NAIA History and Origins

The Conception of NAIA

On the Road to New Beginnings

The Native American Indian Association of Tennessee has come a long way from the hot morning of October 2, 1982, at the newly dedicated Riverfront Park in Nashville. On this day, a few concerned individuals were called together by Ray Emanuel to discuss the possibility of forming an organization which hopefully would be able to help the Native American Indians living in Tennessee. There was no reservation in the State and no official program available in Middle Tennessee to address the many needs (as identified by government and social agencies) of the Native American Indian population that had been calling for help.

Ray had become known to many of the agencies and departments of state and city government as a Native American who cared for the needs of his people and was a source to resolve problems. The requests he received became too great for any one individual to handle, and he requested a few of his friends who had always helped him in the past meet with him to organize an official American Indian organization that would be recognized by government agencies and would unify those who were concerned for the needs of the Native American Indians in the area.

The group contacted to assemble at Riverfront Park had already demonstrated their willingness and commitment to try to help provide for the needs of the Native American Indians that were being overlooked, ignored, or even sometimes discriminated against. It will be noted that out of the ten (10) original individuals present at Riverfront Park, four still remain – Nina Brannon, Ray Emanuel, Peggy Williamson and Sally Wells. The charter members of the association are:

October 2, 1982
Nina Brannon Etta Purcell
Robert (Bob) Horton H. Ray Emanuel
Bill Woodard Diamond (Dolly) Orlando
Peggy Williamson Jerry Freeman
Sally Wells Marjorie Freeman

The Association has helped provide, or arrange for, house/apartment rent, clothes, utilities, health care, college and vocational training, literacy training, job placement, as well as many other services for eligible applicants.

Our Annual Indian Education Pow-Wow and Arts Exhibition has grown each year and is one of the largest east of the Mississippi River. We have been awarded grants by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Tennessee Historical Commission, and the Nissan Corporation. We have also received private contributions from varied sources.

Jerry Freeman, Historian