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2016 Frank Harrison and Harry Austin Citizenship Award recipient Angela Willeford.

Community Member Wins Prestigious Frank Harrison and Harry Austin Citizenship Award

A Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member is doing her part to bring out Native Americans to the voting polls, and people beyond the Community have taken notice.

Community member Angela Willeford was recently recognized for her push for voting in Indian Country with the 2016 Frank Harrison and Harry Austin Citizenship Award. She was acknowledged at the 68th annual American Indian Right to Vote Celebration in Fort McDowell on July 15.

The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, in partnership with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), hosted the celebration.

“I don’t accept this award on behalf of myself,” Willeford said in her recognition speech. “I want you to know I accept this award on behalf of the voter coordinators and the individuals that have paved the way and fought for the constitutional right for Native Americans to be able to vote. I accept this award for my Community, as they know the importance and allow me to advocate for this important issue.”

Willeford is the Community’s Intergovernmental Relations program manager and coordinates Get Out the Vote campaigns. On July 13 and 14, she led a GOTV workshop at Two Waters. Others are planned in the coming weeks, she said.

“It’s important for people to vote so that Native Americans can be represented in city, state and federal (positions),” she said. “Our voice needs to be heard on all three levels. There’s so many people that have influence on the Native community, so we need to make sure whoever we are appointing in power has our back.”

Frank Harrison and Harry Austin, both Yavapai, were key players in helping secure the right of Native people to vote in Arizona. They filed a lawsuit more than 60 years ago challenging the denial of Native voting rights after being refused the opportunity to register to vote in Maricopa County.

On July 15, 1948, the state Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s first people had the right to vote in local, state and federal elections.

The citizenship award was created on the 50th anniversary of the court’s decision. In 1998, the families of both men were presented with the inaugural award. Willeford is the 12th overall winner and the third winner from the SRPMIC. Ruth Chough won in 2000 and Ivan Makil won in 2002.

Gary Bohnee, SRPMIC Legislative Affairs special assistant, nominated Willeford.

“Her efforts to educate the Community of the tremendous obstacles American Indians have overcome have inspired many to take action,” reads his nomination letter. “As a result, SRPMIC has increased voter knowledge, awareness, registered voters and voter turnout.”