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Native Excellence Gala

The Native Excellence Gala brings together Tribal Nation heads of state, community partners and members, educators, and students to celebrate changemakers and leaders who are making a positive impact on behalf of the Indigenous community. With prestigious awards bestowed upon nominated individuals, the evening includes a VIP reception, dinner and entertainment to honor and celebrate award recipients.

Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House

155 South Central Campus Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

VIP Reception: 5 – 6 p.m.

Dinner, Entertainment & Award Ceremony: 6 – 8:30 p.m.

portrait of Fawn Wood wearing Indigenous jewelry and wide brim hat

Native Excellence Gala Keynote

Fawn Wood

Plains Cree/Salish Singer

Fawn Wood comes from the tradition of Round Dance and Hand Drum music. She was introduced to spiritual songs by her parents and grandparents, singing along with them at Pow-Wows from an early age. Through her music, she shares a deep passion for her community and speaks to the strength of Indigenous women. Fawn won the Hand Drum contest at the Gathering of Nation’s Pow-Wow in 2006, the first woman to do so. Wood’s latest album, Kâkike, received the first JUNO Award in the new category Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year (2022). With over a million engagements on TikTok, Wood has become a social media influencer who utilizes traditional music to revitalize languages and culture.

Native Excellence Awardees

It is with great pleasure that we recognize and honor the following individuals as a recipients of the 2024 Native Excellence Awards.

Rios Pacheco

Knowledge Keeper

Davina Smith


Stella Mae Tsinajinnie

Lifetime Achievement

Dustin Jansen

Native Excellence Alumni

Shai-Anne Nalder

Native Excellence at the U

Cynthia Benally

Native Excellence in Higher Education

Eileen Quintana

Native Excellence in PK-12 Education

Connor K. Warner

Native Excellence in PK-12 Education

Shelby Chapoose

Native Excellence in the Community

Donna Eldridge

Native Excellence in Health Equity

Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake

Community Partner