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April 28-30, 2011
University of New Mexico Arena - "The Pit"

Avenida Cesar Chavez Blvd. SE (Hwy. 25, exit #223)

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

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Native American Lakota star A Tribute to our good friend Sammy 'Tonekei' WhiteNative American Lakota star
A Lifetime of Achievement & A Special Honoring for Powwow Announcer of the Past Century - Interview by Dr. Lita Mathews for G.O.N. 2001

© Please respect this copyrighted material. It is not to be duplicated for any purpose without explicit written permission from the copyright holder.                                          *Page Updated on: 04/26/2010

Sammy 'Tonekei' White

Lita: l know you are from Anadarko, Oklahoma, you are of the Kiowa Nation and you are a very good Master of Ceremonies. I also know that you were voted best emcee for the last three years by the readers poll of the Oklahoma Indian Times.
Sammy:
Ahoe - thanks for giving me this opportunity to thank all the readers who voted for me.
Lita: Let me back up here and say, thanks Tone-kei for this interview. To begin with, I asked you to write a piece in which you touch on your many accomplishments. You said that it would not feel right talking that much about yourself, so enter Uta. Now, how long have you been emceeing?
Sammy: My son Sammy III and I did some research and we discovered that my first powwow emceeing was in 1968. I started when I was ten years old. aye!
Lita: I asked you earlier to be thinking of how many states and countries you have visited as an emcee.
Sammy: 31 states including Hawaii and Alaska. The countries I've emceed in are Canada, Tahiti, Mexico and New Zealand, they were native audiences.
Lita: Derek, Melonie and I were in the audience last year when you were center stage with the New Mexico Symphony here in Albuquerque. We cracked up when you gave the conductor a gift of your Gourd Dance blanket and said, "they took everything we had when they first came here and I'm still giving." You made us feel proud.
Sammy: The name of the symphony was Pau-wau and it was written by a young Mohican composer named Brent Michael Davids. You guessed it, I was the powwow announcer in that symphony.
Lita: I've read your profile in several powwow souvenir books, they usually mention that you are a Marine veteran and that you belong to warrior clans. It also mentions your past involvement in multimedia projects furthering our Indian culture. Name some of those media projects please.
Sammy: Media thing is all in the past.
Lita: You are receiving a, "Lifetime of Achievement - Powwow Announcer of the Past Century Award." Therefore, we need information on your past achievements. You know...
Sammy: I know and I'm very honored. Ahoe.
Lita: What phase of the media are you involved in?


Tonekei and Vinita...still together after 50 years! Congratulations!

Sammy: I still write a column called, "Tonekei Speaks."
Lita: Didn't you have a television show at one time?
Sammy: I had a television talk show for 14 years, it was called, TRIBES; Voices From The Land. It was on an ABC affiliate station. Had three radio shows called, Indians for Indians, Tone-kei's Experience and Reflections. I'm proud to report that I won the Radio Indian Media Award at the 1984 National Indian Communications Conference sponsored by The Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium. It was for the Indians for Indians show sponsored by the Oklahoma University.
Lita: Did you do these shows simultaneously?
Sammy: Sure did. Plus 1 wrote a weekly column for an Oklahoma City newspaper and was editor of an Indian newspaper called Camp Crier
Lita: Did you have a regular job?
Sammy: I worked at the OKC Native American Center, I was the Public Information officer. I concentrated on becoming a part of all forms of the media because in those days, 1960 -  1990 there was NO outlet between any phase of the media and the Indian world.. I decided to do something about it.
Lita: Did the Indian community respond favorably?
Sammy: It was overwhelming, we now had an Indian lifeline, we now knew what was happening from one tribe to the other. Speaking of an Indian lifeline, my wife Vinita and I set up a Dial-A-Powwow phone service about that time.
Lita: What committees or boards have you participated in?
Sammy: I've been a part of many committees and boards. Some of the outstanding ones are, National Congress of American Indians ( I held the title of Area Vice President for two terms). I was the first Pres. Of UNITY. I sat on the Human Rights Commission of OKC. Presently I set on the American Indian Heritage Foundation of D.C., Arizona Commission of the Arts and Alt. Rep. of the National Indian Council on Aging.
Lita: Seems you don't dwell on the past very much. Are you more of a planner for the future?
Sammy: Little bit I guess... I try to concentrate on what's going on now. I try to live each day the best way I know how. Like right now, I know you're sincere and caring in asking me these questions so I am trying my best to cooperate. By the way, I feel my future will take care of itself.
Lita: My family saw you in the inaugural parade and caught you emceeing the inaugural Indian ball four years ago . I hear you were apart of the inaugural parade and ball again this year. Did you have fun?
Sammy: I sure did. I just wish we had been celebrating Gore as President.
Lita: I hear the year 2001 is extra special for you and your wife, Vinita.
Sammy: It's very special cause we are getting a divorce JUST KIDDING. We are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. Did I mention that I have four children and many grandchildren? Iím proud of them.
Lita: Congratulations! You should be an expert on what makes a good marriage. How about it?
Sammy: I am not an expert, we have been together this long because we want to be together and want is the key word. Another special thing happening in 2001 for me is, I'm being inducted into the Kiowa Nation's Hall of Fame. I'm very proud of that, my own tribe...
Lita: Well Tone-kei, I have a feeling we could go on talking along time about why we are honoring you at the eighteenth Gathering of Nations. I am like many of your fans, I respect your strong ways and your commitment to our people. Thank you for this interview. Do you have any closing words?
Sammy: Thanks Lita, I've read your books and I like them. I thank the many friends and relatives who came to the Gathering of Nations to be a part of the honoring ceremony. Ahoe.

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