Suzan Harjo’s work garnered the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Suzan Shown Harjo has worked tirelessly for the benefit of Indian Country for decades. Her work as a policy advocate, writer, curator, human-rights activist against stereotypical Native mascots in sports, earned her a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.
Harjo, Cheyenne, Hodulgee Muscogee, is an award-winning columnist for Indian Country Today and book author of several titles to include her most recent Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.
Harjo was recently recognized for a lifetime of achievement at the symposium “A Promise Kept: The Inspiring Life and Works of Suzan Shown Harjo,” by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.
Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, said of Harjo, “Suzan has worked tirelessly on behalf of Native peoples as an activist, journalist, and leader. Her list of achievements is long and includes being the founding president of The Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization that promotes Native peoples’ traditions, cultures, and arts. Her continued work as an inspiring leader and role model has made Indian Country proud.”
Harjo is internationally recognized for a lifetime of work involving sacred sites and protection efforts, religious freedom, Native language revitalization. In the 60s and 70s, Harjo co-produced the first Native radio broadcast “Seeing Red,” and served as the news director for the American Indian Press Association. She served the Carter administration, served as Executive Director for the National Congress of American Indians and was one of seven people to file the world-renowned 1992 lawsuit Harjo et al v. Pro Football Inc., which questioned the legality of the Washington, D.C. football franchise name.
Harjo detailed in an email, then also posted to Facebook, why she was happy to be part of #NativeIn2019.
I am thrilled to be #Nativein2019, because:
1) I am alive at my three-quarter century mark; can think, listen, speak, read, write, sing and share; and can have talks with my grandchildren that are serious or trivial and still know the difference.
2) I am so indebted to and proud of the Ancestors and what they did to assure that their coming generations could be born and would survive with traditional knowledge, courage and values, and with the rights for which they lived, fought and died.
3) I am so fortunate to be a part of our ancient continuum and to see many younger Native people who are not self-obsessed, but caring and compassionate; not superficial, but seekers of wisdom; not exploitative or using, but living gently on Mother Earth and with all Her Children; not avaricious or mean-spirited, but generous and kind; not defeated or jaded by experiences intended to crush the spirit, but brave in the face of fear and defenders of those who are defenseless; not distracted by tongue-waggers or dream-killers, but faithful to ancient markers along the way to sunrise on medicine fields; not discouraged by injustice or the unjust, but heartened by messages of the Ancestors of respect and reverence in the face of Creation; and not hate-filled or spite-driven, but leading with love and living with open minds and hearts.