NAFOA Announces the 12th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

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NAFOA Announces the 12th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

October 8, 2019

Prior Lake, MN 

October 8, 2019 

Over the past 12 years, the NAFOA Board of Directors has selected and recognized strong Native American leaders who have brought about positive economic change for both their communities and Indian Country throughout the course of their careers. 

NAFOA’s 12th Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards ceremony was held on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota. NAFOA recognized two accomplished tribal leaders: Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby and Cheryl Crazy Bull, Sicangu Lakota, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, who were both presented with the NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award. 

NAFOA’s 1st Vice-President remarked, “I'm continually impressed by Indian Country and our Lifetime Achievement Awardees are no exception. The NAFOA Board chose both Governor Anoatubby and President/CEO Cheryl Crazy Bull for their commitment to Indian Country and industrious spirit to work for constant innovation and improvement locally and nationally. NAFOA is one of many who appreciate these leaders and I'm excited to see the dividends from their investment improve Indian Country and beyond.” 

Bill Anoatubby started his career with the Chickasaw Nation in 1975. As Director of Tribal Health Services, he made an immediate splash by implementing rules and regulations for his new department. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the accounting director, where he was responsible for centralizing all finances of the tribe. Many successful policies and procedures that he instituted are still in use today across the Chickasaw Nation. 

When speaking of the leadership insights developed during his early career Governor Anoatubby stated, “Accounting plays an important role beyond taking care of the money. It’s our job to not have errors and hold the reputation of our nation to the highest standard. Service to the organization is a service to the people.” 

After his continued success managing the finances of the tribe, Anoatubby was appointed a special assistant to Governor James of the Chickasaw Nation. In 1979, Governor James invited Anoatubby to join him on the ballot as the lieutenant governor. After Governor James decided not to seek re-election in 1986, Anoatubby opted to run for Governor of the Chickasaw Nation and was elected to the position in 1987. Recently unopposed in the 2019 election, Governor Anoatubby is now serving his 9th consecutive term. 

When Governor Anoatubby was elected in 1987, the Chickasaw Nation had 250 employees and an $11 million annual operating budget. In reference to his commitment to fiscal responsibility during his first years in office, Governor Anoatubby remembers borrowing paperclips in an effort to conserve funds. Today, the Chickasaw Nation employs nearly 13,500 people. Funding for tribal operations has grown exponentially, tribal assets have grown twenty-fold. Governor Anoatubby is committed to meeting the needs and desires of Chickasaw people by providing health care services, opportunities for employment and career advancement, heritage, and cultural preservation and the chance for every Chickasaw to obtain a higher education. 

Governor Anoatubby has a long list of accolades and achievements. Some of his honors include: induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2004, 2019 Force 50 Foundation George Nigh Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2017 Harland C. Stonecipher Award for Entrepreneurial Vision, the 2017 World Experiences Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in Global Citizenship, the 2017 Lee B. Brawner Lifetime Achievement Award, and 2016 Creative Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador 

Governor Bill Anoatubby was born in Texas as the youngest of six children. He returned with his family to live in Tishomingo, Oklahoma the capital of the Chickasaw Nation as a young boy. While still in high school, he enlisted in the National Guard and served throughout his college years. He achieved the rank of staff sergeant and command of a light truck platoon and was honorably discharged in 1971. Anoatubby graduated from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting. 

Governor Anoatubby is married to Janice Loman, they have two sons Brian and Chris, and five grandchildren. 

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, "I thank NAFOA for this recognition of my lifelong commitment to tribal sovereignty through tribally controlled education. In some ways, with this recognition, I have come full circle. Business and economics are of special interest to me, as I began my career as a faculty member teaching business courses. I appreciate the vision, focus, and diligent work that we do that shows the transformative power of education. And I want to thank my family and friends. When one of us is honored, all of us are honored."

Cheryl Crazy Bull, Wacinyanpi Win (They Depend on Her) was honored for her lifelong dedication to Indian Country as an educator and community activist. She has served as President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund since 2012. She previously dedicated 17 years to Sinte Gleska University in various faculty and administrative roles, followed by a 10-year tenure as the President of Northwest Indian College, headquartered on the Lummi Nation in Washington. 

Chery Crazy Bull has helped shape the strategic direction of Indian Country’s educational and cultural institutions by serving on the board for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the National Museum of American Indians, and the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center. She is a current board member of IllumiNative, a narrative change organization; Native Ways Federation, comprised of seven national Native organizations; and is a founder of the National Native Scholarship Providers Working Group. Crazy Bull’s research and publications are focused on tribally controlled education, leadership, and educational equity. Beyond her work as an educator, she also promotes tribal economic development and entrepreneurship, having served on both the economic development committee of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Lummi Commercial Company. She helped found a circle banking program on her home reservation, the Rosebud Reservation. 

Among her many honors, Crazy Bull has been recognized with an honorary cultural degree from Sinte Gleska University and an honorary doctorate from Seattle University. She is also the recipient of numerous recognitions as an Indigenous woman leader and tribal educator, including the 2017 Woman of the Year from Women Supporting Women; 2015 Honoree, Drums Along the Hudson, and a recipient of the 2011 Enduring Spirit Award. 

Crazy Bull and her spouse, Alex “Red” Prue, Sr. live in Colorado, where they enjoy the Rocky Mountains and scenic prairies and do their best to keep track of their blended family of seven children and over 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For all her work over the years representing Indian Country and her tireless advocacy to increase the ranks of Native Americans achieving a higher education, NAFOA is pleased to present Cheryl Crazy Bull with a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. 

These distinguished recipients have paved the way for a brighter economic future for Native American people.