OSU alumna receives 2021 National Humanities Medal
Thursday, March 23, 2023
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Long recognized as a trailblazer in the field of Native American studies, Oklahoma State University alumna Henrietta Mann is now a National Humanities Medal recipient.
Mann was recognized by President Joe Biden on March 21 during an East Room ceremony in the White House. She was one of 12 recipients to receive this honor, surrounded by fellow writers, historians, educators and activists.
The National Endowment for the Humanities presents this medal to individuals or organizations who have deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history or literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources.
During the ceremony, Mann was recognized for dedicating her life to strengthening and developing Native American education. Her pioneering efforts led to the founding of programs and institutions across the United States devoted to the study of Native American history and culture.
“Henrietta Mann, a teacher, a scholar and a leader,” Biden said during the ceremony. “She’s dedicated her career to Native American education and to establishing the field of Native American studies. Thanks in large part to her, Native American studies is now taught in universities across the country, strengthening our nation-to-nation bonds for generations to come.”
Mann is a native of Clinton, Oklahoma, and a member of the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1954. She then went on to receive a master’s degree in English from OSU in 1970. She started her higher education career by teaching ethnic studies at UC Berkeley.
In 1972, Mann moved to the University of Montana at Missoula. She worked diligently for 28 years to create a program focusing specifically on American Indian literature, religion, philosophy, history and culture. She also spent short periods of time at Harvard University, the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the American Indian Religious Freedom Coalition and the University of New Mexico where she earned her Ph.D. in American studies. In 2000, she accepted her first endowed chair in Native American studies at Montana State University in Bozeman.
One year later, the Cheyenne-Arapaho government built their own tribal college and appointed Mann the founding president. Mann’s efforts to preserve and share the importance of Native American culture across the country will go on to benefit future generations. Her dedication to bettering the entire nation truly exemplifies the character recipients of the National Humanities Medal hold.
“The National Humanities Medal recipients have enriched our world through writing that moves and inspires us; scholarship that enlarges our understanding of the past; and through their dedication to educating, informing, and giving voice to communities and histories often overlooked,” said National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Shelly C. Lowe, a Navajo. “I am proud to join President Biden in recognizing these distinguished leaders for their outstanding contributions to our nation’s cultural life.”