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Richard B. Williams Awarded White Crown Award

April 20, 2012

WhiteCrownIN.jpgAmerican Indian College Fund President and CEO Richard B. Williams received the prestigious White Crown Award from the American Indian Business Leaders group during their national conference in Denver, Colo.

The award gets its name from the white hair that elders have. Older Natives in the Oglala Lakota tradition often called it a white crown. In the 1970s, Henry Big Boy, an Oglala elder living in Kyle, South Dakota, said not many Natives reached an old age because life was so hard. He said, “As you grow older, different things don’t work as well or just give out.” He added that in traditional times, the ageing disappeared in the hills or on the prairie, where they went to die so that they would not slow or endanger the camp. As a result, people who lived to an old age with good health inspired awe in their people, and they revered those that were white-headed.

A white crown was a sign of a wealth of knowledge or experience. People who wore white crowns were available for the asking, and since Natives were mostly oral learners, it was important to have the white crowns share their stories with the young and provide advice because, by virtue of wearing a white crown, the oldest person knew what was best.