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Mary "Te Ata" Thompson Fisher
1895 - 1995

Te Ata Thompson Fisher, whose name means “Bearer of the Morning,” was born Dec. 3, 1895, near Emet, Oklahoma. A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, Te Ata was an accomplished actor and teller of Native American stories.

She received her early education in Tishomingo, and eventually went to the Oklahoma College for Women. While there, it was evident Te Ata had a natural talent for drama.

Her career as an actor and storyteller spanned more than 60 years. She worked as a storyteller to finance her acting career. She would tell Chickasaw legends, myths and chants, including performing rituals in native regalia.

Te Ata attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for one year. From there, she moved to New York City, where she met and married Clyde Fisher. During the 1930s she performed at summer camps in New York and New England.

In the prime of her career, she performed in England and Scandinavia, at the White House for President Franklin Roosevelt, for the King and Queen of Great Britain, and on stages across the United States.

Although Te Ata worked as an actor and drama instructor, she is best known for her artistic interpretations of Indian folklore, and for her children's book she co-authored on the subject.

Her world-renown talent has won her several honors including induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1957, being named The Ladies’ Home Journal Woman of the Year in 1976, being named Oklahoma's Official State Treasure in 1987, and having a lake near Bear Mountain in New York named in her honor.

She is also the subject of a video, God's Drum, the proceeds of which have supported the Te Ata Scholarship Fund for Indian students at her alma mater, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, Oklahoma.

Te Ata died Oct. 26, 1995, in Oklahoma City, though her legacy and influence on the Native American storytelling traditions continues to this day.

Marjorie "Grandma" Thomas
She was born in Ganado in 1931, and as a child was sent to the Ganado Mission Indian boarding school, which she hated. Her mother, Naanibaa Gorman, worked as a health care worker and translator.
Marjorie said “When I went to the boarding school we were punished for speaking Navajo. I made up my mind not to have something that was mine taken away from me.”

So she quit school and got married.and raised eight children.
At age 29, upon the urging of her husband, she went back to school for her General Education Diploma.
After graduating from Farmington, New Mexico, High School, she helped start the Navajo language program in Chinle, Arizona.

She was a teacher and principal in Tuba City and served as a principal and Associate Superintendent for the Chinle Unified School District. and has worked with curriculum and school reform for over 30 years.
She has served as a a teacher, bilingual coordinator, and principal in schools on the Navajo Nation and has worked with curriculum and school reform for over 30 years.

She has a BA in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University, an MA in Educational Leadership from the University of New Mexico.
In recognition of her efforts she received an honorary doctorate from the University of New Mexico and from Diné College.

Marjorie Thomas continues to use her language as a storyteller and as an advocate for youth. She is known as “Grandma Thomas” to the youth of the Navajo Nation.

Now retired, Marjorie Thomas wrote two children’s books, printed in both, Navajo and English:
White Nose the Sheep Dog by Marjorie W. Thomas (Dec 1, 2000)
Bidii by Marjorie W. Thomas (Dec 1, 2000)

She has founded and continues to raise funds for the Central Navajo Youth Opportunity Coalition. For many years Grandma Marjorie Thomas, has led an annual walk from Chinle to Window Rock to raise money to build a youth center in the Central Navajo Agency.

Viola JimullaOne of the most notable and respected women of Prescott, Viola Jimulla, was the first Chieftess of the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. She led the tribe for 26 years
She was born Sica-tuva, meaning "born quickly" on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation around June of 1878. While attending Rice Arizona Indian School, she took the name Viola.
Around 1900 when the Yavapai were allowed to return to their homelands, she moved to the Prescott vicinity to live with her family. In 1901, she married Sam "Red Ants" Jimulla and became an active part of the tribal, as well as the Prescott, community.
Viola's husband was appointed chief of the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the mid-1930s and was officially elected chief by the tribe. After Sam's accidental death in 1940, Viola became Chieftess of the Prescott Yavapais, thus becoming the first Chieftess in the North American West. Viola guided her tribe with wisdom and kindness until her death in 1966. Her leadership helped the Yavapais achieve better living conditions and bridged the Indian and Anglo cultures. Viola's personal strengths and skills helped her people adapt and grow with the surrounding Anglo community. Although she formed a bridge between the two cultures, she still honored the traditions of her tribe.
Joanne Shenandoah
Shenandoah was a Native American singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, a member of the Oneida nation. Her father was Clifford Shenandoah (1934-1972), a chief of the Onondaga who was noted as a jazz guitarist. Her mother was Oneida clan mother Maisie Shenandoah (1942-2019). Joanne grew up on the Oneida reservation in New York and was involved with music and singing from an early age. However, she worked as a computer systems architectural engineer for fourteen years before discovering her calling as a musician through her people's songs and stories. Her music is a fusion of traditional songs, new age, western and pop. Her style has been entirely unique. Joanne's lovely, clear voice, exemplified by such songs as "To Those Who Dream", has been described as 'Native American trance'. Her instruments included acoustic guitar, piano and flute.

In addition to her many recordings, Joanne performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. In 1994, she opened the Woodstock and Earth Day concerts in Washington D.C.. Her original compositions have featured in several documentaries, as well as the acclaimed TV series Northern Exposure (1990). She was also a guest artist on the CD-ROM video game version of The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), released by Viacom. Joanne was a winner of fourteen 'Nammys' (Native American Music Awards) and a recipient of the inaugural Atlas Award in 2012 for her contribution to the climate change movement. She died Nov. 22, 2021, age 64 of liver failure.

Nicole "Duke" Victoria Aunapu Mann
SpaceX launched its crewed space mission to the International Space Station on 10/05/2022. On board and heading the expedition as mission commander is Nicole Mann — the first Native American woman to go to space.

She's a Marine Corps pilot and NASA astronaut, as well as a member of the Wailacki tribe of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Her milestone moment comes 20 years after John Herrington became the first Native American man to walk in space, in 2002.

Mann's Crew-5 mission aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Also on board is Josh Cassada, Anna Kikina and Koichi Wakata. All four are traveling to the International Space Station for a six-month mission, during which they plan to conduct more than 200 experiments, which will include spacewalks and 3D-printing human tissue.

She said she hoped her trip to space can encourage younger generations.

"These young women, maybe Natives, maybe people from different backgrounds that realize that they have these opportunities and [that] potentially these barriers that used to be there are starting to be broken down," she said. "And so hopefully that will inspire that younger generation."

Mann, who is originally from California, said she planned to take some items from home with her on her long journey.


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