Rotary Club names Native American official the Nebraskan of the Year

Judi gaiashkibos hailed as 'cultural mediator and bridge builder' between government and Native Americans

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – For the first time in the 33 years of presenting the Nebraskan of the Year Award, the Rotary Club of Lincoln on Tuesday chose a Native American to receive the award.

Each year, one honoree from a statewide field of nominees is selected based on honesty, integrity and concern for others; service in charitable and civic causes; and leadership and significant accomplishments in their profession or volunteer activities.

Judi gaiashkibos, the director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, is a member of the Ponca Tribe.

The Rotary Club hailed her as a “cultural mediator and bridge builder” between government and Native Americans.

She’s promoted several successful legislative bills.  One of those bills called for an in-depth study of missing and murdered children in Nebraska.

At the award ceremony, gaiashkibos called the people in attendance to action.

“I need your help to get the policymakers to do more to say, ‘We’re going to find those children,'” she said.

She was talking about the children forced to attend the Genoa U.S. Indian School in Nebraska who ended up missing or dead.

Researchers confirmed that at least 87 children died at the school and identified 50 of the students, whose names have not been made public, according to the New York Times.

Gaiashkibos was honored to receive the award.  She said it shows her grandfather that his story is being told.

“I always say, if we can talk about Anne Frank, we can talk about what happened to our people,” she said.

And she doesn’t want to stop working anytime soon.

“I just feel very happy and inspired to continue to do more work,” she said. “I feel like I have the energy and I’m in good health. I want to carry on and do more for our people.”

Gaiashkibos has received several other honors, including the Humanities Nebraska Sower Award, the Nebraska Bar Association’s Laurie Smith Camp Integrity in Service Award, Lincoln’s Inspire Award for Excellence in Government Service and the NEBRASKAlander award for her contributions to the state.

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