OKLAHOMA CITY — Debra Echo-Hawk (Pawnee) and Hannibal B. Johnson were inducted into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame during an event at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21.


Echo-Hawk serves as the Executive Director of the Pawnee Seed Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization in Pawnee, Oklahoma. The group focuses on revitalizing endangered heirloom seeds. Echo-Hawk has played a pivotal role in the preservation of numerous ancestral corn varieties that face the threat of extinction. In 1998, Echo-Hawk was honored with the title “Keeper of the Seeds” by the Pawnee Nation Culture Committee. In 2003, she helped initiate the growth of the last remaining seeds of ancestral corn known as Eagle Corn. The successful harvest took place two years later in Nebraska, the ancestral homeland of the Pawnee Tribe before they were relocated to Oklahoma in the 1870s. Today tribal members in Oklahoma and across the world maintain gardens to contribute to preservation efforts. The Pawnee Seed Preservation Society now holds 24 varieties of ancestral corn.


Johnson is an author, attorney and independent consultant. He currently serves on the 400 Years of African American History Commission, a group that develops and facilitates activities nationwide to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Africans arriving in the English colonies in 1619. Johnson chaired the education committee for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission and served as a local curator for Greenwood Rising, a state-of-the-art history center that commemorates Tulsa’s historic Greenwood district and the Tulsa Race Massacre. Johnson has held many other leadership positions for local, state and national nonprofit organizations. Most of the 11 books he has written chronicle the African American experience in Oklahoma and its indelible impact on American history. Johnson has received numerous honors and awards for his community service work, including inductions into the Tulsa Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

“Debra Echo-Hawk and Hannibal Johnson join a distinguished list of Oklahomans who have dedicated their lives to help collect, preserve and share our state’s rich history and culture,” said Trait Thompson, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “We appreciate their unwavering commitment and look forward to seeing how they continue to impact the state and country.”


Sen. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa and Rep. Bob Ed Culver of Tahlequah received the Guardian of History Award for their work in the Oklahoma Legislature. This is the third year the award has been presented to elected officials who provide outstanding support of the OHS’ mission and are vocal proponents of its continued success.


The following awards were also presented:


E. E. Dale Award
Outstanding Book on Oklahoma History
“Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street” by Victor Luckerson

Muriel H. Wright Award
Outstanding Article Published in “The Chronicles of Oklahoma”
“The Influence of Oklahomans on the Bakersfield Sound: One of Country Music’s Greatest Eras” by Phil Neighbors (Spring 2023)


Bruce T. Fisher Award
Outstanding Oklahoma History Project
Gardens on Blue Hawk Peak
Pawnee, Oklahoma


Linda Williams Reese Award
Outstanding Dissertation or Thesis on Oklahoma History
“‘The Modern Frontier’: Oklahoma Settler Memory in the mid-Twentieth Century” by Martha Beliveau, University of Oklahoma


Joseph B. Thoburn Award
Outstanding Student Historian
Adrian Pan, Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics


William D. Pennington Award
Outstanding Social Studies Teacher
Jaime Lee, Bixby Middle School


Tulsa County Commissioner and OHS Board Vice President Karen Keith served as the emcee for the event. Keith has been a Board member for more than a decade.

“I was so excited to see area Tulsans honored by the Oklahoma Historical Society,” said Keith. “Their work has benefited the entire state and beyond.”

Proceeds from this event will go toward the Emily Bell Endowment Fund, which benefits the John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick Research Center at the Oklahoma History Center.

The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.