, and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. She has been selected “Outstanding Young Woman of America” Humboldt County’s “Outstanding Citizen, Del Norte County’s “Young Woman of the Year” and has been listed in numerous “Who’s Who” publications.
Susan Masten has provided testimony before Congress, given hundreds of speeches, lead workshops at both college and professional events, including topics such as Tribal Sovereignty, Trust Fund Management, Consultation, Resource Management, Co-Management and Environmental Justice.
Susan Masten is the founder and Co-President of Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations (WEWIN) 2004, and she is also a founding member of the Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods High School, which will open its doors to students in the fall of 2005 in Klamath, California.
At home, Susan Masten is active in traditional Yurok practices including fishing on the Klamath River and caring for her family’s basket collection and dance regalia. She lives with her husband, Leonard, and has a son, Greg and a daughter, Crystal and is the proud grandmother of eight.