More than 900 people were in attendance as 52 distinguished elders were honored at the AARP Oklahoma 11th annual Indian Elder Honors celebration at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.
AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder honorees represent what is best about Native American people - a love of family, dedication to culture and respect for all people. The 2019 group of esteemed elders joined an impressive fraternity of 550 past honorees from 39 tribal nations. AARP Oklahoma State Director Sean Voskuhl said, “This event celebrates a lifetime of service from these distinguished elders who have positively impacted their community, family, tribe and nation. For some, their service is well-known and well-documented, but others shy away from recognition as they quietly exhibit devotion to their communities.”
AARP Oklahoma honored teachers, veterans, artists, tribal leaders, and culture preservationists from 30 tribal nations. This year’s 51 Indian Elder Honorees include;
A highly-decorated veteran who served under the command of George S. Patton, U.S. 3rd Army, fought to defeat Hitler’s Third Reich and would return to Oklahoma to become a beloved coach and educator. (Thurman Ray Tahsuda, Comanche Tribe)
A gifted athlete who becomes a hall of fame artist and has documented Thlopthlocco history through narrative and artistic renderings. (Chebon Dacon, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town)
A language expert, song possessor and translator, this esteemed elder shares her experiences of the time she spent attending and teaching at Native American boarding schools. (Frances Harried “Della” Doyebi, Kiowa Tribe)
A dedicated public servant who works with both victims and survivors of domestic violence and believes that leadership is not about being the best, but making others better. (Marilyn Jumper, Seminole Nation)
An elder who lent her voice to furthering civil rights and diversity inclusion for all minority and ethnic groups. (Mona Lea Perry, Choctaw Nation)
An acclaimed artist who founded the Oklahoma City Red Earth Festival and whose work was displayed in the White House. (Jereldine “Jeri” Redcorn, Caddo Nation)
A firefighter who was actively involved in the Oklahoma City bombing recovery efforts and, today, is an award-winning potter and artist. (Ben White, Chickasaw Nation)
AARP National Volunteer President Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges said, “We look with great respect at the way the Native American community views and treats elders, the deep appreciation you have their experience and wisdom, your reverence for tradition, and the strong and enduring connections you build among different generations.”
Honorees were presented medallions by Joe Ann Vermillion, AARP State President, Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges, AARP National Volunteer President, and Mashell Sourjohn, AARP Oklahoma Associate State Director of Outreach.
Wes Studi, was awarded the Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award. Mr. Studi starred in "Dances With Wolves" and went on to appear in more than 40 films, including "The Last of the Mohicans," "Geronimo: An American Legend," and more recently "Hostiles" and "A Dog's Way Home." Mr. Studi, who is of Cherokee descent, will become the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar at the 11th annual Governors Awards on October 27, 2019. The Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award honors an individual whose positive impact embodies the spirit of Dr. Edwards, who passed away in 2014.
Voskuhl said the AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors is the largest gathering of its kind in the state and, perhaps, in the nation. Voskuhl also noted that AARP Oklahoma continues to expand its work on issues affecting Native Americans, particularly working to address health disparities, transportation needs and cultural preservation.