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American Health Care: Facing the Challenges

2007 Idaho Conference on Health Care

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) is a poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate, who has helped Native Peoples recover more than one million acres of land and numerous sacred places. She has developed key federal Indian law since 1975, including the most important national policy advances in the modern era for the protection of Native American cultures and arts, including the 1996 Executive Order on Indian Sacred Sites, the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act and the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

Ms. Harjo is President and Executive Director of The Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization founded in 1984 for Native Peoples’ traditional and cultural advocacy, arts promotion and research. A leader in cultural property protection and stereotype busting, Morning Star sponsors the Just Good Sports project, organize the National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places and coordinated The 1992 Alliance (1990-1993). Ms. Harjo is one of seven prominent Native people who filed the 1992 landmark lawsuit, Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc., regarding the name of the Washington football team. They won in 1999, when a three-judge panel unanimously decided to cancel federal trademark protections for the teams’ name. The District Court reversed their victory in 2003; the case is now before the U.S, Court of Appeals. Her essay, Fighting Name-Calling: Challenging “Redskins” in Court, is published in Team Spirits: the Native American Mascots Controversy ( University of Nebraska press, 2001). She also wrote Just Good Sports: The Impact of “Native” References in Sports on Native Youth and What Some Decolonizers Have Done About It,” a chapter in For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook (SAR Press, 2005).

An award-winning Columnist for Indian Country Today (2000-2007), she wrote the Foreword, “Camp Criers Speaking Across the Generations,” and eleven columns featured in America is Indian Country: Opinions and perspectives form Indian Country Today (Fulcrum Publishing, 2005). Founding Co-Chair of The Howard Simons Fund for American Indian Journalists, she was News Director of the American Indian Press Association and Drama & Literature Director and “Seeing Red” Producer for WBAI-FM Radio in New York City. A keynoter for the 2000 Journalism & Women Symposium, she was a 1998-99 Brain Trust member for UNITY Journalists of Color and an organizer/presenter for UNITY ’04 in D.C., ’99 in Seattle and ’94 in Atlanta. Her essay, Redskins, Savages and Other Indian Enemies: An Historical Overview of American Media Coverage of Native Peoples, is in Images of Color: Images of Crime (2005).

The School of American Research 2004 Dobkin Artist Fellow for Poetry and a 2004 Summer Scholar, she received unprecedented back-to-back residency fellowships in Santa Fe and chaired the SAR Seminars on Native Identity and on native Women’s Cultural Matters. She chaired a 2006 Seminar on U.S. Civilization and Native Identity Policies at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and is editing a book on the subject. A 1996 Stanford University Visiting Mentor and a 1992 Dartmouth College Montgomery Fellow, she was the first Native American person selected for the honor by Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Policy and the first Native woman chosen for the prestigious Montgomery Fellowship Award. Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians (1984-89), she also was Special assistant for Indian Legislation & Liaison in the Carter Administration and Principal Author of the 1979 President’s Report to congress on American Indian Religious Freedom. She keynoted Arizona State University College of Law’s 2003 Symposium on AIRFA at 25 and introduced the journal of proceedings (Wicazo Sa Review, 2004). More Magazine named her as one of its” Alpha Women 2004: the Year’s Brightest and Best – Heroines” for protecting sacred places.

A Founding Trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian (1990-1996), she began work in 1967 that led to the NMAI, to repatriation laws and to reform of national museum policies dealing with Native Americans, and was a Trustee of NMAI’s predecessor museum and collection in New York City from 1980 to 1990. Chair of NMAI’s first Program Planning Committee, she also was Principal Author of the NMAI Policies on Exhibits (1994), Indian Identity (1993) and Repatriation (1991). Director of the 2004-2005 NMAI Native Languages Archives Repository Project, she is Moderator of the NMAI Native Writers Series, now in its third season.

Ms. Harjo is currently curating exhibits for the District of Columbia Arts Center (dc/ac), the NMAI and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. She was a Guest Curator of the Peabody Essex Museum’s 1996-1997 major exhibition; her curatorial essay appears in the show’s award-winning catalogue, Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists (Eitlejorg Museum, 1998). She curated “Healing Art,” the 1998-2000 exhibit at the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., and the 1992 “Visions from Native America,” the first Native art exhibit ever shown in the U.S. Senate and House Rotundas. Curator of a magazine exhibit of 9-11 art by Native artists (Native Peoples, 2002), she also curated three print gallery exhibits for Native Americas Journal: “Native Images in American Editorial Cartoons” (2001); “New Native Warrior Images in Art” (2001); and “Identity Perspectives by Native Artists” (2002). An Aboriginal Program Council member for the Banff Centre in Canada (2005-present), she was the Honorary Guest for the 2001 Tulsa Indian Art Festival; co-founded Indian Art Northwest and chaired its Judges Committee (1997-2000); judged the Sundance Institute’s first Native American Initiative, Lawrence Indian Art Show and Red Earth Film & Video Competition; and co-chaired “Our Visions: The Next 500 Years” (Taos, 1992).

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