The Places That Inspired Annie Dodge Wauneka's Activism

Annie Dodge Wauneka (1910-1997) was a leader in healthcare rights and cultural preservation for the Navajo Nation (Diné). A member of the Tse níjikíní Clan, Wauneka was the second woman elected to the prominent Navajo Tribal Council. She traveled across the Navajo territories to provide healthcare to people within her community. As a liaison between the Navajo Nation and the United States government, Wauneka made frequent trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby for additional funding and healthcare resources for indigenous territories. One of Wauneka's biggest successes was her English-to-Navajo medical dictionary in which she coined new words in her language for terms like 'germs'.

Wauneka has been honored by numerous organizations, local and federal, across the United States for her legacy as a cultural ambassador and public servant. This guide offers a look at some of the sites where Wauneka broke ground throughout her life.

  1. Navajo Indians at Fort Defiance, Arizona in 1873

    Photo By: Timothy H. O'Sullivan via the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

    The Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding School at Fort Defiance, Arizona

    When she was 8, Wauneka attended the BIA Navajo training school. As the first boarding school in the Navajo territories, it tried to challenge indigenous customs through assimilation by specifically pushing children to learn English and United States history. In 1917, the school had a year-long influenza outbreak. After Wauneka recovered, she helped her school nurses attend to other students. This early caretaking experience sparked Wauneka’s interest in increasing the quality of healthcare for Navajo people. Pictured: Navajo Indians at Fort Defiance in 1873.

  2. Albuquerque Indian School in 1885, Relocated from Duranes to Albuquerque in 1881.

    Photo By: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

    Albuquerque Indian School

    After Wauneka earned impressive grades at the Navajo training school, her father sent her to the larger Albuquerque Indian School. This school was more diverse and introduced a 6th-grade Wauneka to children from various tribes who spoke different languages. While the children often spoke English to communicate with one another, Wauneka’s time at the Albuquerque Indian School helped solidify her passion for protecting and preserving indigenous cultures. Pictured: Albuquerque Indian School in 1885.

  3. First building constructed at University of Arizona in Tucson. Completed in 1891.

    Photo By: Ken Lund via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    University of Arizona in Tucson

    In the 1950s, Wauneka completed a bachelor’s degree in public health at the University of Arizona. She decided to attend the university after taking numerous indigenous lessons and trainings related to healthcare. This education helped Wauneka recognize the discrepancies between Navajo and English healthcare words and the lack of preventative care for tuberculosis (TB) in Navajo territories. In 1996, the university granted Wauneka with an honorary law degree to honor her political work on behalf of the Navajo people. Pictured: Old Main is the first building, completed in 1891, of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

  4. Walker Creek, Navajo Nation, Arizona

    Photo By: Ken Lund via CC BY-SA 2.0

    Navajo Nation Territories

    Throughout her life, Wauneka traversed across much of the Navajo Nation, which stretches over 17,000,000 acres across Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. She became a well-known healthcare advocate, accompanying Navajo people to hospitals and translating for them. She also encouraged her Navajo patients to retain their language and their culture. The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation territory in the United States with its own unique and important history and monuments. Pictured: Walker Creek in the Navajo Nation in Arizona.

  5. Military Administration - Headquarters - Surgeon General's Offices. North side of building

    Photo By: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

    Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service

    Upon visiting D.C., Wauneka represented the Navajo Nation at various organizations and agencies. One such location is the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service, where Wauneka served as an advisory board member. In this role, she published healthcare articles with The American Journal of Nursing and The Provider. Using this national platform, Dodge successfully lobbied for national funding for indigenous organizations and communities across the United States to fight tuberculosis and other illnesses. Pictured: View of the Surgeon General's Offices in Washington, DC. (1917-1918)

  6. The Navajo Nation Flag was designed by Jay R. DeGroat of Mariano Lake, NM and adopted by Navajo Tribal Council on May 21,1968.

    Photo By: Designed by Jay R. DeGroat

    District Seventeen; the Klagetoh and Wide Ruins Precincts of the Navajo Tribal Council

    In 1951, Wauneka was elected to the Navajo Nation Council. She was the first woman to represent her area, District 17. Pictured is the official flag of the Navajo Nation.

  7. View of the Cornell Medical School which was established in 1898.

    Photo By: Ajay Suresh via CC BY 2.0

    Cornell Medical School

    With more than two thousand Navajo people being hospitalized for TB in Wauneka’s lifetime, she mobilized an effort to fundraise for a cure to the disease. She convinced various clans within the Navajo Nation to donate, and she collaborated with the Cornell Medical School to support their vaccination research. Photo: Pictured Weill Cornell Medical School in New York.

  8. Exterior view of the White House in Washington, DC. Photo taken in 2009

    Photo By: Tom Lohdan via CC By 2.0

    The White House

    In 1963, President Kennedy announced that Wauneka would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. President Johnson presented Wauneka with the medal after Kennedy’s assassination. She was the first Native American from the Southwest to receive this award. Photo: Exterior view of the White House from 2009.

Laken Brooks is a current graduate student at the University of Florida. When Laken is not teaching or researching, she enjoys traveling, visiting free little libraries, and going to archives.

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