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AARP Oklahoma Hosts 8th Annual Indian Elder Honors

One by one, the names and accomplishments of 50 Indian Elders were shared with an audience of more than 700 at AARP Oklahoma’s 8 th Annual Indian Elder Honors celebration at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63 rd, Oklahoma City on Monday, October 10, 2016.  As the distinguished honorees were announced, they stood to applause and a medallion was presented. CLICK HERE TO WATCH A VIDEO RECAPPING THE EVENING

AARP State Director Sean Voskuhl said, “This event celebrates a lifetime of service from these distinguished elders who have positively impacted their community, family, tribe and nation. Tonight, we honored teachers, veterans, nurses, artists, tribal leaders, language and culture preservationists and even a Pulitzer prize-winning author. One common thread between the honorees, regardless of the contributions, is the commitment to community and service.”

During her remarks, AARP Oklahoma State President Joe Ann Vermillion said, “Tonight, in this place, as Oklahoma tribes and nations join together in a spirit of harmony and peace, we reflect and give thanks for the lives they have lived and the innumerable ways they have passed on their legacies to future generations.”

indian-elder-honors-program-2016-final   Among this year’s 50 Indian Elder Honorees from 29 Oklahoma tribes and nations were:


  • The first registrar for the Seminole Nation who, singlehandedly, enrolled 8,500 members by handwritten records. (Jane McGiesey, Seminole Nation)
  • A Pulitzer Prize winning author and winner of the White House Medal of Arts and acclaimed professor. (Dr. N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa Tribe)
  • One of the last remaining speakers of the Quapaw language, this elder made it a life goal to preserve the culture and language for future generations by developing an educational curriculum. (Ardina Revard Moore, Quapaw Tribe and Osage Nation)
  • A founding member of the National Indian Youth Council and member of the Red Power Movement and American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee (Viola Sutton Hatch, Cheyenne & Arapaho);
  • A respected Vietnam veteran who committed to bettering the lives of veterans and their families (John Wayne Cloud, Cherokee Nation) and;
  • A role model for multiple generations who led by example as a teacher, acclaimed coach, veteran as well as the roles he served in tribal appointments (Charles Coleman, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town).


Presenting the medallions to the honorees were Joe Ann Vermillion, AARP State President, and Michael Bird,  AARP Advisor of Multicultural Leadership and Mashell Sourjohn, AARP Associate State Director Outreach.

Reverend Dr. David Wilson, Conference Superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church, was awarded the Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award. Wilson, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, remarked during his acceptance speech that “Whatever you do, you should do your best with your heart and mind.” The Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award honors an individual whose positive impact embodies the spirit of Dr. Edwards, who passed away in 2014.

Vermillion said the AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors, which has recognized 400 elders from all 39-federally recognized tribes and nations in Oklahoma since its inception in 2009, is the largest gathering of its kind in the state and perhaps in the nation.

“All Oklahomans are standing on the shoulders of people like tonight’s honorees,” she said. “Whether they are well known or exhibit the quiet devotion to family and community, collectively, this year’s AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honorees represent what is best about Native American people in Oklahoma: love of family, dedication to culture and respect for all people.”

Vermillion noted that AARP Oklahoma continues to expand its work on issues affecting Native Americans in the state, particularly working to address health disparities, transportation needs and cultural preservation. She invites anyone interested to join the AARP Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Community Group by sending an e-mail to: More information about AARP Oklahoma’s Native American outreach can be found at



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