WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has named nineteen distinguished individuals as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Among the recipients of this prestigious award is Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee), president of The Morning Star Institute since its inception in 1984. She served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) from 1984-89 and continues to serve as co-chair of the NCAI Subcommittee on Human, Religious, and Cultural Concerns.
The Medal of Freedom, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is the nation’s highest civilian honor bestowed to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Harjo’s career has spanned decades of involvement in Indigenous human rights issues and causes. Her traditional knowledge, extensive capacity for research regarding Indigenous cultures, and her indomitable spirit has led her to significant victories in non-Native arenas, including congressional and administrative venues. She is a founder of the National Museum of the American Indian and guest curator and general editor of the exhibit and book, “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.”
NCAI President Brian Cladoosby expressed congratulations to Dr. Harjo, stating, “We are extremely proud of Suzan Harjo and her continued and profound advocacy on behalf of Native peoples. Her commitment to preserve and protect Native human remains, cultural patrimony, sacred places, and sovereignty is well known throughout Indian Country. Today is a great day for Native Peoples, and we celebrate and honor our friend and colleague, a former director of NCAI, for her achievements and recognition by the President for her exceptional meritorious service.”
Medal of Freedom recipients are selected by the President, either on his own initiative or based on recommendations, and this year’s list includes: Alvin Ailey, Tom Brokaw, Patsy Mink, Ethel Kennedy, Charles Sifford, Meryl Streep, and Stevie Wonder. This year’s awards will be presented at the White House on Monday, Nov. 24.