50 Years Ago

Annie Wauneka battles Interior boss

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 4, 2014

Text size: A A A

Annie Wauneka, who in 1963 was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Honor, has become probably the most well-known person on the Navajo Reservation to the outside world because of the fame she has gotten in the past year.

Since last August, dozens of stories about her have appeared in the national press and a number of other health-related organizations have given her awards for her efforts to combat tuberculosis on the reservation and get Navajos to ignore taboos about places where death has occurred and go to hospitals if they are sick.

So when Wauneka decided to take on the top-ranking person in the Interior Department, it made news nationwide.

On Sept. 10, she accused Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall of a "transparent effort to corral the Navajos like sheep for political and economic purposes."

What she was upset about was Udall's delay in approving a tribal resolution that reorganized the Advisory Committee and was approved by the Navajo Tribal Council on Sept. 4.

While she was not happy about the fact the resolution wasn't approved, she was also upset that the Interior Department continued to have a say in something so important to the Navajo Tribe.

Wauneka pointed out that he wrote to the Gallup Indian director, Fred Haverland, in 1963 that said it would "imply a lack of respect" for the BIA to veto one of the laws passed by the Navajo Council "without first having an expression of its views."

Wauneka was on the side of the old guard, which was still fighting Navajo Tribal Chairman Raymond Nakai for control of the tribal government and over the old guard's continued use of Norman Littell as the tribe's general counsel.

Nakai was still trying to get Littell's contract voided and although Nakai had the support of Udall, nothing that he tried seemed to work and Littell continued to be paid by the tribe.

Peter MacDonald Sr., who would have his own problems with Wauneka when he replaced Nakai as chairman of the tribe in 1971, was back in the news when he reported that someone had entered the fairgrounds in Window Rock on Sept. 10 and stabbed six show horses that were housed there in preparation for the tribal fair.

None of the horses died but a couple had to remain under the care of a veterinarian for several weeks.

MacDonald, director of management, methods and procedures for the tribe, announced that his office was offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who did this crime.

"This was a very dastardly act," said MacDonald. "I can't imagine the kind of person who would do something like this."

An investigation revealed that the person had stabbed some of the horses as much a four inches deep and then slashed them with a knife. The person had slipped into the rodeo grounds then slashed the horses with a different knife.

They entered the fairgrounds at 2 a.m. on Sunday and slipped in the livestock barn just after the caretaker, Willie Shirley, had gone to bed.

Fair crew was alerted to the stabbing of the animals about an hour later when one of the horses was in a panic. Four of the horses were cut on their hindquarters, one in the ribs and the third in the throat.

MacDonald said that the fair office had taken precautions to make sure nothing like this happened again.

The following day MacDonald announced that the federal anti-poverty program was going to take a unique approach on the Navajo Reservation to fight poverty.

Plans are to set up a proto-type community in some area of the reservation. This community would be given a certain amount of money to combat poverty as it saw fit.

"We want to know what the typical Navajo community could do to help itself," said MacDonald. "The community would be the participant and we would see how it would work."

There was also a proposal within the federal government to form a Navajo Academy on the reservation whose sole purpose would be to train Navajos for future leadership.

How to get The Times:

Back to top ^