Eight of Indian Country’s shining stars to be honored include Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Native American Rights Fund Executive Director, John Echohawk and Indian Country Today Founder, Tim Giago, and Activist Suzan Shown Harjo
GREAT FALLS The National Native American Hall of Fame is pleased to announce nine new inductees into this year’s slate of honorees. The 2022 class of inductees have made significant contributions across a range of categories including government, law, publishing, and entertainment.
The 2022 Hall of Fame inductees include: Governor Bill Anoatubby, Chickasaw, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation; Ryneldi Becenti, Navajo, the first Native American woman to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) league; John Echohawk, Pawnee, executive director of Native American Rights Fund; Tim Giago, Oglala Sioux, founder/publisher of Indian Country Today, and currently publisher of Native Sun News; Suzan Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, writer and activist; Marshall McKay, Yocha Dehe Wintun leader; Earl Old Person, Sr., Blackfeet leader; Joanne Shenandoah, Oneida, Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter and Patricia Zell, Arapaho/Navajo descent, former staff director and chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Bill Anoatubby, Chickasaw, has dedicated his life to improving the Chickasaw Nation’s finances, education, economic development, environmental protection, and healthcare. Under Anoatubby’s leadership, he has helped lead the Chickasaw Nation on a path toward greater self-sufficiency. Gov. Anoatubby has served as governor for 35 years and has brought about dramatic economic development, increasing tribal assets by two-hundred fold. Chickasaw Nation is one of the first Native governments in the U.S. to be designated as an A-102 tribe, with a superior rating for management and fiscal controls.
Ryneldi Becenti, Navajo, is the first Native American to play professional basketball for the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). She began playing as a free agent for the Phoenix Mercury in 1997, and also played for the Sacramento Monarchs and Portland Fire. She earned All-Pac-10 first-team honors in each of her two seasons at Arizona State University (ASU) in 1992-93. Her ASU career led to professional basketball opportunities overseas in 1994, prior to the WNBA's formation, playing in the 1993 World University Games, earning a bronze medal. She was the first woman to be inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.
John Echohawk, Pawnee, is the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico’s seminal program to produce Native lawyers, and a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association. John has been with NARF since its inception in 1970, having served continuously as executive director for 45 years. He has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal and received numerous service awards and recognition for his leadership in the field of Indian Law.
Tim Giago, Oglala Lakota, is the founder and publisher of The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, The Lakota Journal, and Native Sun News. He founded the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and served as its first president. He was instrumental in convincing Gov. George Mickelson to proclaim a Year of Reconciliation in 1990 and led the fight to make Oct. 12 Native American Day in South Dakota. He was the first Native American inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame and has received many journalism awards, including the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985.
Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is a writer, curator, activist, and policy advocate who has campaigned to improve the lives of Native peoples. As a member of the Carter administration and president of the Morning Star Institute, she has been a key figure in important national Native issues and Indian legislative battles. She served as Congressional liaison for Indian Affairs, as president of the National Congress of American Indians, was a founding trustee of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and has written and curated numerous works. Harjo received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, in 2014.
Marshall McKay, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, served as a member of the Yocha Dehe Tribal Council for 31 years and was elected to lead the tribe as its chairman for nearly a decade. He continued to serve on many of the tribe’s governmental bodies, including the Board of Directors for Cache Creek Casino Resort. Marshall’s leadership was instrumental in helping Yocha Dehe achieve economic independence and greatly expand the tribe’s land holdings within Yocha Dehe’s ancestral territory. He was also a founding member of the nonprofit Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and the first Native American board chair of the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California.
Earl Old Person, Blackfeet, was the longest-serving elected tribal official in Indian Country. In 1954, Old Person was the youngest person ever elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. Ten years later, he was elected chairman of the council, and reelected for 16 more terms between 1964 and 2008. As chairman, Old Person advocated for business interests as well as land and water rights, spearheading the opening of a community college, bank, and casino on the Blackfeet reservation. He was the embodiment of tribal history and cultural preservation. Old Person was president of the National Congress of American Indians and was named Outstanding Indian of the Year in 1977 by the Chicago Indian Council.
Joanne Shenandoah, Oneida, is being honored post-humously. She was a dynamic multi-talented singer, composer, instrumentalist, author and actress who was known as “Native America’s musical matriarch.” Through her work, Shenandoah brought her culture to the mainstream U.S. audience, performing in both English and her native language and mixing styles including folk, pop, and New Age with her traditional arrangements. She won a record-setting 14 Native American Music Awards, as well as winning a Grammy Award for her tracks on the 2005 album “Sacred Ground: A Tribute to Mother Earth.” Shenandoah received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Native American Music Awards and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Syracuse Area Music Awards.
Patricia Zell, Arapaho/Navajo descent, is a partner in Zell & Cox Law, P.C., specializing in law affecting American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians. Prior to entering the private practice of law, Patricia served for 25 years as chief counsel and staff director of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. During her tenure, Zell worked on all the legislative initiatives developed by tribal leaders, including the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act and the National Museum of the American Indian Act among numerous other acts for Indian programs. Zell serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian.
James Parker Shield, Little Shell Chippewa, Hall of Fame founder and CEO, said, “This year’s class of Hall of Fame inductees have made significant impacts in Indian Country. Each one has brought about dramatic improvements and substantive changes to the lives of Native people and communities. The Native American Hall of Fame was established to share the stories and lifetime contributions of venerable Native people so as to bring greater awareness of the impact contemporary Native people have had on society, and to underscore the vital cultural, economic, and social footprint we leave beyond the reservation borders, in all of American life.”
The National Native American Hall of Fame will hold the 2022 Induction Ceremony on November 5 at the First American Museum in Oklahoma City. For more information visit the National Native American Hall of Fame at www.nativehalloffame.org