About Annie Dodge Wauneka
Annie Dodge Wauneka (April 11, 1910 – November 10, 1997) was an influential member of the Navajo Nation as member of the Navajo Nation Council. As a member and three term head of the Council's Health and Welfare Committee, she worked to improve the health and education of the Navajo. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by Lyndon B. Johnson as well as the Indian Council Fire Achievement Award and the Navajo Medal of Honor. She also received an honorary doctorate in Humanities from the University of New Mexico.
Annie Dodge Wauneka was the daughter of the Navajo leader Henry Chee Dodge and his third wife Keehanabah. Since Keehanabah had already left Chee before the birth of Annie, Chee's first wife, Nanabah, raised Annie along with three other of Chee's children. Having been raised by her father, a successful rancher, Annie lived a privileged life for a Navajo girl of her time. She was sent to a boarding school in Fort Defiance, Arizona in 1918, at the age of 8 where she spoke and read English. During that first year at school the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic struck the students and faculty. Annie recovered from a mild case of the flu and stayed at the school to help the school nurse care for the other student flu victims. This experience led to her later interest in public health.
After that she was sent to an Indian school in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she completed grade eleven at the age of 19. She left school to married a George Wauneka, whom she had met in school.
After the death of her father in 1946, she became active in tribal politics and became the second woman to be elected to the Tribal Council, after Lilly Neil. She was immediately appointed head of the council's Health and Welfare Committee. She served in that committee for her 27 years in the Council and served as its head for three terms.
Annie Dodge Wauneka, tribal leader of the Navajo Nation and public health activist, worked tirelessly to improve the health and welfare of the Navajo Tribe and reduce the incidence of tuberculosis nationwide. Born in 1910 in a traditional Navajo hogan, Wauneka was raised by her father, one of the wealthiest men of the Navajo Tribe. While taught Navajo history and culture, Wauneka also gained a general education. When she was eight, while attending a government-run school on the reservation, a tragic event occurred which helped shape the rest of her life. An influenza epidemic struck. Thousands of Navajos, including many of Wauneka's classmates, died. Wauneka escaped with only a mild case that left her resistant to the disease. Thus she was able to care for those who were too ill to feed themselves. After graduation and her marriage to George Wauneka, Annie continued to travel with her father, observing the poverty and disease that plagued most of the Navajo. She studied public health and then, realizing that the best way to change the standards of health and sanitation among tribal members was from within, Wauneka gained election in 1951 to the Tribal Council, the second woman ever so elected. During her three terms in office, Wauneka led the fight against tuberculosis. She wrote a dictionary to translate English words into Navajo for modern medical techniques, such as vaccination. Her weekly radio broadcasts, in the Navajo language, explained how modern medicine could help improve health among the Navajo. She also worked on other health problems including better care for pregnant women and new babies, regular eye and ear examinations, and alcoholism. She continued working in her community on health issues until her death in 1997. She helped improve housing and sanitation conditions and convinced her tribe to adopt many modern medical practices and avail themselves of hospital care, when needed. She also served on the advisory boards of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. In 1963, Wauneka became the first Native American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ladies' Home Journal selected her a Woman of the Year in 1976. In 1984, the Navajo Council designated her "The Legendary Mother of the Navajo Nation." All recognize that through her efforts in education and health, the lives of every Navajo, as well as the nation at large, have been improved.