Winona LaDuke

50 Faces, Part III: Hunter, Harjo, Crazy Bull, Vig, LaDuke


Here we are with another installment of the 2015 50 Faces of Indian Country, a list of notable Indigenous people of Turtle Island. For previous installments and some explanation of what this is, check out parts I and II:

50 Faces of Indian Country: Parker, Miller, Begay, Jacobs, Valdo

50 Faces, Part II: Sainte-Marie, Rambler, Davis, Yellowtail, Duncan

Karlene Hunter

CEO and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods, Karlene Hunter is an Oglala Lakota businesswoman and entrepreneur. Her company, founded in 2006, produces Tanka Bar, a low-calorie buffalo jerky and cranberry snack. Lauded for generating many jobs and much revenue in Indian country, Hunter, with Mark A. Tilsen, launched the “Tanka Fund” to raise money for the next generation of buffalo meat producers. “Buffalo producing is good for the environment, good for the economy, and we would like Native Americans to be able to participate in this industry,” she told ICTMN in 2013. Hunter serves on the Board of Directors of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Rights Fund [NARF], the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, and the National Indian Business Association. She has an MBA from Oglala Lakota College, and was the recipient of the 2012 Vision Leadership Award by the Specialty Food Association.

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is a poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate famous for initiating the movement to banish the racist name of the Washington football team and for the development of federal legislation protecting Native sovereignty, arts and cultures, language and human rights. Her initiatives include the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which protects Natives’ rights to practice traditional religion and rituals; the 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act, which required the Smithsonian to engage in the repatriation of human remains, funerary and sacred objects; and the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which allows tribes to reclaim human remains and ceremonial items from publicly funded institutions, and she has helped secure the return of one million acres of tribal lands. In 1984, Harjo founded the Morning Star Institute, a nonprofit Native rights organization that organizes the National Sacred Places Prayer Days. In November 2014, Harjo received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Cheryl Crazy Bull

Dr. Cheryl Crazy Bull, Sicangu Lakota, was named president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund in September 2012. In the midst of the College Fund’s 25th anniversary celebration, she is focusing on a $25-million fundraising campaign. As she pointed out at the fund’s 25th Anniversary Gala in Chicago, every little bit can help Native students achieve their goals. Crazy Bull grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1979, and has honorary doctorates from Sinte Gleska University and Seattle University. She has worked at Sinte Gleska University and St. Francis Indian School, and was president of Northwest Indian College. All of that adds up to more than 30 years of experience in education. In 2011, Crazy Bull was honored for her leadership in Indian education and community development with an Enduring Spirit Award from Native Action Network.

Charlie Vig

As chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), Charlie Vig leads the largest employer in Scott County, Minnesota. The SMSC workforce numbers more than 4,200, and the tribe operates an annual payroll of over $157 million. The SMSC is the largest philanthropic benefactor for Indian country and one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota, having donated more than $325 million since opening its Gaming Enterprise in the 1990s, as well as providing more than $500 million in economic development loans to other tribes. Today Chairman Vig serves as chairman of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, a member of the board of directors for Koda Energy, and the SMSC’s representative to the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Gaming Association. He has also served for 14 years on the tribe’s Gaming Enterprise
Board of Directors, which oversees Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino. 

Winona LaDuke

She’s best known for her activist and environmentalist work through the White Earth Land Recovery Project, of which she is Executive Director, and Honor the Earth, which she founded with Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in 1993. But Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe, wears many hats– she’s an economist, writer and was twice a vice presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket. She has taken up the fight on GMO awareness, the Keystone XL Pipeline, uranium mining practices, food sustainability and more. LaDuke says she draws power and sustenance from her traditional Anishinabe Kwe religion. “Spirituality is the foundation of all my political work. In many of the progressive movements in this country, religion carries a lot of baggage,” she told Mother Jones. “But I think that’s changing. … What we all need to do is find the wellspring that keeps us going, that gives us the strength and patience to keep up this struggle for a long time.”

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