Charlene “Char” Betsillie

March 10, 1945 – August 7, 2014

“During the most difficult times in Indian Country or just the office, Char was always so reassuring that we are fighting the good fight and that we will prevail to make a significant difference for all Native people despite the obstacles in our way. She had a way of calming you even if you were ready to cry or punch the wall,” remembers a co-worker.

CILS is saddened to share that former CILS Administrator, Charlene Roubidoux Betsillie, passed away on August 7, 2014. Charlene began her nearly thirty-year tenure with CILS in April of 1972 and retired in 2004. Her cheerful personality and dedication to family and the Indian community will always be a source of inspiration for all who knew Char. During her tenure at CILS, Char assisted our former Oakland Office attorneys in providing services to the Indian community at a time when no other law firms practiced Indian law. She also provided support to the then long-time Executive Director and all CILS staff on administrative and personnel matters. She was a sweet person, always pleasant and positive to be around. CILS staff remembers her love of giving back to the Native community and her dedication to her daughter and grandchildren. She would drive hundreds of miles to participate in her Tribe’s activities; ceremonial and political. Char’s contributions to the Native community are too many to list, but here are a few:

  • Served on the editorial committee for the book Urban Voices:
    The Bay Area American Indian Community;
  • Served at the Corporate Secretary to CILS Board of Trustees for 18 years;
  • Served as the Oakland & Central Office (Principal office) Manager for 15 years;
  • Operated as CILS’ one-person payroll and human resources departments during the 1970’s and 1980’s;
  • Volunteered at the Friendship House Association of American Indian, Inc. in San Francisco;
  • Competed in tribal beauty pageants during her youth.

While Char resided in the Bay Area for many years, she was proud of her Tribal heritage and had moved home to be with her family near the Yurok Reservation in recent years. Char holds a special place at CILS and in the hearts of many. She was an incredible woman and will be missed dearly.

Tmohkelee’ ‘ne-chekws. – Our heart is broken.