Justice Anne K. McKeig to Receive 2017 Distinguished Minnesotan Award

Justice Anne K. McKeig, the first American Indian to serve the State of Minnesota as a Supreme Court justice, is the recipient of Bemidji State University’s 35th Distinguished Minnesotan award.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne K. McKeig

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First presented by Bemidji State in 1981, the Distinguished Minnesotan award acknowledges the contributions of current or former residents of the state who have performed exemplary service to the people of Minnesota or the United States.

The Distinguished Minnesotan traditionally delivers Bemidji State’s Commencement address. The university’s 98th Commencement ceremony will be held May 5 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.

McKeig, a member of the White Earth nation, was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Gov. Mark Dayton on Sept. 1, 2016. Dayton called McKeig up from Minnesota’s 4th Judicial Branch, where she was appointed to serve by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in March 2008.

Before her appointment by Gov. Pawlenty to the state bench, McKeig specialized in child protection and Indian welfare issues as an assistant county attorney in Hennepin County’s Child Protection Division, an Indian Child Welfare Act specialist and a part-time staff attorney for the American Prosecutors Research Institute.

A 2016 Minneapolis Star-Tribune story describes McKeig’s appointment as “a career milestone” for an attorney who rose from poverty and other disadvantages in the tiny town of Federal Dam, near Leech Lake, to become the 94th associate justice on the state Supreme Court.

In addition to her role on the Minnesota Supreme Court bench, McKeig is a trainer for the Minnesota Department of Human Services and an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

McKeig earned her bachelor’s degree at the College of St. Catherine and her juris doctorate at Hamline University School of Law. She is a member of the American Indian Bar Association and a former member of the County Attorney’s Association.

Bemidji State University’s Distinguished Minnesotan award was presented annually from 1981-2009, and was not awarded in 2010 or 2012.

McKeig is the third Minnesota Supreme Court justice to receive BSU’s Distinguished Minnesotan award, joining Justice Rosalie Wahl (2002) and Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz (2006).


Recipients of Bemidji State University’s Distinguished Minnesotan award

  • 1981 — Sigurd Olson, naturalist and author
  • 1982 — Karl Kassulke, athlete and handicap advocate
  • 1983 — Janet Dearholt Esty, businesswoman and entrepreneur
  • 1984 — Frederick F. Manfred, author
  • 1985 — Dr. John Najarian, transplant surgeon
  • 1986 — Dr. Harlan Cleveland, political scientist
  • 1987 — Muriel Buck Humphrey Brown, advocate for the disadvantaged
  • 1988 — Elmer L. Andersen, businessman and former governor
  • 1989 — Curtis L. Carlson, businessman and philanthropist
  • 1990 — William S. Marvin, businessman and community leader
  • 1991 — Meridel LeSueur, writer and social activist
  • 1992 — Veda Ponikvar, newspaper publisher
  • 1993 — Nellie Stone Johnson, political and social activist
  • 1994 — Cheryl Dickson, leader in humanities programming
  • 1995 — William H. Kling, innovator in public radio
  • 1996 — Jerry Willet, businessman and former state senator
  • 1997 — Ann Bancroft, explorer of the North Pole and South Pole
  • 1998 — Bob Bergland, congressman and former U.S. secretary of agriculture
  • 1999 — Coya Knutson, congresswoman
  • 2000 — Jon Hassler, author and educator
  • 2001 — Libby Larsen, composer
  • 2002 — Rosalie Wahl, Minnesota Supreme Court justice
  • 2003 — Edgar Heteen, entrepreneur and snowmobile pioneer
  • 2004 — Herb Brooks, men’s ice hockey coach
  • 2005 — Gerald Vizenor, author and educator
  • 2006 — Kathleen Blatz, chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court
  • 2007 — Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator, & Shiela Wellstone, advocate against domestic abuse
  • 2008 — Dr. Alex Cirillo, Jr., vice president for community affairs, 3M
  • 2009 — Don Shelby, television anchor
  • 2010 — no award given
  • 2011 — Susan Marvin, president, Marvin Windows & Doors
  • 2012 — no award given
  • 2013 — Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, senior military assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense
  • 2014 — Trudy Rautio, CEO, Carlson Companies
  • 2015 — Jon McTaggart, president & CEO, American Public Media Group
  • 2016 — Darby & Geri Nelson, philanthropists
  • 2017 — Justice Anne K. McKeig, Minnesota Supreme Court