Annie Dodge Wauneka was born in a hogan on the Navajo Indian Reservation on April 11, 1910. Her father, Chee Dodge, was the first chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council. Chee Dodge was a strong supporter of education and made sure that each of his children received a good education. He also made sure that Annie was trained in politics.
In 1942 Annie held her first position with tribal government when her chapter house elected her to the Grazing Committee. When Chee Dodge died in 1946, Annie began to take up more and more of her father’s work. She was elected to the Navajo Tribal Council in 1950 and served there for the next twenty-seven years.
Annie fought many battles for her people in the council and in Washington D.C. She worked hard to get bigger and better schools built on the reservation; she worked for better housing and water development for sanitation as well as crop irrigation. But health topics on the reservation were Annie’s main concern. Annie served on many boards for the Navajo tribe, mostly dealing with health issues: the Navajo Area Health Board, the Navajo Health Authority Board of Directors, Navajo Nation Health Foundation, and the Navajo Way. She also worked with BIA doctors and a special research team from Cornell University.
Annie Wauneka took steps to eradicate tuberculosis on the Navajo Reservation. She visited people in their homes and gave radio programs about the need for those with the disease to seek medical assistance. She strived to create in-roads between traditional Navajo healers and physicians in order to improve health care among her people. Lowering the high rate of infant mortality was another of her goals. In addition, she continued her own education, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Arizona. Later her alma mater awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her tireless efforts on behalf of her people.
In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson presented her with the Medal of Freedom. Other awards came from the North American Indian Women’s Association, the Girl Scouts of America, Project Concern, the Public Health Service, and the National Community Health Representatives. She was presented with the highest award given by the Society of Public Health Educators, the Will Ross Medal, from the International Lung Association. In 1959 she was the recipient of the Indian Council Fire Achievement Award for her work with Indian health issues.
In 1993 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and passed away in November 1997. In October 2000 Annie Dodge Wauneka was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.