White Face, an environmental scientist, recently won a Giraffe
Award for her efforts to battle corruption and uranium pollution
over the last 30 years. (photo by Josh Morgan, Rapid City
In a press release originating from "an island north of Seattle,"
The Giraffe Heroes Project, announced Wednesday that Oglala Lakota
activist Charmaine White Face, of Rapid City, South Dakota has received
their most recent commendation "as a Giraffe Hero, an award given
to people around the world who stick their necks out for the common
"White Face was honored for her actions on behalf of her fellow
Oglala-Sioux," the release said, adding that "she has fought against
corruption that has left too many Oglala-Sioux in extreme poverty."
Reached at her home by ICTMN, White Face said she was not aware
of even being nominated. "Of course, it's a great honor to be considered
in this way. It is very humbling. I only hope it brings added attention
to the fight we're engaged in."
In recent years, White Face has [continuously] sounded the alarm
on the dangers of ambient radiation from abandoned uranium mines
in the area," according to the commendation.
White Face has long been a spokesperson for and member of Defenders
of the Black Hills, an organization dedicated to resisting ongoing
environmental degradation of the He Sapa, the sacred Black Hills,
through uranium mining and other forms of extraction of minerals
they believe are a danger to the area's water supply and local habitat.
The Giraffe Heroes Project states that "Her efforts have been
opposed by many who benefit from the corruption she's worked to
stop; White Face has been repeatedly threatened and the brakes on
her car have been cut."
The Project website spreads these hero stories to inspire more
people to become active citizens, thereby fostering a healthy democracy.
The Project's motto is a quote from La Rochefoucauld, "Nothing is
so contagious as an example. We never do great good or great evil
without bringing about more of the same on the part of others."
Giraffes tend to be involved in long-term efforts they've initiated
and their in-the-moment stories of physical heroism are sent to
Carnegie Heroes Commission which specializes in such pieces.
The "sticking their necks out" factor means there's an ongoing
edge to what Giraffes do. People who are fulfilling their job descriptions
or people who selflessly volunteer at the local foodbank don't make
it through the Giraffe choosing processGiraffe Heroes have
got to face some level of risk; it doesn't have to be physical,
but it does have to be a risk. People who are just famous, talented
or gorgeous don't make the cut either.
Unlike other awards, the number of Giraffe commendees fluctuates
from year to year. "If all the nominees qualify, all are commended;
if none do, none are chosen. There are no quotas involved and each
nominee is considered in relation to the criteria, not to each other.
This is not a competitionthere are no bigger or best Giraffes.
You just are one or you aren't."
A "voluntary panel of friends" that meets roughly three times
a year selects the Giraffe Heroes. Currently, Giraffe Heroes estimates
there are about 1,400 commendees living "heroically" around the
Giraffe Heroes Project
The nonprofit Giraffe Heroes Project was born in the head and heart
of Ann Medlock, a freelance editor, publicist, speech writer and
writer living in Manhattan. Ann started the Project in 1984 as an
antidote to the mind-numbing violence and trivia that pervaded the
media, eroding civic energy and hope. People needed to know about
the heroes of our times and all that they were accomplishing as
courageous, compassionate citizens.