Donald Wanatee Sr.

Donald Wellington Wanatee Sr., 88, of Tama, passed away peacefully Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at his home on the Meskwaki Settlement in rural Tama under the care of his family and UnityPoint Hospice-Grinnell.

Traditional Graveside Services will be held Friday, April 23, 2021 at 2:00 PM at the McIntosh Cemetery on the Meskwaki Settlement in rural Tama with Larry Lasley Sr. as speaker. Head Pallbearer-Wayne Pushetonequa and Pallbearers-Lucius Bear, Bryant Bear, Richard Wolf, Cordell Bear, Larnell Bear, Jarvis Bear, Trevor Mauskemo and Adonis Lasley. Head Cook- Avis Bear. A Traditional Wake will be held Thursday evening at the Eagle Clan Ceremonial Building on the Meskwaki Settlement.

Donald was born on January 4, 1933, in Toledo, Iowa, the son of Frank David Wanatee Sr. and Jean Adeline (Morgan) Wanatee.

He graduated from Tama High School. He attended college at Central, Luther, Iowa State, and got his Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa – go Hawks.

Donald served his country in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War from 1951-1955 on the USS Chowanoc. He previously served as the Commander of the Robert Morgan Legion Post #701.

In 1961 he married Mary Jo Richardson in Iowa City and they later divorced. On May 15, 1970, he married Priscilla Lasley in Le Grand, Iowa. Donald was a social worker where he was a specialist for ICWA. He served on the Meskwaki Annual Pow Wow Association, the Meskwaki Tribal Council, office of the State Archaeologist Indian Advisory Council, Democratic Committees on the County, State, and National levels, and served as Executive Director of the Meskwaki Tribe. Donald was a Meskwaki man that lived a traditional Meskwaki life. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading, writing, talking and cartography. Donald loved spending time with his best friend and wife, Priscilla, his family and grandkids.

Donald helped shape many issues that created positive advancements for people everywhere, especially Native Americans, in matters including but not limited to the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and subsequent amendments that gave authority to tribes to operate BIA schools and determine education programs for the children. He had a role in creating Chapter 263B of the Iowa Code protecting ancient human remains, a law that was enacted through the combined efforts of Native American representatives, the State Archaeologist, state legislators, and the Governor of Iowa. Donald served many decades on the Indian Advisory Council for the OSA, and was recently recognized by the Iowa DOT and the State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa for his long-term leadership efforts to improve relations between Iowa’s Native American community and the State of Iowa. Additionally, he fought as a Water Protector for the right of all people to have clean, safe water.

Donald was a diplomat and a powerful instrument of positive change for many issues that benefited all people, no matter their race or creed. He was an informed citizen who was confident that his voice and his vote mattered, and he encouraged others to do the same even if they didn’t agree with him. His friends were legion, and even his adversaries liked him. Wherever he went, whatever problems there were that needed solved, he spoke with a thoughtful, clear, and strong voice. For many years, he was often one of the few Native Americans in the room whether it was a classroom, meeting room, or a Rotunda, and he did not take the responsibility lightly.

Survivors include his wife, Priscilla; siblings, Elizabeth Roberts, Marian Davenport, Darrel Wanatee, Frank Wanatee Jr., and Sunni Joy all of the Meskwaki Settlement; children, David Clark II, Dawn Suzanne, Heather, Donnielle, Donetta, Donica, Donnae, and Donald Jr. all of the Meskwaki Settlement; grandchildren, Christopher, Carolyn, Caitlin, Clarisa, Thane, Quinn, Megan, Jay Jr., Jaycob, Jaylynn, Loveena, Viviana, Romeo, Neveah, Natalia, and great-grandchildren Shian, Aidan, Vincent, Milah, Kamehl, Thea, and Luna.

Preceding him in death were his parents; and siblings, David Clark, Ethelyn, and Francis.

Kruse-Phillips Funeral Home, Tama-Toledo is assisting the family with the arrangements.