2021 Good Apple Awards: Danelle Smith, Roots of Justice Award

Join us throughout the month of October as we celebrate the honorees of its 2021 Good Apple Awards, Appleseed’s annual fundraiser celebrating community advocates who are building a more just, vibrant, and inclusive Nebraska.

The 2021 awardees represent what’s possible when Nebraskans step forward to tackle our toughest problems in the spirit of building community, working collaboratively, and persistently pursuing justice and positive change.

Danelle Smith - Roots of Justice Award

The Roots of Justice Award recognizes grassroots advocates who have made outstanding contributions to justice and opportunity for all while building a stronger community. Danelle Smith exemplifies the work of grassroots advocacy to build a stronger community. As a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, she has focused so much of her life’s work to empower her community and create positive change.

Big FireDanelle is a founding partner with Big Fire Law & Policy Group, LLP, a 100% Native-owned, majority women-owned, law firm dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes and organizations throughout the United States. Ms. Smith has extensive experience in a broad range of policy, governance, legislative, regulatory, administrative, business, financing, and employment matters. She served as the tribe’s general legal counsel for 14 years and has represented Tribes and tribal organizations in a broad range of governance, administrative, legislative, business, financing and employment matters. These connections throughout the community made a huge impact when she worked with Nebraska Appleseed on nonpartisan voter engagement with the Winnebago Tribe and other Native voters.

WCHSDanelle has made huge impacts on her community in her current role as the Chief Executive Officer of the Winnebago Comprehensive Heathcare System, a subdivision of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. The WCHS manages all of the Tribe’s health programs, including the Twelve Clans Unity Hospital and the Winnebago Public Health Department. She ensured that the tribal hospital had a successful transition and was able to continue operations serving the community while serving on the Self-governance Steering Committee that worked on the initial planning and implementation of the tribe’s health services. In her role as CEO, she played a major part in working with community team leaders to create a public health response plan for Covid-19. As a result, Thurston County had one of the highest vaccination rates in the state of Nebraska.

“Danelle’s work is about working with community members to create positive change in her community,” said Becky Gould, Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director. “Community power is strengthened when people are engaged in voting and when they have the health care they need to thrive. Her work aligns with Appleseed’s work to improve voter engagement and to advance access to health care. I am inspired by Danelle’s willingness to tackle big challenges, work collaboratively, and to do it all with humility.”

Danelle also serves as an advisor for the Great Plains Area on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ national Tribal Technical Advisory Group and is a member of the National Indian Health Board’s Medicare, Medicaid, and Health Reform Policy Committee. She serves on the Liberty National Bank Board of Directors, the Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation Board of Directors and is the former Chairperson of the Indian Law Section of the Nebraska State Bar Association. Previously, she has served on the Boards of Directors for the Nebraska Justice Center, Legal Aid of Nebraska and the Ho-Chunk Community Development Fund. She has taught business and legal studies classes at Little Priest Tribal College, served as a member of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project Committee, and served a four-year elected term on the Thurston County Board of Supervisors.

Watch the Roots of Justice Award presentation video on our Facebook page.

To learn about all of this year’s Good Apple Award honorees and how you can contribute to Nebraska Appleseed in honor of them, visit neappleseed.org/goodapple.

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