2020 award recipients, photos by Mel Ponder

Enduring Spirit Awards

​The Enduring Spirit Award recognizes the lifetime achievements of Native women who through their commitment of time, energy, and volunteerism contribute to healthy communities. The issues they champion are varied and include: environment, education, youth and family, holistic health (mind, body, spirit), continuation and retention of culture, preservation of treaty rights, sacred sites, and economic empowerment to name a few. 

2020 Honorees

Congratulations to our 2020 Enduring Spirit Award honorees Becky Bendixen (Unangax), Janie Beasley (Swinomish), Renee Swan-Waite (Lummi), and Sondra Segundo (Haida/Katzie)!

Past Honorees


Yvette Joseph (Colville Confederated Tribes), Patty Kiuswa-Gaiser (Cowlitz), Polly Olsen (Yakama), Teresa Taylor (Lummi)


Deborah Sioux Cano-Lee (Salt River Pima-Maricopa), Nancy Shippentower-Games (Puyallup), Jenece Hower (Yakama), Cecilia FireThunder (Oglala Sioux)


Laverne Lane (Lummi); Theresa Sheldon (Tulalip); LaVerne Wise (Tlingit); Gail T. Morris (NaaChahNulth); Cecilia Fire Thunder (Oglala Sioux)


Peggy McCloud (Puyallup); Sue Henry (Suquamish); Emma Medicine Whitecrow (Cherokee/Comanche); Maria Pascua (Makah); and, Charlanne Quinto (Colville)


Robbie Paul (Nez Perce), Mary Ann Peltier (Chippewa & Assiniboine Sioux), Yvonne Peterson (Chehalis), and Frances G. Charles (Lower Elwha Klallam)


Ramona Ahto, (Yakama), Dianne Allen (Coeur d’Alene), Darlene Miller (Seneca), Earlene Balla (Seneca)


Virginia Bill, (Upper Skagit), Beverly Peters (Swinomish), Patsy Whitefoot (Yakama) Teri Gobin (Tulalip)


Mary A. Miller Marchand (Colville), Pearl Capoeman Baller (Quinault), Dr. Verna Bartlett (Puyallup), Dr. Cheryl Crazy Bull (Lakota)

Special Recognition and presentation of the Sister Spirit Award to Eloise Cobell (Blackfeet)


Marlene Spencer Simia (Yakama), Ileen Sylvester (Yup’ik, Athabascan, Aleut), Gloria Simpson (Confederated Tribes of Colville – Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce), Deborah Parker (Tulalip)


Special Recognition and presentation of the Sister Spirit Award to Mary Kim Titla (Apache) 

Viole Riebe (Hoh), Juanita Jefferson (Lummi), Charlotte Kalama (Quinault), Wilma Arquette (Eastern Shoshone)


Debora Juarez (Blackfeet), Ivy Cheyney (Suquamish), Ellen Hope Hayes (Tlingit), Diane Vendiola (Swinomish)


Carol Craig (Yakama), Theresa Parker (Makah), Dr. Lee Piper (Cherokee), Emma Sweet Baxter (Snoqualmie), Lois Sweet Dorman (Snoqualmie)


Johanna Cabaug (Tlingit), Lillian Chappel (Yakama), Julie Johnson (Lummi), Marie Zackuse (Tulalip)


Ramona Bennett (Puyallup), Virginia Cross (Muckleshoot), Joy Ketah (Blackfeet), Marilyn Wandry (Suquamish)


Adeline Garcia (Haida), Joan Staples Baum (Ojibwe), Maiselle Bridges (Puyallup), Gina George (Yakama), Jeannie Halliday Thomas (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

Read more about our previous honorees and their backgrounds below!

Becky Bendixen (Unangax)

Becky Bendixen was born in the Territory of Alaska in King Cove, a fishing village of 700 people, located about 650 miles from anywhere. She lived in King Cove, happily subsisting on the plentiful Alaskan bounty over 40 years before moving to Washington State. 

Since then, working with the many tribal Elders from many states across the nation has been her life’s dream and a great honor. As a tribal specialist for the Northwest Regional Council in Bellingham, Washington, Becky Bendixen developed the Wisdom Warriors program alongside Shelly Zylstra. The program helps tribal Elders improve their health by better managing chronic illnesses through eating traditional foods, participating in cultural activities, and collectively discussing health traditions. Becky has increased her outreach to Indigenous nations every year as Wisdom Warriors goes nationwide. Collaborating with tribes to implement Wisdom Warriors and share it throughout Indigenous communities will always be one of her life’s greatest passions. 

A great deal of the work that Becky has completed has been on her own time, using her own resources. She works from the heart and cares deeply that the individuals who become Wisdom Warriors are successful in managing their health issues. The Wisdom Warriors program is changing Elders’ lives on a daily basis and Becky feels blessed to be one of the program’s creators. Becky believes that embracing Indigenous ways is a priority for our people, as we heal and become stronger in ways that honor our sovereignty.

Janie Beasley (Swinomish)

Janie Beasley is a pillar for her family and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. She is one of 10 children born and raised on the Swinomish Reservation, where she still lives married for 45 years with 2 children.

Janie graduated from La Conner High School and attended Seattle Central Community College, Skagit Valley College, Northwest Indian College, and also graduated from the Leadership Skagit Class of 2007. She served in the U.S. Navy Reserves in the early 1970's. She has worked in various positions in Skagit County over the years, and for the Swinomish Tribe since 1979 - at the Health Clinic, Legal Department, Planning Department, as a Realty Officer, as Assistant Manager for the Swinomish Longhouse Restaurant, and in Tribal Gaming. 

Janie served on the La Conner School Board for 15 years demonstrating her passion for education and the welfare of Native children. At the same time she advocated for her community on the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, and the Skagit Valley College Foundation Board & Tribal Leaders Congress on Education. She continues to serve on the Community Advisory Panel for Marathon Refinery, the Swinomish Planning Commission, the Protect Mother Earth Committee, the Native Studies Advisory Group for Northwest Indian College, the Young Life Committee, and the Leadership Skagit Curriculum Committee. Janie has learned to speak Lushootseed language and has been teaching it to children in the La Conner School District over the last three years.


As an honored Elder, Janie Beasley continuously assists with speaking, sharing knowledge, preparing community meals, and serving as an advocate to many in need of support or a strong mentor.

Renee Swan-Waite (Lummi)

Renee Swan-Waite works tirelessly and with love for community, helping people find their way to meaningful pathways in their lives. Her official title is Lummi Higher Education Manager for the Lummi Tribe, but she brings much more to that job than what the title suggests.  Not only does she help people set goals, identify their strengths and cultivate their interests, but she also stewards her tribe's shelangen (way of life) in every aspect of that process. 

She promotes positive Native identity, fosters connections between the generations, and most importantly, she demonstrates optimism in encouraging all to dream big.  Her belief in the potential of Native people has been a guiding light on many an uncertain path. She expands ideas of what is possible by reminding us how far we've come and she conveys a sense of pride when she shares tribal history taught to her by her grandmother at the kitchen table many years ago. She sets a strong example through constantly reading, seeking wider knowledge and recalling the teachings and guidance of the old people. 

In her role as the administrator of Lummi Higher Education funding, she comes into direct contact with many Lummi people who  are in pursuit of higher education. She learns of their strengths and their plans for their lives,  and is able to visualize with them ideas of how they can use their gifts to strengthen our nation for future generations. Through the years she has become someone to turn to for advice, for letters of recommendation, and for friendship. 

Renee is a bridge builder and encourages others to cross the bridge. She currently serves on the board of the Whatcom Family and Community Network. 

Sondra Segundo (Haida/Katzie)

Sondra Segundo is a published author, artist and singer of the Haida language. She is an educator and has worked in schools and programs throughout the Northwest, teaching art and sharing her stories and songs.

Everything Sondra does tells the story of her beloved people. All of her writings, song compositions, NW Coast Native art pieces, children's books, traditional dance, cultural teachings, language preservation work and community activism are all intertwined by her passion of reclaiming her Haida culture and sharing it from an Indigenous perspective.

Sondra grew up singing both traditional Haida songs with her tribal Elders and gospel music in a South Seattle church choir. She brings both worlds together while singing with tribal-funk band, Khu.éex’ as lead female vocalist. The band is currently working on a new album that will feature 4 original compositions by Sondra. She released her first album, Díi Gudangáay uu Síigaay - I Can Feel the Ocean in 2018 and 2nd album, Sáandlaanaay - The First Light in 2020.

As long time drum and dance leader for the Haida Heritage Foundation dance group, she raised funds for and founded the Haida Roots education program for her community. This grassroots, non-profit organization is creating space for Seattle based Haida to create new books and curriculum, practice their traditional art-forms and re-learn their critically endangered Xáad Kíl (Haida language) through structured programs and online classes taught by local Elders, artists and teachers.

asia@enduringspirit.org  |  206-451-7298  |  815 1st AVE #113, Seattle, Washington, 98104

© 2020