Dr. Barbara Chester


Throughout her work and her being, Barbara became part of the Hopi family. In 1997, upon learning of Barbara’s serious illness, The Hopi Foundation Board formally recognized her with the following resolution:

  • “Contributing to the building of the Hopi Foundation through her commitment, dedication, friendship, work, and love;
  • Devoting her life to making life better for all peoples in the world;
  • Upholding and supporting the teachings of local indigenous societies learning to help themselves; and
  • Restoring the lives and hopes of families and children torn apart by conflict and violence through the establishment of the CPRV.”


The Hopi Foundation declared Barbara Chester to be a member of the Hopi Foundation family now and forever.”


Upon her death in October 1997, The Hopi Foundation, family and friends of Barbara established the Barbara Chester Award. In issuing this award, The Foundation and other supporters wished to: (1) honor outstanding persons undertaking the arduous and often dangerous work of providing healing services in circumstances of torture; (2) call attention to such abuses directed against specific regions and communities; and (3) draw worldwide support for prevention of torture and associated trauma.


The Award includes a cash prize of U.S. $10,000, and a handcrafted silver eagle feather sculpture featuring Hopi symbolism for healing and qa tutsawinvu – “freedom from fear of intimidation from any source.” The Barbara Chester Award embodies Hopi values of caring, healing, and courage: the same values by which Barbara lived her life.

Because Mercy Has A Human Heart



The question has been asked: Why would a Native American organization – The Hopi Foundation -- be interested in healing survivors of torture? And why would the Hopi sponsor an international humanitarian award named after a woman – Barbara Chester – born and reared in New York?


The answer can be expressed in the translation of a Hopi word, one that represents a significant and beautiful love between Barbara Chester, the Hopi people, and humankind.


            The phrase, qatsit namiwiwta, means: “To intertwine their life ways.”

The Intertwining Life Ways


This sense of interconnected unity is not just an abstract goal. Founded in 1985, Hopi people established The Hopi Foundation to provide a community-based, non-governmental alternative to promote self-reliance in the spirit of Lomasumi’nangtuksiwmani – the process of furthering unity of aspiration blossoming into full maturity over time. Entirely Hopi run, The Hopi Foundation engages in activities and programs that foster the preservation and revitalization of cultural strengths and self-determination for the benefit of all people, and the reconciliation of conflict among societies.


In 1992, The Hopi Foundation acted to address the needs of their indigenous counterparts to the south. During the 1970s and 1980s, repressive governments of Central and South America increased their use of torture as a tactic to intimidate perceived enemies. The result was a flood of refugees north to the United States, many of them women and children, many torture survivors. In fact the U.S.-Mexican border became a gateway for people across the world to escape torture and violence. The Hopi Foundation’s Board of Trustees noted that it was particularly fitting that the Hopi – known as people of peace – be the originating force for a project dedicated to healing the destructive legacy of violence.


In 1992, working with The Hopi Foundation, Barbara founded the Center for the Prevention and Resolution of Violence (CPRV) in Tucson, Arizona. CPRV joined forces with members of the courageous Sanctuary Movement and the Southside Presbyterian Church to provide multidisciplinary and integrated care to refugees and others impacted by torture and violence. The CPRV provided and facilitated medical treatment, psychotherapy, alternative forms of healing, and client advocacy and education, and ran an anti-violence prevention program for youth. Today, The Hopi Foundation continues to support Owl & Panther, a creative writing program for youth and their families

To Clinicians and Healing Practitioners for their work with Survivors of Torture

In honor of the life and work of Dr. Barbara Chester, The Hopi Foundation has established an award for outstanding clinicians and practitioners who treat victims of torture, their families and communities. In issuing this award, we hope to honor the worthy persons who undertake the difficult and often dangerous work of providing healing services in circumstances of torture. We hope also to call attention to such abuses directed against specific regions and communities, and draw worldwide support for prevention of torture and associated trauma.

2016 Award Winner Press Release

Argentinian Doctor to Receive Hopi Award

Dr. Diana Kordon of Argentina will receive the 7th Barbara Chester Award for her clinical work healing survivors of torture.  For four decades, Kordon has provided psychological services to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and others affected by atrocities committed by the military dictatorship in her country.  She is currently the coordinator of the Argentine Team of Psychological Work and Research.  Presentation of the Award will occuron October 8, 2016 on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.
 The Barbara Chester Award is the world’s first anti-torture award and is a project of the Hopi Foundation. It includes a $10,000 cash prize and a Hopi handcrafted silver eagle feather sculpture. These will be formally presented at the Saturday, October 8th event on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. Previous recipients are Shari Eppel of Zimbabwe (2000), Juan Almendares of Honduras (2001), Allen Keller of New York  (2003), Alp Ayan of Turkey (2006), Mary Fabri of Chicago (2009) and Dr. Naasson Munyandamutsa of Rwanda (2013). 
During the “Dirty War” period from 1976 to 1983, Argentina’s military dictatorship killed between 10,000 and 30,000 citizens. “The situation was terrible,” Kordon recalled. “Professionals were disappearing. We had to move regularly. I was close to being arrested at one time.”
In her quest for information about her missing colleagues, Kordon soon met The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who had brought international attention to the plight of the Desaparecidos (citizens arrested and never seen again) through highly publicized weekly vigils. 
“When these mothers learned about my profession they asked if I could offer psychological assistance because many of the members were experiencing depression,” Kordon recalls. With them, she created and coordinated the Equipo de Atención Psicológica a Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Team of Psychological Assistance to Mothers of Plaza de Mayo). 
Dr. Nora Sveaass says Kordon was “among the first to identify the relationship between the violations perpetrated by the dictatorship and the traumatic effects that these violations had...not only on the affected individuals but on society at large. The establishment of EATIP (Equipo Argentino de Trabajo e Investigación Psicosocial) in 1990 represented a further strengthening and systematization of this important, pioneering work.”
The Barbara Chester Award is given as a tribute to honor the life and work of the late Dr. Barbara Chester, a pioneering clinician who directed the first treatment program for torture survivors in the United States. Later she treated indigenous refugees from Central and South America, as well as survivors from more than 50 countries. In particular, her work stressed the role of culture in determining both how an individual experienced the trauma of torture as well as the best approach for recovery.
How the world’s first anti-torture award came to be sponsored in a small and remote non-gaming Native American reservation is a story in itself.  About 18,000 Hopi people live in northeastern Arizona, the oldest continuously inhabited location in North America.  Given the remoteness of Hopi, their culture has survived largely intact in spite of focused efforts at forced assimilation. Based on her pioneering work establishing the Center for the Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, Dr. Chester was contracted by the Hopi Tribe and later moved to Arizona to work for the Hopi Foundation. After her death and to honor her work, The Hopi Foundation established and promotes The Barbara Chester Award.
Cities are seen as attracting diverse people who learn from each other and develop sophisticated and tolerant values. To an outsider, Hopi is merely a collection of 11 villages in a barren landscape with a culture substantially at variance with “modern” America.  The reservation seems an unlikely source of the first international prize given to clinicians who work with torture survivors, yet it is from this land, this culture and these people that a sophisticated network of tolerance and support has reached around the world.  The Hopi help humanity heal from the very worst that humans can do to each other.
Nikishna Polequaptewa, graduate of the Hopi Foundation’s Leadership Program states, “In Hopi, by integrating all aspects of life into balance with ourselves, the environment and our spiritual beliefs, the wellbeing of individuals, the local community, and the world as a whole is served.”
The Hopi Foundation
Phone: (928) 734-2380
Email: bcaward@hopifoundation.org