Members of the National Native American Hall of Fame include Lori Piesetewa (Hopi Tribe), who was the first Native woman to be killed during the war in Iraq; the late Olympian Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox Nation) and the late activist Billy Frank, Jr. (Nisqually Tribe. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
National Native American Hall of Fame
Friday, May 7, 2021

“I never allow a lack of knowledge on a particular subject matter to hold me back from doing something,” said James Parker Shield, Little Shell Chippewa, when talking about the National Native American Hall of Fame.

“About ten years ago I thought: there is a Hall of Fame for just about everything else, why not Indians?” asked Parker Shield. “Then, I didn’t know much about museums and such, but I saw the need.”

Since then, with the help and support of many tribal leaders stretching from Florida to Alaska and resolutions of support provided by the National Indian Education Association, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (tribal colleges) and others, that dream was realized in 2018 when the National Native Hall of Fame (NNAHF), a 501(c)3 organization inducted its first honorees.

The First Americans Museum, under construction in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, will be the home of the National Native American Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy First Americans Museum

2018 Inductees included: Lionel Bordeaux, Rosebud Sioux, Education; Vine Deloria, Jr., Standing Rock Sioux, Writing; LaDonna Harris, Comanche, Advocacy;’ John Herrington, Chickasaw. Science; Allen Houser/Haozous, Chiricahua Apache, Arts; Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee, Government; Billy Mills, Oglala Sioux, Athletics; N. Scott Momoday, Kiowa, Writing; Lori Piestewa, Hopi, Military; Maria Tall Chief, Osage, Arts and Jim Thorpe, Sac and Fox, Athletics.

2019 Inductees included: Lucy Covington, Coville Tribes, Advocacy; Ada Deer, Menominee, Advocacy; Louise Erdrich, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Writing; Billy Frank, Jr., Nisqually, Advocacy; Forest Gerard, Blackfeet, Government; Hattie Kauffman, Nez Perce, journalism; Oren Lyons, Onondaga, Spiritual; Richard Oakes, Mohawk, Advocacy; Elizabeth Paratrovich, Tlingit, Advocacy; Pascal Poolow Kiowa, Military; Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee, Science and Wes Studi, Cherokee, Arts.

2020 slipped by inductions canceled because of the COVID-19 virus, but on November 6, 2021, the annual induction ceremony will include Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne, among the third wave of American Indians to be inducted. Nighthorse commented that he is highly honored.

“It is wonderful to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contributions and selfless devotion of so many of our people,” he said. “A lot of Americans are not aware of our continuing role in America, thinking all the real Indians are in the history books. But we are alive and well, still making contributions to our own and to America as whole.”

Shield, a longtime mover and shaker in Montana Indian Country previously was the first Native American to serve in the Governors office under past Montana governor Ted Schwinden; he was elected as Vice-Chairman of the Little Shell Chippewa and served many terms on the Tribal Council (now firmly retired from that line of work); established a state-wide magazine Native Montana which promoted accomplishments of Montana tribal members and served as an aide to former Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg.

Relying on skills learned during those experiences and his innate ability to galvanize support for a good idea and get many folks involved, he began promoting the Hall of Fame idea in about 2016. Ever modest, he downplays his role.

“Myself I’m just a poor guy from Wire Mill Hill Indian Community outside Great Falls” said Parker Shield. Nobody knows me outside of Montana, but I am smart enough to ask for help.”


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