Smokey McKinney (Nanimnukshkuk)

After a 4-year journey with pancreatic cancer, Smokey McKinney (Nanimnukshkuk), 62, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at his Kansas homeplace surrounded by loved ones.

Smokey was born on April 1, 1959 in Tampa, Florida the son of James Noonan and Olive Agnes (Viers) McKinney. He married his “one,” Kristy Louise Scott on November 22, 1980 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She survives of the home.

Other survivors include his daughters, Megan McKinney Todd (Seth) and Lindsay Sayre Pederson (Joseph), all of Lawrence; son, Taylor McKinney (Debi), Lawrence; two grandsons, Luke Sayre, Aaron Sayre; mother, Olive Agnes McKinney, Lawrence; four sisters, Darlene Young (Rodger), Karen Kennedy (Clyde), Leah McKinney, Rebekah Lierman (Richard); and numerous nieces and nephews, whom he treasured. Smokey was preceded in death by his father, Jim (Nanimnukshkuk) McKinney.

In 1982, Smokey received a Bachelor’s of Music Education from Baker University in Baldwin City, KS, then went on to gain a certificate of ministry from Harding University. Over the next 15 years, he served as youth and campus minister in various locations and worked on preserving the Potawatomi language with his father and the elders. In 1998 Smokey earned his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Professional Communication from Iowa State University, and joined the faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University. Indigenous education and language were the hallmarks of his career–Smokey cared deeply for each of his students. He was a proverbial and literal trail-blazer, spending a lot of time in the woods, working to make healing in nature accessible to all who would come. He was a teacher, philosopher, poet, linguist, creator, mentor, and warrior. He loved life and truly embraced spirit.

Legacy Celebration for Smokey McKinney will be held on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at 2:30pm at the Carnegie Building on the corner of Vermont and 9th Street in Lawrence, KS.

The family requests that attendees wear a mask to the celebration service in respect for the most vulnerable among us.

An open house reception (meal provided) and story slam will follow from 4:00 – 7:00pm at Sacred Ground-Haskell, 127 Pawnee St., Lawrence, KS.

Memorial contributions may be made in Smokey’s name to the American Indian College Fund and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.


8 Condolences

  1. Dan M LeGrand on October 19, 2021 at 4:50 pm

    Kristy and family, I am sorry for your loss. I didn’t know Smokey but it sounds like we need more people like him in this world.

  2. Jill Wagner on October 20, 2021 at 11:20 am

    I am deeply saddened by Smokey’s passing. My thoughts, prayers and healing wishes are with his family.

  3. Susie Wilson on October 22, 2021 at 12:28 am

    Rebekah Lierman I did not know your brother but it sounds like I would have liked him. You must be very proud of him and the work he did on your ancestors. I’m sorry for your loss.

  4. Frank Eichhorn on October 23, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    Beloved Smokey is smiling down on us from heaven. His care and love is an example for all of us to remember and live by. His gentle nature and fun loving spirit are memories that provide much needed calm and smiles when I think of him. God bless and all my love.

  5. Mike Shurtz on October 24, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    With my deepest sympathy, I wish you peace, Kristy.

  6. Eric Anderson on October 26, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Smokey was a respected colleague from whom I learned a lot. We had a number of wonderful and deep conversations over the years. I will miss him.

  7. JOANNE M EICHHORN on October 29, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    We will never forget all the good times we had together and while the kids were growing up speaking of which, remember the pic we took, tummy to tummy, when you were full term with Megan and I was 6 mos. with Chris and Frank? We were about the same size! Lol, you sure had a big Megan! So sorry we lost touch I lost your phone. Smokey was such a kind and loving father and friend. love Joanne and Chris Eichhorn

  8. Elizabeth on December 4, 2021 at 7:14 am

    I am very sad to hear of Smokey’s passing. I never got a chance to know him. However he was a valuable asset to the Haskell community as I’ve seen. Elizabeth Hein 2006 American Indian Studies graduate

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