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Biographies of Notable Native Americans
Ben Nighthorse Campbell - 1933-

Ben Nighthorse Campbell was born to a poor family in Auburn, California in 1933. He grew up to be a Northern Cheyenne chief, Korean War veteran, judo wrestler, U.S. Olympian, jewelry designer and the only Native American serving in the U.S. Senate.

Campbell dropped out of high school and joined the air force, serving in the Korean War. While serving in the military he received his GED high school diploma. He studied the martial arts and became a judo wrestler. He captained the judo team in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. After returning to the States he graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in physical education and fine arts. He also attended Meiji University in Tokyo and received more than 200 awards for his jewelry designs.

Campbell began his political career in 1982 becoming a state legislator in the state of Colorado. In 1987 he moved to the U.S. House of Representatives and then in 1992 became a senator from Colorado. He was reelected in 1998.

Senator Campbell serves as a member of the Appropriations Committee, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Veteran’s Affairs Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee. He also chairs the Helsinki Commission. He was the first Native American ever to chair the Indian Affairs Committee. He has worked to pass legislation settling Native American water rights and protecting Colorado’s wilderness areas. He has also worked to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, a disease that affects the babies of mother’s who drink alcohol during pregnancy.

He sponsored legislation creating the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, The Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park and the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000.

Married for 35 years, the father of two, and the grandfather of three, Campbell continues to enjoy jewelry design and activities such as motorcycle riding.


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