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2021 Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards Honorees Announced

The Phoenix Indian Center announces the recipients of the 2021 Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards. This annual recognition celebrates individuals and organizations in Arizona who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the advancement, promotion, and development of the cultural, educational, social, economic, or political welfare of the American Indian community, or have provided significant contributions to the American Indian economy.

The 2021 award recipients are:

James RidingIn (Pawnee)

Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement Award

Retired, Arizona State University

Barbara Poley  (Laguna and Hopi)

Phyllis J. Bigpond Lifetime Achievement Award                 

Retired, Hopi Foundation (Lomasumi’nangwtukwsiwmani)

Frances Stout (Tohono O’odham)

Spirit of the Heard Award 

(presented by the Heard Museum)

Christopher Sharp, M.S.W., M.P.A

(Colorado River Indian Tribes)

Man of the Year Award

Director of the Office of American Indian Projects & Clinical Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

Ethel Branch (Navajo)

Woman of the Year

Interim Executive Director & Board Chairperson, Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund

Titan Facility Services

David Beaver – CEO (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska)

Business of the Year

Raul Mendoza (Tohono O’Odham)

Friend of the Community

Retired, Educator and Coach

Medicine Wheel Riders

Volunteer of the Year

Rez Riders

Volunteer of the Year

Shay Allison (Navajo)

College Student of the Year Award

2021 Graduate, Arizona State University

Trinity Manuelito (Navajo)

College Student of the Year Award

Junior, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Online

Stephen Louis (Navajo)

High School Student of the Year Award

2021 Graduate, Higley High School

Angel Polk (San Carlos Apache)

High School Student of the Year Award

Senior, Xavier College Preparatory High School

More Information

The Phoenix Indian Center is organizer and host of this annual awards process and is proud to continue the legacy of presenting leadership awards to individuals in the American Indian community.  This awards process has continued for over thirty-five years and is formerly knows as the NARD or Native American Recognition Days Awards.  There are several categories to recognize individuals in Arizona for the exemplary work they do.

Click here to view a list of past awardees.

Nominations are open to the general public. Co-workers, friends, family, businesses, and organizations may nominate an individual. We encourage you to notify the individual that you are submitting their name, complete the nomination form fully, and submit with supporting documents such as a resume and awards.  Once we receive the nomination information, the Phoenix Indian Center will contact the nominee to congratulate them and obtain additional required information if necessary.

Adult Award Criteria

  • Demonstrated excellence of leadership in the community or business
  • Demonstrated creativity and initiative in their profession with regards to representing the American Indian community
  • Provided valuable length of service to the community by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for American Indians
  • Exhibits commitment to service to the community by devoting time and energy to areas outside of their normal business to the American Indian community
  • Affects positive change in the profession, workplace, school and community
  • Is respected and seen as a leader amongst peers
  • Have shown leadership in self or through school clubs, activities and demonstrated excellence in academics, creativity and initiative
  • Demonstrates strong leadership that is both culturally and non-culturally-based
  • Is perceived as a leader amongst peers, educators and community.
  • Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above
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