NCAI Honors Leaders

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Fellowship program named in honor of Wilma Mankiller

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) kicked off its Executive Council Winter Session Feb. 28 with opening remarks from its President Jefferson Keel, followed by its prestigious Indian Country Leadership Awards.

This years honors went to Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Tom Perrelli, associate attorney general; the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Billy Frank Jr., long-time tribal leader and advocate. All were honored for outstanding contributions to Indian country.

The biggest honor of the day posthumously went to Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller passed away in 2010 and was honored by NCAI who named the organization’s fellowship program “The Wilma Mankiller Fellowship Program for Tribal Policy and Governance,” 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 Keel, 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.”

A breakdown of awards were as follows:

Congressional Leadership Award - Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii

Native American Leadership Award - Billy Frank Jr.

Governmental Leadership Award - Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli

Public Sector Leadership Award – Annie E. Casey Foundation

Special Recognition Award - Wilma Mankiller