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LCO's Own Famous Dave Anderson Inducted Into the Native American Hall of Fame

By Joe Morey

News Editor

Dave with Choctaw Chief Gary Batton (center) and Bailey Walker, AICCO State President

LCO’s own “Famous” Dave Anderson was inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City on Nov. 8, in a special ceremony at the new First American’s Museum. Dave was one of eight class of 2021 inductees who were honored for their significant contributions across a range of categories including government, leadership and advocacy, literary arts, business, language, culture, and the health field.

In the press release announcing the inductees, Dave was introduced as, “Ojibwe, businessman and entrepreneur; a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe, established Famous Dave’s Barbeque, a national restaurant franchise. He served as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, CEO of the Lac Courte Oreilles tribal enterprises, served on the Wisconsin Council on Tourism, Wisconsin’s Council on Minority Business Development, the National Task Force on Reservation Gambling, the Advisory Council for Tribal Colleges and Universities, and the American Indian Education Foundation, and was also co-founder of Grand Casinos. In 2002, Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network awarded a grant to Anderson’s LifeSkills Center for Leadership, an organization dedicated to supporting at-risk Indian youth. Anderson was named a Bush Leadership Fellow, Minnesota and Dakota’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young, NASDAQ, and USA Today, and was named Restaurateur of the Year in 1988 by Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine.”

“I’m humbled, honored, grateful,” Dave said of his being named to the Hall of Fame. “I share this recognition because while very humbled, I would not be alive today if my wife didn’t help get me sober and my faith. Today, I openly share that my family, my sobriety, and my faith in an all-powerful God is my foundation.”

Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, from which Famous Dave has lineage along with Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe, introduced Dave at the Ceremony.

“It’s an honor for me as the Chief of the Choctaw Nation to recognize you. We call it the Choctaw spirit of the giving of hope, of faith, of love and forgiveness and to inspire other people to do greater than they even imagined themselves. Dave, you represent that. You represent that to our Choctaw people and for that, we’re forever grateful and we’re so proud of you tonight.”

On a video introduction, Dave said, “I grew up thinking I would never succeed, thinking I was the dumbest kid in class. The teachers would always get mad at me because they said I was always staring out the window daydreaming. And today I’ve been able to turn my weaknesses into my strengths, and today I know that as visioning."

Over his decades of perseverance, Dave has created a restaurant empire, helped shape policy for Indian Country and has created over 20,000 jobs.

“You have to understand, it’s all about living your life to help other people. In business you learn it’s not always about what we get, but what we give of ourselves,” Dave said. “You always want to strive to give other people your best. You have been placed on this planet to make a difference and if you never ever give up, anything is possible.”

“Dave gives people hope,” the former CEO of Famous Dave’s of America, has said of him on the video introduction. “And there’s nothing like hope, it’s like magic. It’s his enthusiasm, his heart and his commitment to people.”

In his acceptance speech, Dave tells the story of how he got into his first restaurant, a tarp-covered lean-to, his mom’s Indian Fry Bread stand. He learned how to cook in that stand at Native Powwows.

“That’s the legacy of Famous Dave’s, and today, we’ve had 200 restaurants all around the country, but we too had our own ups and downs, and today there are 120 restaurants, but we’re growing.”

Dave went on to say there are many thumb prints on the award he was receiving. “This isn’t just about me.”

Dave also shared about obsessively devoted to being a positive difference and a blessing into the lives of others.

“Once you put others first and you give them your best and you work diligently always striving to be just a little bit better than the day before, it seems like the most amazing things happen,” Dave states.

Famous Dave finds himself among an elite group of distinguished Native American’s who were also inducted, including Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne; Joy Harjo, Muscogee (Creek), poet; Marcella LeBeau, Cheyenne River Sioux, health policy leader; Emil Notti, Athabascan leader; Katherine Siva Saubel, Cahuilla, language preservationist and museum founder; Ernie Stevens Sr., Oneida leader; and W. Richard West, Southern Cheyenne, founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian.

James Parker Shield, Little Shell Chippewa, Hall of Fame founder and CEO, said, “The Hall of Fame seeks to bring greater awareness to the achievements and significant contributions of contemporary Native people in society. This year’s class of inductees are the superstars of Indian Country in their respective fields. They have each made a mark and blazed trails not only in Indian Country and their own tribal communities, but have made long-standing impacts to the fabric of American life.”

Photo above taken from WOJB's Livestream of the event, which WOJB's own Mark Lundeen had attended.

The following comes from Dave’s Facebook Page of photos he brought back from his experience in Oklahoma, with descriptions of the photos in his own words.

Saturday, November 6th, I was formally inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame. Very humbling and yet felt grateful. I shared that none of this would be possible if it wasn't for the support of my family and all the hardworking team members who have embraced my family's dream of being the best and live to make the world a happier tastier place! I am proud to be from the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe (mom) and from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (dad)

I just arrived in Oklahoma City and was just itching to see the First Americans Museum where the National Native Americans Hall of Fame Ceremony will be held this Saturday. I got goose bumps as I came over the bridge and saw this glow in the sky! It's absolutely stunning and it's clear the tribes of Oklahoma spared nothing to build this tribute to the First Americans. It's so hard to comprehend sometimes... that this Indian kid believing he was the dumbest kid in class would ever experience something like this! Hold on to your dreams. Never give up hope. Live a life of gratefulness. And thank the good Lord for all the adversities he brought your way! Toughing it out got me here, not good luck!

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