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AARP AARP States Oklahoma

HISTORY: Native American Elder Honors

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The AARP Oklahoma Native American Elder Honors, previously known as Indian Elder Honors, celebrates Native American elders who have positively impacted their community, family, tribal nation, and nation. This honor celebrates a lifetime of service by distinguished Native American elders who exhibit a love of family, dedication to culture, and respect for all people.

Tewanna and Dr. John “Nikaani Kaapaa” Edwards (1935-2014) helped establish the Indian Elder Honors, now known as the AARP Oklahoma Native American Elder Honors, in 2009. Dr. Edwards was a peacemaker for the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court and an arbitrator for the U.S. Department of Interior, a former governor of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, and a pastor of the Fellowship of American Indians Church of Oklahoma. Tewanna Edwards serves as a Chickasaw Nation peacemaker for the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court and a dedicated AARP volunteer. Tewanna noted no other Native American recognition program ever existed before the AARP OK Native American Elder Honors was established especially on this wide scale. “It reminds others of our heritage and is such a blessing. Some honorees even cry when they receive the award because they never received recognition before, and it lifts their spirit,” Edwards said.

Since its inception in 2009, the AARP Oklahoma Native American Elder Honors has recognized elders from Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations. Past honorees include teachers, veterans, artists, tribal leaders, culture preservationists, and everyday community heroes. Click here to read biographies of past honorees.

AARP Oklahoma State Director Sean Voskuhl said AARP considers it a privilege to share the elders’ inspiring stories. “This annual celebration connects and grounds us to our past, keeps us mindful of the present, and inspires future generations to become better curators of communities and cultures.”

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