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Community leaders honored at Native American Recognition Days awards banquet

November 17, 2011

Eddie Brown, professor of American Indian studies, alumnus Loretta Damon and student Cheryl Thomas are among the honorees recognized at the Native American Recognition Days annual banquet that pays tribute to outstanding community members from the American Indian community.

Brown, who also is the executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement Award. Brown (Tohono O’Odham and Pascua Yaqui), has worked at the highest administrative levels with tribal, state and federal governments. He is a former assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, United States Department of Interior; former executive director of the Department of Human Services, Tohono O’odham Nation; and former chief of the Division of Social Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He has directed many research projects related to the impact of welfare reform on American Indian families and children, diabetes prevention in tribal communities, and state Indian Child Welfare Act compliance issues, and he is nationally recognized for his knowledge and skills in working with tribal governments and community programs. Currently he serves as a member of the U.S. President’s Board of Advisors on Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Damon (Navajo) has been given the Woman of the Year Award. She is the first in her family of seven siblings to attend college, earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in education from ASU. Damon, Mesa Community College American Indian Center program advisor, has worked within the Maricopa Community College District for 28 years and is a founding member and former vice president of the United Tribal Employees Council. She researched and compiled “A Scholarship Information Guide for American Indian Students” and is a member of the National Indian Education Association, Arizona Indian Education Association and National Congress of American Indians.

Thomas (Gila River Indian Community) has been named College Student of the Year. The ASU senior is pursing two bachelor's degrees in American Indian studies and human communication. She served as Miss Indian ASU 2010 and is the founding president of HEATHERS of ASU, an organization that celebrates the leadership skills and culture of American Indian women. She works with homeless Native American Girl Scouts and has created a political forum on Facebook for Gila River Community members and candidates for governor, and she serves on her community's tribal fair board. 

Thomas received the 2011 Student Multicultural Service Award and the Undergraduate Organization Multicultural Service Awareness Award at the Epsilon Sigma Rho Fraternity's Multicultural Awards ceremony. She also was nominated for the 2011 Cal Sescewa Student Leadership Award by ASU’s American Indian Council and 2011 Arizona State University Student Organization Resource Center’s Hall of Fame Awards for Outstanding Student Leader of the Year. 

Native American Recognition Days began as a community potluck recognizing American Indian leaders. It grew to a week of activities, then to two months as more events were added. There are now 28 cultural events and celebrations including the Miss Indian Arizona Scholarship Program, parade, several powwows and rug auctions. The culminating event is the annual awards banquet honoring distinguished individuals from the community. The Nov. 17 banquet in Tempe is presented by the Phoenix Indian Center and features Native American entertainment, dinner and the awards ceremony.