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The National Native American Hall of Fame announced its 2023 class — a group that has made significant contributions to law, leadership, journalism, literature, entertainment and advocacy across Indian Country. 

The 2023 class includes six inductees:

Joe DeLaCruz, Quinault, long-serving President of the Quinault Indian Nation. DeLaCruz is credited with tackling issues such as “access to reservation lands by non-Natives, fisheries, and logging management” over the course of a 22-year career.

Will Sampson, Muscogee Creek, film and television actor, credited as Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Taylor the Medicine Man in Poltergeist II, as well as television and stage credits. Sampson also served as an advocate for Native actors in Native roles, and founded the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts.

Leslie Marmon Silko, Laguna Pueblo, novelist and poet, credited for a long career in Native literary achievement, including short story The Man to Send Rain Clouds, short story and poetry anthology Laguna Woman, essay collections Yellow Woman and Beauty of the Spirit, and novel Almanac of the Dead.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, author, editor and reporter, and current Editor for “Indian Country Today.” Trahant is credited with a long career in Native journalism, including serving as chairman and chief executive officer at the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, multiple awards through the Native American Journalists Association, and a series of books, including The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars, Pictures of Our Nobler Selves, and The Constitution as Metaphor.

Richard Trudell, Santee Dakota, founder of the American Indian Lawyer Training program and American Indian Resources Institute. In addition to the efforts of those organizations, Trudell is credited with launching the Indian Law Reporter publication, organizing a tribal summit with U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye in 1990, and facilitating tribal forums across the country.

LaNada Means War Jack, Shoshone-Bannock, Alcatraz Occupation co-leader, writer Native rights advocate. War Jack is credited with being the first Native American student to attend the University of California at Berkeley, leading a peaceful protest by way of the takeover of Alcatraz Island, serving as a founding member of the Native American Rights Fund, and serving on advisory boards such as the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial organization and the National Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation.

The inductees join an array of Native athletes, actors, leaders, and activists honored by the Native American Hall of Fame organization.

Last year’s inductees included Chickasaw Nation governor Bill Anoatubby, NARF founder and executive director John Echohawk, and writer/activist Suzan Shown Harjo.

The Hall of Fame was founded in 2016 by James Parker Shield, who writes that he hoped to create a repository for information about contemporary Native Americans, who didn’t receive the same honors and coverage as their forebears.

“For many years, I felt there were various resources and facilities for learning about Native Americans from the ‘old times,’ it is difficult to find an accurate and comprehensive source to learn about more contemporary Native Americans. America and its Native American people need a place to honor and commemorate the significant contributions and achievements of more recent historical and contemporary Native Americans,” Shield wrote in a statement published to the organization’s website. “

“The major focus of the Hall of Fame will be from the Civil War period up until the present day...The National Native American Hall of Fame will help people understand how Native Americans overcame the hopelessness of early reservations, and the trauma of Indian boarding schools, poverty, discrimination, racism, and the cultural divide to not only adapt but, in many instances, achieve greatness.”

The Native American Hall of Fame is hosted by the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, where in addition to their accolades for contemporary Natives, the organization has developed a biographical curriculum for grades 8 to 12 intended to introduce students to inductees.

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About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Author: Chez OxendineEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Chesley Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is an Oklahoma-based reporter for Native News Online and its sister publication, Tribal Business News. His journalism has been featured in the Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Native Oklahoma Magazine, and elsewhere.