Ten years ago, James Parker Shield, Little Shell Chippewa and Cree, started thinking about a potential organization that could recognize Native Americans after visiting a Cowboy Hall of Fame and a Country Music Hall of Fame. Realizing there wasn’t such a place, he decided to come out of retirement to establish the National Native American Hall of Fame.“I just felt that so many Natives that had done so much for Indian Country were being overlooked and possibly forgotten,” Shield told Indian Country Today.
After 10 years of hard work -- which included selecting a location and calling upon a group of all-Native board members to help in the selection process of possible inductees -- Shield’s dream has become reality.
Though there is not yet a physical location for the National Native American Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization, Shield and other board members will host its Inaugural Induction Ceremony on Saturday, October 13, 2018 at the Phoenix Indian School Memorial Hall in Arizona. Up to 20 prominent living and deceased Native Americans will be recognized.
Shield, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the National Native American Hall of Fame told Indian Country Today the reason for selecting an Indian School as the location for the ceremony was important for healing and empowerment.
“The location for the ceremony was chosen because I felt that overcoming the trauma of the boarding schools was part of the overall story of many Natives achieving great things, in spite of the many barriers and challenges,” said Shield.
“The Phoenix Indian School is a historic place that is important to many Natives, and we will be making history there on October 13th with the induction of our initial group of honorees into the National Native American Hall of Fame.”
According to Shield, the final inductee selection process will be conducted by a board of directors and board members at the Native American Hall of Fame, however, the public is first invited to participate in a survey of the 2018 nominees.
There are 14 selection categories, including: Art, Education, Entertainment, Athletics, Advocacy, and others. The organization has an all-Native board of directors with members from several nations, including Akwesasne Mohawk, Blackfeet/Wichita, Comanche, Ojibwe, Northern Cheyenne and Sac and Fox, who developed the eligibility criteria.
“The mission of the National Native American Hall of Fame is to recognize and honor the inspirational achievements of Native Americans in contemporary society,” said Board of Directors Chair Liz Hill, Red Lake Ojibwe.
“The National Native American Hall of Fame’s focus is on the period from the U.S. Civil War up to the present day,” said Board of Directors Member Harlan McKosato, Sac and Fox. “We will induct Native people of notable achievements – individuals who sacrificed for the greater good and those who made significant contributions to Indian country over the years.”
“The Board of Directors feel it is important for Native Americans to participate and provide their input by indicating their choices for this honor,” said Board Member Laura Harris, Comanche. “We don’t want this to be just a popularity contest of well-known Native Americans – we want the Native public to be a part of the process.”
According to the board, there will be a matrix-based selection process in order to select inductees. Such factors include survey-solicited public opinion from Indian Country, reputation, geographic balance and more. (See survey below)
“The survey results and the matrix scoring will greatly assist us in narrowing down the list and making the final decision on this first class of inductees,” said Board Member Walter Lamar, Blackfeet/Wichita.
“We are looking forward to inspiring our Native relatives everywhere and hope that the National Native American Hall of Fame also will shed light on issues, such as stereotyping and cultural appropriation,” said Hill. “In addition to inspiring and motivating our young people – especially girls – we are striving for the National Native American Hall of Fame with its message of uplifting our people to become part of the solution in confronting substance abuse and other social ills in our Native communities. This will be an historic event.”
Though the National Native American Hall of Fame does not yet have a physical location, Shield says he has his sights set on something memorable. He is hopeful for potential offers to host the Hall of Fame, but is also open to a partnership with a tribe or Native organization.
"Within a few years my goal is for us to raise enough funds through a capital campaign to construct a building for the Native American Hall of Fame. This is an exciting journey we are on right now. I want us to also think out of the box when it comes to the Hall of Fame facility. I would like it to be a destination, or attraction much like the Seattle Space Needle, St. Louis Arch or the Statue of Liberty," says Shield.
"I want a place that conveys a sense of achievement and honor in, and of itself. A place where the visitor is treated to spectacular and informative exhibits."
Additional future plans for the National Native American Hall of Fame include a traveling exhibit and an educational curriculum for youth focusing on the vast array of accomplishments by Native Americans in modern times.
Potential 2018 Inductees
This year’s list of potential inductees (before the results of the survey is reviewed and board decisions made--and whose descriptions are listed in the survey) are as follows:
David W. “Famous Dave” Anderson - Ojibwe/Choctaw
Dennis Banks - Ojibwe
Ryneldi Becenti - Dine’
Lionel Bordeaux - Sicangu Lakota
Sam Bradford - Cherokee Nation
Elouise Cobell / Yellow Bird Woman - Blackfeet
Ben Nighthorse Campbell - Northern Cheyenne
Vine Deloria, Jr. - Standing Rock Sioux
Louise Erdrich - Turtle Mountain Ojibwe
Tiokasin Ghosthorse - Cheyenne River Lakota
LaDonna Harris - Comanche Nation
Ira Hayes - Akimel O’odham
John Herrington - Chickasaw
Allan Houser - Chiricahua Apache
Winona LaDuke - Mississippi Band of Anishinaabe of the White Earth Reservation
Gary “Litefoot” Davis - Cherokee Nation
Wilma Mankiller - Cherokee Nation
Philip Martin - Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Russell Means - Oglala Lakota
Billy Mills - Oglala Lakota
N. Scott Momaday - Kiowa
Carlos Montezuma “Wassaja” - Yavapai-Apache
Elizabeth Peratrovich - Tlingit
Lori Piestewa - Hopi
Redbone - Pat and Candido “Lolly” Vasquez-Vegas, Yaqui/Shoshone/Mexican
Shoni Schimmel - Confederated Tribes of Umatilla
Ernie Stevens, Sr. - Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Wes Studi - Cherokee Nation
Maria Tallchief - Osage
Jim Thorpe - Sac and Fox
The 2018 Potential Inductee Survey
Visit the National Native American Hall of Fame website at www.NativeHallOfFame.org.
Sponsorships for the Inaugural Induction Ceremony are available.
Contact Executive Director James Parker Shield at email@example.com or (406) 590-1745.
Disclosure: Vincent Schilling serves as an advisory board member
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on TwitterFollow @VinceSchilling