Annie Dodge was born on 11th April 1910 to Henry Chee Dodge, elected Chief of the Navajoes, and Kee’hanabah, one of his wives, near the settlement of Sawmill, Arizona.
Through her parents she was then affiliated with the Tsenijikini clan (Honey-combed Rock or Cliff-Dwelling People) on her mother’s side and the Coyote Pass People on her father’s.
Her father was one of the most well-respected Navajo ranchers and leaders, and when Annie was a year old, he took her to live with him and his wife Nanabah at their house in Sonsola Buttes, near Crystal. Here she was raised alongside her half-sister and two half-brothers.
In 1918, Annie was eight years old and sent to boarding school at Fort Defiance. In the same year, the Spanish Influenza pandemic hit with many of the children and staff being taken ill, including Annie herself. She recovered and aided her school nurse in caring for the sick.
Annie married George Wauneka in 1929, whom she had met at school, and the two would go on to run a ranch together and have nine children.
In 1951, Annie was the second woman elected to the Navajo Nation’s Legislative Tribunal Council and she would sit on the council for thirty years.
One of Annie’s most notable achievements was her fight against tuberculosis within the Navajo community. In 1953, she was appointed as chair of the Health and Welfare Division of the Community Services Committee to help deal with tuberculosis.
In 1956, she was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Indian Health.
She received a degree in public health and worked with the tribe’s medicine men to establish how to combat the spread of the infection including improved housing, water quality, and access to modern medicine.
In 1963, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Annie died in 1997, leaving behind her legacy as a medical pioneer. She was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame as well as being called Legendary Mother of the Navajo People by the Council.
Carolyn Niethammer, I’ll Go and Do More: Annie Dodge Wauneka, Navajo Leader and Activist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004)
Jan Cleere, “Legacies of the Past: Historic Women of Arizona,” Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 1 (2012): 89-105
Wolfgang Saxon, “Annie D. Wauneka, 87, dies; Navajo Medical Crusader”, New York Times, 16th November 1997.