University of New Mexico alumna Henrietta Mann, along with "Native America Calling," the live radio show that airs on UNM’s radio station KUNM, were two of the 12 recipients awarded the 2021 National Humanities Medal presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and President Joe Biden during the Arts and Humanities Award Ceremony and dinner at the White House Tuesday.

The National Humanities Medal honors an individual or organization whose work has 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.

Mann’s White House Citation read:

“Henrietta Mann, for dedicating her life to strengthening and developing Native American education. The pioneering efforts of Henrietta, Ho’oesto’oona'e, Mann, led to programs and institutions across the country devoted to the study of Native American history and culture, honoring ancestors that came before and benefiting generations that follow.”

UNM alumna Dr. Henrietta Mann and President Joe Biden at the Arts and Humanities Award Ceremony at the White House Tuesday. Photo by Cheriss May, for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Mann, who earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from UNM in 1982 wrote a dissertation on the history of Cheyenne-Arapaho education. She is a celebrated educator, a professor of Native American studies, and a leading figure in the development of programs devoted to Native American studies. A legendary scholar and activist, Mann helped design the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Montana, and Haskell Indian Nations University's Native American studies programs.

A Cheyenne enrolled with the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes, Mann is the founding president of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College. She was the first individual to occupy the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies at Montana State University, where she is Professor Emeritus and continues to serve as Special Assistant to the President. In 1991, Rolling Stone Magazine named Mann as one of the 10 leading professors in the nation. 

The White House Citation for Native America Calling read in part:

“Through its interactive shows on the radio and online, Native America Calling educates the American public about Indigenous issues while preserving Indigenous history and culture to honor their contributions that strengthen the sacred Nation-to-Nation relationship.”

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For almost 30 years since it began broadcasting at KUNM in 1995, Native America Calling has remained a Native-controlled informational outlet on Indigenous issues. The program calls attention to the underrepresented experiences of Native peoples in ways that over 50,000 listeners can echo or otherwise become educated on. With such outreach, it broadens the scope of generational traumas regarding current grave concerns like the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples while also boosting topics surrounding cultural identity and expression for national listeners.

“Every day from a studio in New Mexico, Native American Calling airs a live radio show exploring everything from a legacy of Native newspapers, to Native cuisine to Native American solidarity with Ukraine, capturing the vastness of the Native American life, and it's profound impact on the country,” said Biden during the ceremony.

“KUNM salutes the people at Native America Calling and National Native News for this significant national recognition,” said Richard Towne, KUNM’s general manager. “Native America Calling serves a crucial role in KUNM’s diverse service to the many communities we serve across central and northern New Mexico. KUNM, UNM, and our listeners are proud to have served as the Native America Calling launch site in 1995; and now as the daily broadcast of Native America Calling's "electronic talking circle. We are grateful for our listeners’ support of our work together.”

Since 1965, The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has promoted nationwide work in history, literature, philosophy and other research and education. The National Humanities Medal has honored people or organizations whose dedication to the humanities have accentuated its impact of the subjects on the national scale. Contributions are made to the commendable groups of which amplify these factions of humanities by way of awards and funds.

For more information, visit National Endowment for the Humanities.

** Photo credit of Henrietta Mann and President Joe Biden by Cheriss May, for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Photo of the National Humanities Medal courtesy National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).