WASHINGTON – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has announced the recipients of the organization’s prestigious Indian Country Leadership Awards. Senator Daniel Akaka (D – HI) Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and long time tribal leader and advocate Billy Frank Jr. were honored Monday, Feb. 28 by the organization for outstanding contributions to Indian Country. Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation who passed away in 2010, was recognized posthumously among the 2011 recipients. NCAI will honor her by naming the organization’s fellowship program in her honor.
“Unwavering leadership is an important quality of a hero in Indian Country; each of the awardees have proven their commitment through actions, changing Indian Country for generations to come,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI and Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. “It is a personal honor to be able to posthumously recognize the lasting legacy of Wilma Mankiller. Her example as a tribal citizen and tribal leader is a standard that will live forever.”
The organization will name its fellowship program, “The Wilma Mankiller Fellowship Program for Tribal Policy and Governance.”
NCAI, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization, will present the awards during a Monday evening award reception held in conjunction with its Executive Council Winter Session in Washington, D.C.
Congressional Leadership Award – Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii
Senator Akaka is the only indigenous member of the Senate, and has served as a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs since 1991 and demonstrated long-standing interest in supporting tribal self determination and honoring federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian tribes. Chairman Akaka has been the lead sponsor of Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act, which would restore self-government to the indigenous people of Hawaii. This year he has become Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs by virtue of his seniority and long standing commitment to Indian issues.
Native American Leadership Award – Billy Frank, Jr.
Billy Frank, Jr. is a peerless advocate of tribal treaty rights and natural resources. In the 1960’s and 70’s, Frank was arrested more than 50 times defending the tribes’ established treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather shellfish. His courage resulted in “the Boldt Decision” a federal case re-affirming tribal rights and establishing tribes in western Washington as co-managers of salmon resources. As the long-time chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, he continues to advocate tirelessly for the protection of American Indian and Alaska Native natural resources for the benefit of all peoples.
Governmental Leadership Award – Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli
Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli has made public safety in Indian country a priority since day one. His commitment has resulted in concrete improvements in law and policy, including: enactment of the Tribal Law & Order Act, institution of a streamlined DOJ tribal grant solicitation, creation of a new federal/tribal domestic violence prosecution task force, creation of the Tribal Nations Advisory Council, and the hiring of additional assistant U.S. Attorneys to prosecute crime in Indian country across the nation.
Public Sector Leadership Award – Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has worked over many years to support American Indian and Alaska Native families through grant-making and direct services. The Foundation has been a leader in the philanthropic community, providing critical resources to support programs and initiatives for Native children. The investments of the Annie E. Casey Foundation have filled an important gap in providing critical data on Native children and supporting Native institutions that inform effective policy making at the national, state, and tribal level.
Special Recognition Award – Wilma Mankiller
In honor of the outstanding contribution of Wilma Pearl Mankiller to Indian Country and tribal relations with other sovereign nations, the National Congress of American Indians will name its fellowship program in honor of her legacy. It will be henceforth known as the “Wilma Mankiller Fellowship Program for Tribal Policy and Governance.”