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Johnson receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Tadd Johnson was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native American Finance Officers Association in September 2021.

Through its work in growing tribal economies and strengthening tribal finance, NAFOA supports the advancement of independent and culturally vibrant American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

NAFOA commended Johnson for his years of dedication and commitment to advocating on behalf of their communities and Indian Country by honoring him with a NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award. The organization affirmed that he has paved the way for a brighter economic future for Native American people.

Johnson is the University of Minnesota’s first Senior Director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations. In this role, he serves as the liaison between the entire University of Minnesota system and the regional Tribal Nations.

An enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Johnson served as a tribal attorney for more than 30 years. He has also served as a tribal court judge, a tribal administrator, and is a frequent lecturer on American Indian history and Federal Indian Law. He spent five years with the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately becoming staff director and counsel to the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs.

In 1997, President Clinton appointed Johnson to Chair the National Indian Gaming Commission.

As director of graduate studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, he worked with tribes to create a Master of Tribal Administration and Governance (MTAG) degree and a Master of Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship degree (MTRES). He helped establish a program with the State of Minnesota and the 11 tribes to educate state employees on the history of federal, state and tribal relations. To date, he has educated and trained over 3,700 state employees.

Johnson earned his B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and his law degree from the University of Minnesota. He has served as a faculty member of the National Judicial College and has served on the Board of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. He is currently on the Board of the Native Governance Center; serves as director of the Tribal Sovereignty Institute; and is on the Board of Trustees of the Udall Foundation.


For over a decade, the NAFOA Board of Directors has recognized innovative and influential Native American leaders who have devoted their careers to bringing about positive economic change for both their communities and Indian Country.

The NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are nominated and selected by the NAFOA Board of Directors. These individuals are viewed as experts in their fields and respected for their years of career and volunteer work that boasts a lifetime dedicated to growing tribal economies.

NAFOA launched over three decades ago as the Native American Finance Officers Association to highlight the role of tribal finance in fostering economic opportunities. Since that time, NAFOA has grown along with tribal economies.

NAFOA is committed to supporting tribal economies through sound economic and fiscal policy, innovative learning opportunities, convening thought leadership, and developing resources for tribes that strengthen governance and exercise sovereignty.

Published in Breaking Education

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