Dr. Kent Smith, left, and Nicole Schultz Walls, a Chickasaw citizen, were recently honored by the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women. Smith was honored for his work with the Native Explores program and Walls was named “American Indian Woman of the Year” by the organization. (Courtesy Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women)

American Indian Woman of the Year Named, Native Explorers Co-Founder Gets Award

May 20, 2013

Nicole Schultz Walls, Chickasaw, is the youngest president in the history of the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women. The organization's board has recognized the exceptional time and effort she dedicates to the Native American community with its American Indian Woman of the Year Award.

“I am honored to be recognized with this award,” Walls said is a press release. “I am also proud to be part of the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, whose members work tirelessly on behalf of Indian women throughout the state through advocacy efforts, community service projects and statewide awareness of issues important to Native American women. I look forward to continuing to be part of the organization, and I appreciate the support and recognition of its members.”

A native of Ada, Walls earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She currently works for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Communications and Community Development, in the Public Affairs office. Walls is a 2013 graduate of Ada Chamber of Commerce’s  Leadership YOUniversity program  and she currently serves on the Native American Journalist Association’s national election committee. Among her others honors include being a former Junior Miss Indian Oklahoma, director of Miss and Jr. Miss Indian Oklahoma in 2009-11, recipient of the Te Ata Thompson Fisher Culinary Arts Award in the Chickasaw Nation Employee Art Show, and has received the Chickasaw Nation Department of Communications and Community Development Community Involvement Award for the past two years.  Walls also hosts a weekly radio show “Monday Saving Mondays” on 89.5 FM KCNP. Walls will continue to serve as president of the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women until July, and then she will assume a membership position on the organization’s board. In her current role, she has lead a recent Youth Conference and Women’s Conference focused on Native American women.

The Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women additionally honored Dr. Kent Smith,  a member the Comanche Nation and of Chickasaw descent, with the Alice Timmons Founders Award, given to an outstanding person who has founded or co-founded an organization benefitting American Indians. Smith co-founded the Native Explorers program, which develops and supports educational programs and promotes partnerships that increase the number of Native Americans in science and medicine.

Established in 2010, the Native Explorers educational programs include the Native Explorers Program at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, and the Native Explorers student organization at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.  Partnerships include the Chickasaw Nation, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the USDA Forest Service and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“It is a great honor the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women recognized Native Explores as making major contributions toward bettering the lives of Native people,” Dr. Smith said. “Our goal is to improve the lives of Native people through introducing them to science and medicine as potential careers and enlightenment as part of their culture, because culture and tradition is part of Native Explorers, as well.”

The Chickasaw Nation’s Department of Education has also developed a Junior Native Explorers club for Chickasaw youth ages 6-18 years old.

Smith is an associate at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and is an affiliated research associate at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He received his bachelor’s degree in Biology/Chemistry from Cameron University, Lawton,a Master in Biology from Midwestern State University and a doctorate in Zoology from the University of Oklahoma. Smith’s professional memberships include: American Association of Anatomists, American Society of Mammalogists, Oklahoma Academy of Science, Oklahoma Microscopy Society, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Southwestern Association of Naturalists, the Texas Academy of Science and Western North American Naturalists.

Both honors were presented during a May 3 ceremony conducted in Newkirk, Oklahoma.


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