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Sept. 20 Event to Celebrate Native American Activist Suzan Shown Harjo

WASHINGTON — Influential policy advocate, writer, curator and 2014 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) will be recognized for a lifetime of achievement at the symposium “A Promise Kept: The Inspiring Life and Works of Suzan Shown Harjo,” Friday, Sept. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A founding trustee of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Harjo’s legacy of activism and artistic accomplishment continues to inspire American Indian people and influence U.S. policies about Native sovereignty and culture. Free and open to the public, the symposium will be held in the museum’s Rasmuson Theater.

The day will be dedicated to discussing the struggle for Native religious and cultural rights; repatriation and protection of ancestors; Native Nations’ sovereignty, citizenship, artist identity, and authenticity in the marketplace under tribal and federal law; and racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation. U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (Muscogee [Creek] Nation) will give the opening poem.

“Suzan has worked tirelessly on behalf of Native peoples as an activist, journalist, and leader,” said Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “Her list of achievements is long and includes being the founding president of The Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization that promotes Native peoples’ traditions, cultures, and arts. Her continued work as an inspiring leader and role model has made Indian Country proud.”

The symposium will bring together Native American activists, scholars, artists, and writers to offer insights from their areas of expertise into Harjo’s impact on Native American issues, including:

  • Jodi Archambault, Director, Indigenous Peoples Initiatives, Wend Ventures
  • Philip J. Deloria, Professor, Harvard University
  • Kevin Gover, Director, National Museum of the American Indian
  • Duke Ray Harjo II
  • Tina Kuckkahn-Miller, Vice President, Indigenous Arts, and Education, TheEvergreen State College
  • Robert G. Martin, President, Institute of American Indian Arts
  • Michael D. McNally, Professor, Carleton College
  • Mary Kathryn Nagle, Partner, Pipestem Law, P.C., and playwright
  • Patsy Phillips, Director, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
  • Wilson Pipestem, Founding Partner, Pipestem Law, P.C.
  • James Riding In, Professor, University of Arizona
  • Gabrielle Tayac, Smithsonian Research Associate
  • Mark Trahant, Editor, Indian Country Today
  • W. Richard West, Jr., President and CEO, Autry Museum of the American West, and founding director emeritus, National Museum of the American Indian.

Presented by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Institute of American Indian Arts’ (IAIA) Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the symposium coincides with the 15th anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and the 30th anniversary of the museum’s 1989 Act that Harjo was a leading force in the 22-year campaign to achieve. It also will be the fifth anniversary of the opening of the exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian and publication of the companion book, both titled “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.” Harjo was the guest curator of the award-winning exhibition and editor of the book.

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