Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Expert Wins AISES Award

Pat Gwin, administrative liaison, gives a tour of the tribe’s Native plants garden to visitors of the Cherokee Nation’s 63rd Cherokee National Holiday on Sept. 5 (Photo courtesy Cherokee Phoenix)

Pat Gwin, administrative liaison, gives a tour of the tribe’s Native plants garden to visitors of the Cherokee Nation’s 63rd Cherokee National Holiday on Sept. 5 (Photo courtesy Cherokee Phoenix)

Pat Gwin named “Professional of the Year” in science, engineering field

Published September 13, 2015

TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Cherokee Nation citizen Pat Gwin has rescued bald eagles, started a Native plants garden, restored 100 acres of coal mine land and sent heirloom seeds to more than 10,000 Cherokees all over the world.

For his 23 years working at the Cherokee Nation promoting and preserving its natural resources, Gwin has been named the 2015 American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Professional of the Year.

He will accept the national award at the AISES National Conference in Phoenix Nov. 21.

“Pat is truly a leader in his field and a role model for young Cherokees to follow. He is a meticulous professional, and I hope our best and brightest Native American scientific minds will emulate his passion and dedication to preserve our natural resources,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We are so fortunate to have his expertise in biology, botany and ecology management. That’s a broad range of scientific knowledge, but Pat is not the kind of person who knows just one job description.”

The AISES committee selected four American Indian or Alaska Natives from a pool of applicants nominated for making significant contributions to the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. It is the 12th year AISES has had a Professional Awards Program to recognize those top leaders, innovators and role models.

“This honor is not lightly bestowed,” committee member Sarah EchoHawk, CEO of AISES, said in a statement. “This award is a symbol of AISES appreciation of Mr. Gwin’s hard work and serves as a continual reminder of his achievements.”

AISES officials said Gwin stood out for many initiatives such as the Cherokee seed bank program, which preserves heirloom Cherokee corn, gourd, squash, beans and tobacco seeds to distribute each year to Cherokee Nation citizens. He started the program in 2005 so Cherokees could grow the same genetic crops their ancestors did.

“Cherokees were the first Native American agriculturalists so for us to lose that connection would be a travesty,” Gwin said of his work. “I just want to thank AISES for this special recognition.”

Gwin, of Wagoner County, started working at the Cherokee Nation in 1992 testing water samples in the environmental health department. He quickly moved up the ranks acting as a go between on projects and policies with the U.S. Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture. He now serves as the tribe’s administrative liaison.

He has helped clean up two nuclear regulatory commission sites, tested for endangered species on tribal land, kept an electronic database of the tribe’s natural resources and land base counting, and worked with Cherokee ranchers to raise locally grown beef products for Cherokee senior nutrition centers.

Gwin was formerly a Sequoyah State Park naturist, Tulsa City County Health Department sanitarian and Tulsa police officer. He majored in biology and minored in wildlife science and chemistry at Northeastern State University.

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