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 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 travelled to national native conferences seeking support for his idea. As a result, he obtained resolutions of support from the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), 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 trainings and contacts, as well as guidance.
The board of directors, and James Parker Shield as CEO, established the mission and objectives for the National Native American Hall of Fame.
The objectives are:
1. Conduct Annual Induction Ceremonies
2. Pursue development of a facility to be the home of the Hall of Fame
3. Develop a traveling exhibit
4. Develop Hall of Fame education curriculum
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. 24 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.
The board of directors, and CEO, are currently in discussions on a proposed agreement to locate the Hall of Fame at a museum in Oklahoma.