“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.” – Cheyenne proverb.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, We at ICTMN are celebrating the sacred women in this world. They are the ones who raise the warriors and the chiefs – those who are charged with protecting the people – and our women encourage and may even shame the men to do what is right. And if the men can not do it, then the women will.
In honor of these women, who rose up and did what they had to do. Here are 5 modern day Native women warriors. Stay tuned for more to follow.
Wilma Mankiller was the first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She served 12 years as Deputy and Principal Chief starting in 1983 and retired in 1995 due to health reasons. She transformed the Nation-to-Nation status between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Government, won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 and was a role model to aspiring young Native women. The 2013 film, The Cherokee Word for Water is a popular movie depicting early community work that led to her rising political career. She walked on in 2010.
Harris is a Comanche activist, community organizer, political leader, founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity and the American Indian Ambassadors Program. She was married to Fred Harris a rising star in the Democrat Party and she became a media star in Washington, running as a Vice Presidential candidate in 1980 on the Citizens Party ticket. She fought extensively the civil rights for Native American tribes and her legacy was made into a documentary, LaDonna Harris: Indian 101.
Rigoberta Menchu Tum
As a young indigenous woman who grew up in the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture, She was involved in social work through the Catholic Church in Guatemala. Her family members were killed by security forces and she joined the Committee of the Peasant Union. She worked internationally to help her Mayan people resist the military oppression and support Indigenous People’s rights during the brutal Civil War having fled in 1981, many books and films have been made documenting these struggles between 1983 and 1999. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Ellen Gabriel (Katsitsakwas)
As the spokesperson for the Kanehsatake Mohawks during the Oka Crisis in Quebec in 1990, Gabriel gained international recognition when the Mohawk people took over disputed lands that had been claimed for 120 years. The move triggered a standoff between 2,500 Canadian Troops and the remaining Mohawk warriors. Gabriel travelled internationally to drum up support for the Oka Mohawks and spoke at U.N. events about Indigenous People’s issues and human rights. In 2009 she ran for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations but lost in a disputed election. She is an artist and teaches at Concordia University.
Grace Thorpe (No-Ten-O-Quah)
A member of the Sac and Fox Nation and daughter of Jim Thorpe, she was a WWII veteran, tribal district court judge and went to Antioch Law School. Grace had been an activist since Alcatraz and won a 1999 Nuclear Free Future Award for organizing 30 Tribes on 70 reservations to resist the U.S. government’s efforts to store toxic and nuclear waste on Indian lands. She walked on in 2008.