The National Native American Hall of Fame was established in 2016 by Founder James Parker Shield
“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. The major focus of the Hall of Fame will be from the Civil War period up until the present day. This time frame was chosen because the Civil War was a milestone event in Native American history in a unique and “modern” sense because Natives fought on both sides of that national conflict. 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,” states Shield.
Shield traveled to national native conferences seeking support for his idea. As a result, he obtained resolutions of support from the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), and the American Indian/Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA).
He also attended the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) conventions spreading the word and making contacts on behalf of the Hall of Fame.
The next step was to recruit a national board of directors. The first board member was Dr. Nathanial St. Pierre, President of Stone Child College, followed by Harlan McKosato, who was well known through his work at the radio program, “Native America Calling.”
Another founding board member is Laura Harris, long-term Executive Director of Americans for Indian Opportunity. Liz Hill, who had worked at the National Museum of American Indians (NMAI) in Washington, D.C., also became a founding member, as did Walter Lamar.
With support and encouragement from national organizations and the nucleus of a strong and credible board, the next task was to seek funding to carry out the work of the Hall of Fame.
The Seventh Generation Fund and the NoVo Foundation stepped forward with grant funds in 2017. Hopa Mountain provided valuable training and contacts, as well as guidance.
The objectives are:
The inaugural Induction Ceremony was held in November 2018 at the former Phoenix Indian School site in Phoenix, Arizona. Twelve notable Native Americans were enshrined.
The second Induction Ceremony was held in November 2019 at the Cherokee Nation-owned Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. November was chosen as the month for the Induction Ceremonies because it is “Native American Month.”
In 2019, the Hall of Fame received funds to develop its “Inspirational Leadership” curriculum. Twenty-four lessons were developed; one on each inductee. Linked to the curriculum were videotaped interviews of inductees or a family member.
Display panels on all 24 inductees have been exhibited at the 2019 ceremony and on other occasions.
On February 19, 2021, the First Americans Museum, located in Oklahoma City, issued a Press Release announcing they have agreed to collaborate on the development of a permanent home for the National Native American Hall of Fame, currently located in Great Falls, Montana. Both organizations share common goals to advance knowledge and understanding of First Americans and their contributions to the world.