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Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2001

Former governor revered by tribes

July 29, 2001

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— To Kansas, she was former Gov. Joan Finney. To the Kickapoo Tribe, she was White Morning Star Woman an honored and revered person.

She was given her Kickapoo name Wah na ko qua in 1991 by tribal elders after she became the first governor to recognize by official proclamation the sovereignty of American Indian tribes.

"She was a much loved friend of the tribe," said Nancy Bear, tribal chairwoman. "There are not too many people the Kickapoo would label as a beloved friend ... a very revered type of friendship."

Mrs. Finney, a Democrat who served as governor in 1991-95, died Saturday in Topeka. She had been diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this year.

Her reputation as a friend to the American Indians spread beyond Kansas.

"The policies she developed with native people in Kansas could be followed by other states," said Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement.

Lance Burr, former Kickapoo attorney general, said Mrs. Finney was the only governor who stood up for casinos on Indian reservations. But her support extended to other areas, including tribal sovereignty and the idea of fair treatment of American Indians.

Burr recalled that Mrs. Finney was the first governor to invite tribal leaders to meet at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence.

"She took it upon herself to ask what they felt about issues rather than dictating policy to the tribes," he said.

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