Annie Dodge Wauneka

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Annie Dodge Wauneka
Annie Dodge Wauneka.jpg
Annie Dodge

April 11, 1910
Deer Spring, near Sawmill, Arizona Territory
DiedNovember 10, 1997(1997-11-10) (aged 87)
NationalityNavajo Nation
Known forNative American activist
OfficeNavajo Nation Council
Spouse(s)George Wauneka
Parent(s)Henry Chee Dodge
AwardsPresidential Medal of Freedom
Navajo Medal of Honor
Indian Council Fire Achievement Award

Annie Dodge Wauneka (April 11, 1910 – November 10, 1997) was an influential member of the Navajo Nation as member of the Navajo Nation Council.[1] 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. Wauneka is widely known for her countless efforts to improve health on the Navajo Nation, focusing mostly on the eradication of tuberculosis within her nation. She also authored a dictionary, in which translated English medical terms into the Navajo language.[2] 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.[3] She also received an honorary doctorate in Humanities (public health)[4] from the University of New Mexico.[5] In 2000, Wauneka was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[6]

Early life[edit]

Annie Dodge Wauneka was the daughter of the Navajo leader Henry Chee Dodge and his third partner Keehanabah or Mary Shirley Begaye of Deer Spring, Arizona.[1] Keehanabah was forced to associate with Chee and unwillingly lived with him, often returning to her family in the Deer Spring area. It was during this time Annie was born, approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) south of current-day Sawmill, Arizona. Chee's first wife, Nanabah, raised Annie along with three other of Chee's children.[7] Having been raised by her father, a successful rancher, Annie lived a privileged life for a Navajo girl of her time. Annie visited with her mother Keehanabah, also a successful rancher, in later years until her mother's death in 1977. Annie also had a half-sister and five half brothers in Deer Spring, where their descendants still live today. Annie maintained her relationship with her mother and her half-sister and brothers throughout her life, often returning to the Deer Spring area.

In 1918 at the age of 8, she was sent to a boarding school in Fort Defiance, Arizona 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.[1]

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 marry George Wauneka, whom she had met in school.


In 1951 she became the second woman to be elected to the Tribal Council, after Lilly Neil.[8][9][notes 1] 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. In 1953 her husband was running for the position that Wauneka had been holding, but she felt he was not a good candidate, so she ran against him and defeated him.[4]

In 1960 Wauneka began hosting a biweekly radio show on KGAK in Gallup, New Mexico. The program, completely in Navajo, covered topics of interest to the Navajo Nation, as well as health information.[4]


Wauneka died in a nursing home in Toyei, Arizona on November 10, 1997.[10]

The Annie Wauneka Arena at the Navajo Nation fairgrounds in Window Rock, Arizona is named in honor of Mrs. Wauneka


  1. ^ a b c Bordeaux and Martinez, Jennifer L. Williams and Donna (2017). 50 Events That Shaped American Indian History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic [2 Volumes]. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood. pp. 452–457.
  2. ^ "Wauneka, Annie Dodge | Arizona Health Sciences Library". Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  3. ^ Carolyn Niethammer, Keeping the Rope Straight, 2006, Salina Bookshelf, Inc., pages 82, 104
  4. ^ a b c Native American Women. New York: Routledge. 2001. p. 329.
  5. ^ Neithammer, Page 98
  6. ^ National Women's Hall of Fame, Annie Dodge Wauneka
  7. ^ Niethammer, p. 33.
  8. ^ Peter Iverson, Dine: A History of the Navajos, 2002, University of New Mexico Press, page 192
  9. ^ Neithammer,Page 38
  10. ^ Wepman, Dennis (September 2011). "Wauneka, Annie Dodge (1910-1997), Native-American activist". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1501329.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Several references, including Harrison Lapahie Annie Dodge Wauneka Archived October 26, 2005, at the Wayback Machine, 1999, have made the mistaken claim that Annie was the first women to be elected to the Council