02 April, 2008
Henrietta Mann said in a Mirage interview, "I just dance through life." I'm more inclined to say that she dances with life, a partner with the best of it. And all of us, but especially young Native Americans, who are witness to this dance are the better for it.
Henri's great grandmother, a Cheyenne prayer woman, had no inkling when she presented her new great granddaughter to the four sacred directions, the earth, and the sky
…that Henri would grow up to be honored as the Cheyenne Indian of the Year and the National American Indian Woman of the Year…
… that Rolling Stone Magazine would name her one of the top ten leading professors in the US
… that she would earn a doctorate in American studies at the University of New Mexico as a Danforth Scholar
… that she would be a progenitor of the entire field of Native American Studies
… that she would teach at Berkeley, Harvard, and the Universities of Montana and Montana State, where she would hold the first endowed chair in Native American Studies, serve as advisor to the President, and establish its Council of Elders, composed of all the Montana tribal leaders
… that she would be named the founding president of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College in Oklahoma
… that she would be featured as one of five 20th Century Women Educators in the 20th Century Women's Poster Series of the National Women's History Project
… that she would become a consultant to the Discovery Channel, HBO, PBS (including Ken Burns' documentary The West) and others…
… that she would serve on the board of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, and on the boards of many other organizations, including the American Indian Science and Engineering Society centered in Albuquerque…
… that she would publish a book, Cheyenne-Arapaho Education…
… that she would serve in positions of prominence with the Bureau of Indian affairs.
The list goes on and on.
What Henri's great grandmother, herself a massacre survivor, might have had an inkling about would be the inner spirit that unfolded in her great granddaughter, who still speaks her Southern Cheyenne language…
… enabling her to persevere through the difficult years she spent earning her doctorate at UNM while rearing four teen-aged children and caring for her terminally ill husband, and grieving for brother, her uncle, her stepsister, and her mother, all of whom she lost during that time
… enabling her to complete her Sundance Life and become a highly revered spiritualist, a primary woman, in the Cheyenne Sundance.
… motivating the American Red Cross to ask her to pray for peace at the site of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks.
… culminating in the wisdom of one who balances love with responsibility, and personal growth with gratitude.
What Henri's great grandmother might be most proud of now might be Henri's saying that her "entire goal in life is to be nothing but a Good Cheyenne Woman."
As witnessed by Henri, the qualities of a "Good Cheyene Woman" must be ones we should all emulate. I could not be prouder or more pleased to offer our Bernard S. Rodey Award to Henrietta Mann today. Its inscription includes her Cheyenne name, which I won't try to pronounce but will translate: "Woman Who Comes to Offer Prayer." Henri, thank you for serving as a role model for us all.
HUM CHI HENRI!
Always my favorite teacher