Celebrating deana harragarra waters

November is Native American Heritage month and Friday, November 24, the day after Thanksgiving, is Native American Heritage Day.

Over the course of our country's history, we navigated changing ideas about the original inhabitants of this land called America. What has not changed is the fact that we, Indian people, Native Americans or Indigenous people, whichever term you use, remain here and yet most Americans do not know our history.

On November 27, Friends will be hosting a very special book/movie discussion of “Killers of the Flower Moon”. Friends School Librarian, Oklahoman-born deana harragarra waters will host a Q&A based on her culture and experience.

deana has been Friends School’s librarian for 24 years. deana says that her desire to be a children’s librarian was influenced by her Kiowa grandfather who was sent to boarding school where he learned to love books and reading. She has also worked as a medical librarian at Children’s Hospital and as a law librarian for a nonprofit legal organization.

deana graduated from law school, was in private law practice and sat as her tribe’s first judge in the Otoe Missouria court system. deana is Kiowa and Otoe and enrolled with her Father’s people, the Otoe. She grew up in Oklahoma, often on her Kiowa grandmother’s allotment, the place where “the feather dance” last took place. All four of her grandparents are “full-blood” Kiowa or Otoe. The Kiowa are classic Plains Indians, having originated in northern Canada, migrating into the Yellowstone area, the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado until The Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 removed them to western Oklahoma. The Otoe were the first Indian people to have a diplomatic encounter with the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery in 1804. They were later forced to sell their Nebraska homeland and then forced to buy their new reservation land in what is now Oklahoma. The state of Nebraska gets its name from two Otoe words “Ni Brathge (née BRAHTH-gay) which means “water flat.”

In small town Sheridan, Wyoming, Crow tribal leaders and civic minded activists wanting to address racism in their surrounding community established the Miss Indian America title. It was an advocacy project in human relations well before the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 1960s. deana served in that role for one year of life. While the Miss Indian America title no longer exists, the remaining titleholders and their families recently established the Miss Indian America Collective to continue this value work of history and hope.

In the early 1990s, while working as the Director of The National Indian Law Library, Native American Rights Fund, she traveled often to Washington DC to advocate for all Indian people. One memorable highlight was providing testimony before Senator Daniel Inouye who led the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs for the establishment of a museum, archive and resource center to tell this part of America’s history. In September 2004 the National Museum of the American Indian was opened and deana and her family were there to witness this historic event.

In 2021 deana assisted the Denver Art Museum in the installation of their Western American art galleries. Later that year, she was at the State Capitol to witness the culmination of a multi-year effort to finally end Governor Evan’s proclamation authorizing citizens to kill and take the property of Native Americans. deana shared that, “Words are inadequate for me to describe watching Governor Polis sign an executive order rescinding Territorial Governor John Evans’ proclamation to kill people like me.”

Thanks to deana’s creativity and dedication to the Friends School’s library, our library was recently praised by the education committee of the Boulder chapter of the NAACP as having the greatest depth and breadth of diversity of ANY school library they have visited. The committee Chair commented that many schools put diverse books out on display but when you look at the books lower on the shelves there is usually very little there. She spent a long time looking through the books on the lower shelves and was blown away by the diversity and representation she saw. She loved that the books weren’t just about heroes and events but about everyday stories with children of color as the protagonists. She was excited that a child of color looking through the shelves would see themself represented strongly and beautifully in the selection of books on every shelf and that the quantity and quality of books for, by and about people of color was remarkable.

A voracious reader herself, deana believes in the power of reading and brings so much love and careful thought to the selection of books for Friends School’s library. Her Otoe people are closely associated with the Osage whose story is so powerfully shared in the book and depicted in the movie “Killers of the Flower Moon”. We are very grateful to have her as part of the Friends School community and look forward to sharing an evening with her on November 27th.

Read more about deana in our 2021 blog post here:


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