|Annie Wauneka, daughter of Chief Henry Chee Dodge, was the first woman elected to serve on the Navajo Tribal Council, a post she held from 1951 to 1978. In this capacity, she worked to eradicate tuberculosis among Navajos, traveling many miles across the huge reservation to encourage those suffering from the disease to see physicians. She helped to make inroads between traditional healers and medical doctors, while encouraging her people to improve sanitation and to recognize the contagious nature of many diseases. Anyone who drives across the vast Navajo Nation will understand the complexity and difficulty of reaching tribal members to deliver health care information. Wauneka used the radio and personal visits to contact those suffering from TB. Wauneka's leadership on health issues resulted in her invitation by the Surgeon General of the United States to serve on the Advisory Committee on Indian Health in 1956. For her dedication, she earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Annie Wauneka became a tribal leader who had a major impact in public health. She also worked to lower the rate of infant mortality through education about infant care and illnesses. In addition, she continued her own education, earning a Bachelor's Degree in Public Health from the University of Arizona. Later her alma mater awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her tireless efforts on behalf of her people.
Annie Wauneka also strived to improve education for Navajo youth by advocating that schools to be located closer to tribal communities. This allowed young people to remain closer to their parents who could then become more involved with the schools.
Visit the Navajo Nation Museum on Highway 64 and Loop Road in Window Rock to learn more about Navajo history and Annie Wauneka. In addition to displaying exhibitions, the Navajo Nation Museum houses the nation's Library and Research Collection.
For more information see the following:
Carolyn Niethammer, I'll go and do More: Annie Dodge Wauneka, Navajo Leader and Activist
Annie Wauneka - Photographed by Gene Price, Courtesy of Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock, (L-762.a)
Navajo Nation Museum, Library and Conference Center - Courtesy of Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock