Manataka American Indian Council®








Native American

Eagle Awards




The 11th Annual Tennessee Eagle Awards, supported by funds raised through the Natchez Trace Powwow, took place on Sunday, August 9, 2008.


Nominations, which often come as a surprise to the nominees, are sent in from across the state. Nominations of Native Americans for the Tennessee Eagle Award range from acts of benevolence, community service, cultural preservation, education, leadership, social services and the arts, and demonstrate the highest qualities of the American Indian race and culture. 


Each year, one posthumous award is given.  An individual may be nominated more than once, but may not receive an award for a second time for the same act.  As in the past, Eagle Awards Committee Judges and leaders of Native American organizations across the state will work to narrow the field of nominees to the 12 final winners.


The Eagle Awards began in 1998, when a small group of people in Tennessee "had a dream to honor Native Americans in the state who have made outstanding contributions in their communities all across the state.  That same group desired to honor these special people publicly so that others could see the good that they are doing on issues that effect every race of people in Tennessee.


From the dream, the name “Eagle Awards” was chosen because like the Eagle, these People fly the highest. The Eagle Award recipients are Heroes in today’s society.  They do these good works all the time, not thinking others see and we want to honor them for their selfless acts.  We look up to them and we want our children to look up to them for their leadership qualities and traditional values. In the past, the honoree’s have accepted their awards with humility, in the same selfless manner that they made their individual contributions.  There were no longwinded speeches of acceptance, only humble thank yous and embraces."


The event, attended not only by the nominees and those who nominated them, but by friends and the community at-large, is a family affair that bridges the generations with children being lifted equally as nominees and observers.


2006 Eagle Award Winners



The 2008 Eagle Award Winners in order received:


1. Alison Sanders of Smyrna for representing all Native American tribes across the state at public functions and for being the NAIA Pow-Wow Princess for the past 10 years with pride and dignity.


2. Zeke Reedy of McMinnville for being active in cultural events across the state and opposing the use of Native images as school mascots. He was a member of the East Team in the National Native American All-Star Football game. He is the first athlete to represent the state of TN on this squad.


3. Valerie Ohle of Knoxville for putting together a council to mentor those suffering from addictions and holding community talk meetings in the Knoxville area. She is also on the Commission of Indian Affairs.


4. Watagui Archie Russ of New Tazewell for over 20 years of service to the Native on local, state and national levels.  He guides by example to honor Native cultural traditions. He has served the state on the Archeological Advisory Council and NAIA's & American Indian Center's JPTA programs.


A special Honorary Eagle Award was presented to Aaron Clay Stewart (age 5) of Lawrenceburg for helping to do Educational Programs at Schools, Colleges and Adult Organizations all over the state. He has a talent of showing artifacts and telling about Indian life.


5. Tommy Veal won the Post Humus Eagle Award for being a devoted member of the Advisory Council on Tennessee Indian Affairs, serving TNNAC and was the founder of the Indigenous Intertribal Corporation.  He worked for years donating to the community his knowledge and services. We will always miss his smile.


6. Donna Smith of Harrogate for being an Activist of American Indian Issues. She talks with Senators and Representatives across the state and Lobby's for the right bills.


7. Helen "Red Wing" Vinson of Lakeland for spending a larger part of a lifetime giving to Native issues, culture, writing poems, writing songs and countless uncompensated work given to TNNAC and the Memphis Caucus.


Helen is a long-time member of the Manataka American Indian Council.


8. Winona Yellowhammer of Franklin for the contributions she makes to the Indian community for freely giving of her voice and talents to the NAIA Pow-Wow, being the host for the Native American Hour radio program and being last years MC for the Eagle Award.


9. Larry "Awwatokitoe" Davis of New Tazewell for being a staunch advocate of Native Rights, being a multi-talented singer/songwriter and committing of himself to helping others in their cultural & spiritual growth.


10. Mary Cox-Pluff of Crossville for being the backbone of the Pow-Wow on the Plateau.  She brings culture into the community with demonstrations of dance and historical education.


11. Michael Lynch of Dyer for being raised up on Indian Politics and recently being selected to serve as one of the American Indian Representatives on the Governor's Archaeological Advisory Council.


12. John Smith of Memphis for (his terrific charm, charisma and an infectious laugh). We recognize him most for his involvement in TNNAC where he served as Chair from 2005-2008 but was involved since the beginning. For years he has worked to get more people in West TN involved in Indian Affairs.



Submitted by Sheila Jones, Tennessee Eagle Awards Organization



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