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As the calendar year comes to a close and we reflect on all that has happened this past year, it’s important to acknowledge those who have walked on and are now among our ancestors. 

At Native News Online, we know there are many important people that have inspired us as well as paved the path for us to be here. It is necessary for us to acknowledge their lives and how others can learn about them and support their families and communities. There are times when information about someone doesn’t get to us and for all of those we didn’t get to write about, we apologize and send our condolences to all who have lost someone. 

This year, we have published over 30 memorial articles for those who have passed away. Many families lost a relative to the coronavirus, and we have heard of several stories, including earlier this year when Sergeant Michael Morris, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, died of the coronavirus as the first American Indian, active-duty U.S. armed services member to pass, while stationed in Italy. Morris served in the Air Force.

Indian Country lost several more prominent cultural, educational, political, and community leaders known for their work throughout the world including: 

Paul Brooks, former Lumbee Tribal Chairman, passed away in late January to complications with pneumonia after recovering from Covid-19. 

Julia Kabance, 111, Prairie Band Potawatomi’s oldest citizen and World War II veteran.

Marcella Rose LeBeau, 102, Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux, decorated World War II nurse, and inductee to the Native American Hall of Fame. 

Myron Dewey, 49, Walker River Paiute filmmaker, journalist, and media professor at Duke University who was arrested for a felony crime for documenting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016.

Joanne Shenandoah, 64, Oneida musician who won 14 Native American Music Awards, the most ever awarded to a single artist.

Chief Leonard Crowdog, 78, Sicangu Lakota medicine man who led prayer during the American Indian Movement’s 71-day siege of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973. Crowdog was later arrested and imprisoned at Leavenworth for his participation in the occupation. 

LaDonna Bravebull Allard, 64, Hunkpapa Lakota historian and leaders of the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. She testified to the United Nations on stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

We pay our deepest respects to the families of the children being discovered at various residential boarding schools in Canada as well as those here, in the United States. 

Our relatives continue to go missing and murdered. We send our respects and hearts to those known and unknown who have walked on, and to those who will be found and brought home. 

As we face a new year, we are honored to be here, and will do our best to honor those who have walked on, those who are with us now, and those yet to come. Our relatives are always in our hearts.

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Join us in observing 100 years of Native American citizenship. On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting Native Americans US citizenship, a pivotal moment in their quest for equality. This year marks its centennial, inspiring our special project, "Heritage Unbound: Native American Citizenship at 100," observing their journey with stories of resilience, struggle, and triumph. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive.

About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.