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Guardian Awards

Submit a Guardian of Culture and Lifeways Award nomination here.

• March 1 – Nominations due
• April 1 – Announcements
• June 10 – Awards Luncheon

A committee of individuals from cultural institutions across the nation review award entries. Judges abstain from voting in categories where a potential conflict of interest is perceived. Interested parties wishing to serve on the review committee should contact ATALM at

History and Award Categories
Established in 2007, the Guardians of Culture, Memory, and Lifeways International Awards Program identifies and recognizes organizations and individuals who serve as outstanding examples of how indigenous archives, libraries, and museums contribute to the vitality and cultural sovereignty of Native nations.

Awardees will be honored at the 2014 International Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums Conference in Palm Springs, California from June 9-12. Conference registration, lodging, and travel expenses may be covered for each awardee.

Nominations are sought for seven award categories:

Lifetime Achievement Award - Honors an individual whose work has significantly contributed to the preservation and understanding of indigenous cultural heritage. Individuals should have at least fifteen years of service to the archives, library, or museum professions (in any combination). Past recipients are Dr. Lotsee Patterson, Professor Emeriti, School of Library and Information Services, University of Oklahoma; Irving Nelson, director of the Navajo Nation Library System; Richard West, former director of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Benjamin Wakashige,Director (retired, New Mexico State Library.

Leadership Award - Honors an indigenous individual with exceptional ability to lead and inspire, reflected in accomplishments and broad impact in the archives, library, and/or museum professions. Nominees must currently work in the archives, library, and/or museum professions. Past recipients are Alyce Sadongei, Arizona State Museum; Dr. Loriene Roy, Professor, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Sven Haakanson, Executive Director of the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska; and Amalia M. Reyes, Supervisor of the Dr. Fernando Escalante Community Library in Guadalupe, Arizona.

Honored One Award – Recognizes individuals or organizations whose contributions have significantly benefited the preservation of indigenous cultural heritage and supported the work of tribal archives, libraries, and museums. Multiple awards may be presented in this category. Past recipients are attorney, author and Native-rights activist Walter Echo-Hawk, Oklahoma State Librarian Susan McVey, and Faith Damon Davison, retired Archivist/Librarian of the Mohegan Tribe.

Outstanding Project Award - Recognizes an outstanding project that has greatly benefited indigenous archives, libraries, and museums. Projects may include those in a related profession such as heritage preservation, language, archeology, or anthropology, provided there is a link to an archive, library, or museum. Individuals or organizations are eligible. Past recipients include The Dragonfly Project, a partnership between the Haines Borough Public Library of Alaska and the Chilkoot Indian Association, the Tribal College Librarians Professional Development Institute at Montana State University, Bozeman; the Plateau Peoples' Web Portal, an interactive, online digital archive that provides access to Plateau peoples' cultural materials at Washington State University; and "From the Hands of Our Elders," a collaborative project focused on documenting and preserving the material culture and archival holdings of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Archives Institutional Excellence Award - Recognizes indigenous archives that demonstrate a significant commitment to the preservation and use of documentary heritage. Nominees are evaluated on their effectiveness in improving the documentary record through identifying and ensuring the preservation of records relating to tribal communities and topics; demonstrating success in raising public awareness of the importance of improving documentation; using innovative approaches to identifying and acquiring the records of tribal communities/topics; or using effective and appropriate approaches to making records available to a broader public audience. Past recipients are the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the Seneca Tribal Archives, the Colorado River Indian Tribes Library, and the Citizen Potawatomi Cultural Heritage Center.

Library Institutional Excellence Award - Recognizes an indigenous library that profoundly demonstrates outstanding service to its community. Nominees must have developed innovative and effective services and programs that can be replicated by other libraries; partnered successfully with other institutions to improve and enhance services; or demonstrated excellence in service that has impacted the community in a measurable way. Emphasis will be placed on accomplishments that showcase the library's role as a center of the community. Past recipients are the Colorado River Indian Tribe (Amelia Flores), the Pueblo of Jemez Community Library, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma (Sandy Tharp), and the Ak-Chin Tribal Library (Melanie Toledo).

Museum Institutional Excellence Award - Recognizes Indigenous museums and museum services that demonstrate significant commitment to the care, preservation, interpretation, and presentation of material cultural heritage. Nominees must have demonstrated innovative and effective collections care methods; originality and quality of programming (including exhibitions, education and outreach, events, and publications); and/or successful collaboration with other heritage organizations. Past recipients are the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways, the Cherokee Heritage Center, and the Makah Cultural and Research Center.