Last updated: April 12, 2021
"I'll go and do more." - Annie Dodge Wauneka
Annie Dodge was born into the Tse níjikíní (Cliff Dwelling People) Clan of the Diné (Navajo) Tribe in a traditional hogan in 1910. She was just a child when Spanish Influenza began claiming the lives of millions of people around the world. It was difficult to accurately keep up with the losses at the time, but today the CDC estimates the total number of lives taken by the virus at 50 million. Fear and panic consumed people around the world, and eventually the Spanish Influenza came to Annie's community.
At 8 years old, after surviving the flu herself, Annie stepped up to help medical workers care for victims and discovered a passion for medicine and helping people. After school and marriage (to George Wauneka), she went on to study public health and became an activist for the health and welfare of the Navajo Nation.
In 1951, Annie was one of the first women ever elected to the Tribal Council and began to put her knowledge to use. She created an English-Navajo medical dictionary to help doctors and patients communicate, educated people about tuberculosis, gave regular radio broadcasts in Navajo to share health and welfare information, served on advisory boards to the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service, and improved housing and sanitation conditions in her community. She dedicated her life to helping her people access the advantages of modern medicine without sacrificing traditional cultural values.
Annie Dodge Wauneka received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 for her life of service. Albert A. Hale, the president of the Navajo Nation, called her "our legendary mother" and "the most honored Navajo in our history."
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