“When I close my eyes, I can still hear my grandmother’s laughter. It’s sounds like Jingle-bells and the crackle of a fire all at once. She became a mother to many throughout her extraordinary life. Through that motherhood, she brought people to together, brought Leslie and I together. As matriarch of the Owl House, everything I learned about being human and being a Łingít woman was based in the ancestry I inherited from her… the bloodline of the Owl House. Leslie asked me to sketch a logo that represents what drives her narrative. The Owl represents the ancestry and the wisdom of intergenerational teachings. My grandmother continues to guide both of us to this day in spirit after her passing. She illuminates our path. Traces of her spirit laughter visit in the echo of jingle bells and the crackle of a fire.”
~Maka Monture of the Yéil Naa (Raven Moeity), K’ineix Kwáan (people of the Copper River Clan) from the Tsisk’w Hit (Owl House).
Leslie was born in North Carolina to parents of Chinese descent and adopted by Tlingit (Łingit) of the Raven moiety, Copper River Clan, House of the Owl and Navajo of the Red Running into Water People Clan. Her Tlingit name is Guna Kadeit Seedi Shaawat, meaning “enormous wealth giving monster,” the Tlingit name for Johnstone Passage, a channel that lies two miles north of Yakutat, Alaska. Her Navajo name means Journey with Caring, Journey to Bring Out Gifts and that’s the crux of her artistic intention, a storyteller that serves a place or people.
She is the recipient of the Delaware Division of the Arts Individual Fellowship Established Professional Award, Rasmuson Individual Artist Award, the first Julius B. Richmond Young Leader in Public Health Award, the first National Award for Excellence in Public Health Leadership, the Sun Memorial Award for exemplifying a commitment to improving the health and well-being of people in underserved populations, and the Schweitzer Award for reverence for life. She is a Fellow for Life with the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
Losing her mother and brother to hepatitis B at the age of twenty-one inspired her to found the Hepatitis B Initiative in 1997, which she later expanded to the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area with Thomas Oh. Today, this award-winning nonprofit continues to operate in several states offering free hepatitis B, hepatitis C, cholesterol, glucose screenings, and flu vaccinations to these communities: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burmese, Cambodian, Cameroon, Chinese, Egyptians, Ethiopian, Filipino, Ghanaian, Hmong, Indian, Indonesian, Korean, Laotian, Mongolian, Moroccan, Nepalese, Nigerian, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Sierra Leone, Somalian, Sudan, Syrian, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and more.
Formerly, she was Federal Liaison to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Chair of healthfinder Interagency Steering Committee, Program Chair for the American Public Health Association’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus and Program Chair for American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian Caucus.