The daughter of Henry Chee Dodge
, Anna Dodge Wauneka was born in 1910 in a Navajo hogan near the town of Sawmill, Arizona. Her mother, K'eehabah, was one of Dodge's three wives. Annie had a non-traditional upbringing living on Dodge's ranch, where her family was much more prosperous than many other Navajo families.
At eight years old she attended boarding school in Ft. Defiance. From fifth grade on, Anna went to school at the Albuquerque Indian School. The school greatly affected her life. First she met her husband, then during an influenza outbreak she found herself helping the nurses. Annie never forgot how her classmates suffered.
After the 11th grade she returned to her home to inform her parents that she intended to marry George Wauneka. Her pronouncement was unusual, considering that Navajo tradition had families arranging their children’s marriages. George and Anna's marriage also did not reflect Navajo custom. George stayed home and raised their children and tended the herds while Anna traveled with her father, Henry Chee Dodge, who had formed the Navajo Tribal Council in the early 1920s. He was the first chairman of the Council, elected in 1923.
On the reservation Anna witnessed the devastation caused by disease, especially tuberculosis. She helped her people by bringing "the white man's medicine" to them. She went about this task in an unusual manner. She made up Navajo words for Western medical procedures to calm fearful patients. Wauneka is credited with saving the lives of at least 2,000 tuberculosis victims.
The many years of traveling with Henry Chee Dodge, the first chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council, prepared Anna to join the Navajo political scene. After her father’s death Anna became the first woman elected to the Tribal Council. She served on the Council for more than 30 years and became chair of the Health and Welfare Commission.
Anna Dodge Wauneka served the New Mexico Committee on Aging and served as a member of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service advisory board. In 1963 she was the first Native American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to health care. In 1976 she received an honorary doctorate of health from her alma mater, the University of Arizona.
When she died at the age of 87, Navajo Tribal President Albert Hale (her grandson) said,"She made us proud to be Navajo."