TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation leaders honored six tribal citizens and three Cherokee community organizations during the Cherokee National Holiday Awards Banquet Thursday night, part of the 70th annual Cherokee National Holiday.
Honorees received special recognition from Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and the Council of the Cherokee Nation for making significant contributions through statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the Cherokee Nation.
“The Cherokees we recognize this year have been an influential part of promoting and advancing the Cherokee Nation, our families, and our communities. It is an honor to have met with, worked with and served with each one of them,” Chief Hoskin said. “The work they have done, the wisdom they have provided, the trails they have blazed, and the heart with which they have served the Cherokee people will leave remarkable, generational impacts on the Cherokee Nation and the communities in which they live, both here on the reservation and around the country.”
Family and friends gathered with the honorees Thursday evening in Tahlequah.
“This year as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Cherokee National Holiday, we also want to take a moment to highlight some of our Cherokee citizens who have helped forge a legacy and a foundation that supports our efforts as a people and a government,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “We greatly respect what each of them have done for the Cherokee people and we’re honored to recognize their amazing service.”
Cherokee citizens receiving Holiday awards this year include the following:
Medal of Patriotism Award
The Medal of Patriotism Award is given in recognition of those who answered the call of duty, made great sacrifices and risked their lives in service to Cherokee Nation and the United States of America, tirelessly defending and promoting freedom and liberty for Cherokees and all mankind. The 2022 Medal of Patriotism Award honorees are:
• Winifred “Freddie” Dudley. In 1944 at the height of World War II, Cherokee Warrior Winifred “Freddie” Dudley, of Owasso, joined the groundbreaking Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. The military of the United States had not enlisted women prior to WWII. The service Dudley and the other women in the Corps gave their country was, for the time, controversial, but proved an important step along the way to victory for America and its allies. Dudley recently celebrated her 100th birthday.
• Rex Earl Starr. As a patriot with a great love for his country and his nation, Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Rex Earl Starr proudly served in the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Navy Reserve for 41 years. During his military service, Justice Starr worked as an Army Medical Service Corps officer and as an aviator, earning his Master Army Aviation badge and becoming a decorated fighter pilot before retiring as a Lt. Colonel.
The Statesmanship Award is given in recognition of those who, as public servants, epitomize the servant leader ideal, exemplifying Cherokee values and acting with respect, dignity and graciousness while working for the betterment of Cherokee Nation and its citizens. The 2022 Statesmanship Award is presented posthumously:
• Frankie Hargis. In life, Frankie Hargis’ work touched the lives of thousands of Cherokees and shaped public policy in lasting ways that have made Cherokee Nation stronger and more secure. As Cherokee Nation Registrar, Hargis demonstrated great resolve in guaranteeing the rights of tribal citizens. And serving as District 7 Tribal Councilor from 2011-2018, she advanced work on a domestic violence survivors’ shelter, a child development center, roads, bridges and an expansion of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center.
Community Leadership Individual Award
The Community Leadership Individual Award is given in recognition of Cherokee Nation citizens who tirelessly have given, without hesitation, their time to make their communities more vibrant, livable places. Their example of servant leadership embodies Cherokee values, and is held high esteem by their peers for strengthening the bonds of Cherokee Nation citizens. The 2022 Community Leadership Individual Award honorees are:
• Patty Riley Reeder. A recent inductee to the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Patty Riley Reeder is the former executive editor for the Claremore Daily Progress and is the public relations director for Will Rogers Memorial museums. She is a founding board member of Claremore Friends of the Library, chairman of the Rogers County Board of Health, public representative for the award-winning IHS Diabetes Education Program, and assists the Share the Spirit Christmas Dinner Basket fundraiser.
• Lyndon Emberton. The work of Cherokee achievement is the work of Lyndon Emberton, who led pilot employment and anti-poverty efforts in Cherokee Nation through the Rural Communities Initiative Foundation. Emberton is passionate about housing, jobs and school enrollment in his immediate community. He resides in the Belfonte/Nicut Community and sits on the school board of Sequoyah Schools, the board of the Sequoyah County Water Association and Kibois Community Action.
Community Leadership Organization Award
The Community Leadership Organization Award is given in recognition of Cherokee Nation communities that have demonstrated the spirit of working together through servant leadership, as well as applying Cherokee values to make their communities a better place for Cherokee Nation citizens. The 2022 Community Leadership Organization Award honorees are:
• People Community Center Inc. The momentum that helps Cherokee communities thrive is the same momentum the People Community Center Inc., of Bowlin Springs, continues to demonstrate. Founded in the spring of 2021, the community organization rallied against local vandalism that had occurred in its community cemetery. It has undertaken an ambitious community building project — one of the largest of any Cherokee community organization in history. Its membership continues to grow and its vision inspires the many volunteers who assist in community efforts.
• Hulbert Cherokee Community Organization. Since its inception in 2017, the Hulbert Cherokee Community Organization has taken the lead in service to its community. Its nine board members and many volunteers are compassionate current and former residents of Hulbert. Every other month during the pandemic, HCCO coordinated food drives that provided for more than 500 families. After the recent completion of their community building, the HCCO was able to expand its food offerings and outreach.
• Cherokees of Puget Sound. The Cherokee Community of Puget Sound in Washington state, on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples, shares knowledge and friendship in an inclusive community of more than 60 members, with a wider online outreach. Its efforts include a weekly virtual gathering, monthly book and movie group, meetings that share art, history and culture, a YouTube channel and weekly virtual Cherokee language sessions. The community group was recently honored with the 2021 Cultural Perpetuation award.
Each year, the Cherokee Nation administration selects a Cherokee National Holiday parade marshal. The 2022 parade marshal is:
• Dwight Birdwell. Former Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Dwight Birdwell is the first Native American to receive the Medal of Honor for heroic service during the Vietnam War. He received the Medal of Honor from President Biden in July of 2022 for his actions in a battle at Tan Son Nhut Airbase in Saigon with Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Calvary, 25th Infantry Division. Birdwell also received the Cherokee Nation Medal of Patriotism honor in 2012, and is a recipient of two Silver Stars and a Purple Heart. Birdwell, who practices law in Oklahoma City, is a native of the Bell community and served on the Cherokee Nation’s highest court from 1987-1999.