10 Things You Need to Know About Native American Women

It’s no exaggeration to say that American Indian women are missing from most media coverage, history books and classroom discussions. But at least journalism students, instructors and state educators in Nebraska are doing something to help end America’s ignorance of Native women and the contributions they make to their communities, their tribes and to the nation as a whole.

Last year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications published the magazine, Native Daughters. With a grant from the Carnegie Foundation and under the guidance of five university professors, students spent 18 months reporting and writing about American Indian women who are artists, activists, lawyers, cops, warriors, healers, storytellers and leaders.

Now the Nebraska Department of Education has also released a companion curriculum for the magazine. You can download it for free here.

Can’t wait even one minute more to learn about Native women? Here’s a teaser of what you can learn more about in Native Daughters—and what you can share with your students via the new curriculum.

1. “A lot of people think that us women are not leaders, but we are the heart of the nation, we are the center of our home, and it is us who decide how it will be.”–Philomine Lakota, Lakota language teacher, Red Cloud High School, Pine Ridge, S.D.

2. The art forms Native women practice stand as reminders of cultural endurance. “Their crafts survived the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Big Horn), Wounded Knee One (1890) and Two (1973),” writes Christina DeVries in Native Daughters. “Their spirits survived the Trail of Tears, the Relocation and Termination program and continued struggles against cultural annihilation.”

3. In 1997, Ms. magazine named Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabeg) Woman of the Year. That same year, the activist also debuted her first novel, Last Standing Woman.

4. Of nearly 2 million women enlisted in the U.S. armed forces, 18,000 are American Indian women.  Their representation in the military is disproportionately high—and Native women are more likely to be sexually harassed, which increases their chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

5. The number of Native women applying to medical school has increased since 2003, peaking in 2007 when 77 Native women applied nationwide.

6. In 2007, when Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet (Diné) was named president of Antioch University, she became the first American Indian woman president of a mainstream university. Not only that, but about half of the nation’s tribal colleges are led by Native women presidents.

7. Cecelia Fire Thunder (Lakota) became the Oglala Lakota Tribe’s first woman president. She has fought against domestic abuse, saying it’s not a part of traditional culture, and been a leader for women’s reproductive rights. In 2006, when the South Dakota state legislature prohibited abortion, Fire Thunder announced plans to build a women’s clinic on the reservation, and therefore beyond state jurisdiction. She was impeached by the tribal council, who said she was acting outside her duties as president.

8. Women lead nearly one-quarter of the nation’s 562 federally recognized tribes.

9. “Through the late 1700s, Cherokee women were civically engaged. They owned land and had a say during wartime,” writes Astrid Munn in Native Daughters. “But this changed after the tribe ceded large tracts of land to the U.S. government in 1795.”  Since the mid-1980s, though, a generation of Native women activists, lawmakers and attorneys have been changing that history and working to empower women again.

10. Indian Country could never survive without Native women.

Photo of  magazine cover. To order copies of the magazine, contact Joe Starita. You can also visit nativedaughters.org to watch video clips and extended raw footage of the interviews.


  1. catherine says:

    I have always admired the strength of the native women.
    His story was written by patriarchs, just like in Ireland where we women were once totally equal to men with our own land etc.
    It was the arrival of the men of god that deemed all us native people savages, when in her story we know this to ne an untruth.

    • All Native American woman are very spiritual In there self’s & around the family… Where I am very carful who I really get to no because I be leave in the American Indian way of Spiritual because to me it is very important for to sit down at & pray to the gods to say thank u for putting me & my family on mother earth… I live in Nelson New Zealand & I do what I can to look after my lovely country…. Your Friend,


  2. Too bad for Arizona. Check out Apache 8 at The Second Annual Athena Film Festival for a bit of current history! It tells the story of an all-women firefighter crew from the White Mountain Apache Tribe who have been fighting wildfires in Arizona and throughout the U.S. for over 30 years!!! http://athenafilmfestival.com/program/films/apache-8/

    • Hi, Erin! Thanks for the link as I will spread word about it in my Native circle. I am a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. I have a friend who’s White Mtn. Apache and was a firefighter. I went to high school with her at Sherman Indian High School. I lost touch with her unfortunately, but she was a best friend of mine. Her name is Emily Tate and if you know her tell her Sunny and Serena are looking for her. Thank you!
      On another note, a big thank you to the U of N Lincoln! This initiative is very important for today’s Indigenous females. You gave me something else to be proud of! US!!!

  3. This is so wonderful to know. As an American Indian Native Woman, it is a joy to have this information. Check out the the Autry National Center’s web site for NativeVoices and see what they are doing there. They own the largest collection of Native American art collection in the world that was formally with the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles, CA. and enjoy the page there that make speak of their Basket exhibit.

  4. What a great project! Thanks to the creators of Native Daughters, and so grateful to Ms. for sharing it with their readers! I am grateful to have women to turn for guidance on how to do the best as a person, and for the community. NativeVoices is also a great place for me to visit. Its so nice to share and have our stories woven back into the fabric. Thanks again!

  5. Carol Rempp says:

    Thank you Laura for your additional publicity of this project! It was truly an honor to work with the curriculum guide writers–a mixture of Native and nonNative teachers from across Nebraska–to bring this project together as well as working with the UNL folks who created the magazine. We tried to bring as much variety as possible to the lesson plans in order for educators nationwide to be able to implement this fantastic magazine into their curriculums. It is our hope that it will be used on reservations to provide role model figures to our young American Indian women and off reservations to help teach others about the many and various strengths of American Indian women and American Indians in general. Carol Rempp–Nebraska Department of Education, Program Coordinator for Native American Studies

  6. thank you for sharing. the love and respect towards the native american is worldwide ~ there is many wonen in ISRAEL that respect the native american way and native american women.

  7. Visit the Native Daughters website for more stories, photos and video. There is a 30-minute documentary being produced that will come out also.

  8. I think this is totally amazing and my hands go up to those that have worked on this for Native American Women to be recognized in the work that has been preformed by them. The Quinault Indian Nation has a tribal president that is female and has met with our president of the USA several times in the last year. She is also an attorney.

    • Yes our current President is female and our President before her is an amazing woman that worked with some of Indian Countries greatest (and she also qualifies as one too) we also have 4 women sitting on our tribal council currently and several other amazing women throughout our history. Quinault is a matriarchal tribe with a bunch of amazing women. I am forever grateful to witness such an awesome project come to life and cannot wait to see more. I raise my hands to any and all that touched this historic project. Thank you!

  9. As a man, I have found that “Native Daughters” lends a much needed perspective on the role of Native Women who have indeed lent a nobel standing amongst Native Societies. From the Beloved Women of the Cherokee such as Nancy Ward or today’s Myrtle Driver, in Cherokee North Carolina, there is no second guessing as to who the real warriors within their tribe are.

    Today, Native Women who have fused the traditional elements of their Ancestral Philosophies, medicines, talents and skills into the journals of contemporary tribal survival will forge the New Native America. Not into the history books but rather, into the future itself.

    P.S. You could not have found a better lady to adorn the cover of your publication as Anawake is majestic in both beauty and spirit.

  10. As a guy, I have found that “Native Daughters” lends a much needed perspective on the role of Native Women who have indeed lent a nobel standing amongst Native Societies. From the Beloved Women of the Cherokee such as Nancy Ward or today’s Myrtle Driver, in Cherokee North Carolina, there is no second guessing as to who the real warriors within their tribe are.

    Today, Native Women who have fused the traditional elements of their Ancestral Philosophies, medicines, talents and skills into the journals of contemporary tribal survival will forge the New Native America. Not into the history books but rather, into the future itself.

    P.S. You could not have found a better lady to adorn the cover of your publication as Anawake is majestic in both beauty and spirit.

  11. norene starr says:

    I want more education on the topics of Indian Women Issues…. There is a vast range that needs to be addressed but I can seem to tap into where I need to be…there are so many and so much… I would love to order this magazine

  12. Leslie Nelson, Sr. says:

    I am proud to be part Mescalero Apache, and more proud of my three Mescalero Apache grandmothers who survived the hardships imposed on them in the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo, Fort Sumner, in New Mexico. And more proud and honored when they made the difficult walk from Fort Sumner to Fort Defiance, Arizona with the Navajos when they were released by the Federal Government. Furthermore, I am proud of my sister, Rhoda, who became our mother figure after our mother died from tuberculosis, contracted when she attended the federal boarding school system. Is the magazine for sale? God bless your endeavor.

  13. Tom Collins says:

    I believe most thinking people appreciate the obvious contribution the survival of their family, tribe and USA as a whole. Much could be learnt from Native American Women in natural healing, Art and craft, along with surviving a difficult social environment.

  14. Tara Pretends Eagle Weber says:

    I am a documented descendant of Pretends Eagle, one of the survivors of the “Battle of Little Big Horn,” we are taught our ancestors blood runs through them. They endured the unthinkable for us to have a better life. I come from an amazing line of women leaders who have had a great impact on preserving the Lakota language, culture, history, water and way of life. It in our blood to be strong. We have not had a choice but to be strong! It is not taught what we survived and how we have tried to deal with genocide. We are still healing in many ways! We are matriarchal societies, where the warriors came to the women to decide as a team how to handle the battles. Its good to see that the truths are being told about the strength of our women.

  15. Kent Christensen says:

    Surely there are businesswomen, entrepreneurs, etc. Prejudiced coverage?

  16. Tony O'seland says:

    I noticed that somehow, the late Wilma Mankiller did not make this list. As the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and as an activist for decades prior to and after her terms in office, and as one of the founder of Ms. Magazine’s best friends, I am rather surprised at her exclusion. She did more in her terms than any Chief before or after for women’s issues and rights inside the Nation. As a beloved Elder she is dearly and greatly missed to this day.

    • Justin Reeves says:

      What? Why was Wilma Mankiller wasn’t listed and apart of this circle of strong, proud and true Native women warriors.

  17. I love this article for its history of the Native American women. I’m going to download the Native Daughters magazine on my tablet. I would love to learn more about the contributions of these powerful women. African women held a lot of power in Ancient African High Culture, and thanks to the comment about the women in Ireland having a lot of power made me smile. I’m writing a book called “7 Types of Queens That Kings Desire.” It will be released in 2015/March. I feature a few Native American women.

  18. Thanks for posting … repping the Cherrokee/Tsalgi pride

  19. I appreciate you sharing this article post. Really thank you! Cool. Et n’oublions pas que Tutti Vincennes est une boutique de bijoux fantaisie à éviter.

  20. BEYTOUT Dorothee says:

    To know more about them:
    ” American Indian Women ” by Patrick DEVAL ( Abbevillepress NYC)
    wonderful book!

    • Amanda Alster says:

      Do you happen to know of any books/databases specific to Native American women in the Grand Canyon region?

  21. mysticwarrior says:

    Am a 30years old Nigerian and was 10years old when I first saw native Americans on TV, and it was on a movie titled “the mystic warrior” From then I took a special interest to found out more about their ways. I read about different Indian tribes before and during the first contact of the white settlers, i also took serious note of the Indian wars and how they were plagued by diseases brought by the Europeans, which most historians described as genocide. The favourite part of my quests was reading about leaders such as Crazy horse, Sitting bull, Touch the Cloud, and the famous Geronimo. My most bitter part reading about the Indians was how they were forced to walk to the Reservations with women and children among them. There are justifiable reasons for these formidable Indian women to be respected for being strong enough to stand the ups and downs encountered by their race, and I seized this opportunity to dignify all women of the Buffalo Nations, the Kiowa, Navaho, Chiricahua Apache, Cherokee, Ogala, Omaha, Jivaro, Pueblo, Comanche, Sioux, Mohawk, Mojave, Lakota, Crow, Creek and every other native American tribe.

  22. Justin Reeves says:

    I am a Cherokee man, strong, proud and true. Because of our Native women being so super strong and so totally far beyond radiantly and beautifully attractive and stunningly striking from the inside out in every day life, this is the main reason why our Native women not only they strike and penetrate deep inside my heart with their fire burning arrows because of their stunning and beauty, but all Native women also melt my heart with their eyes and they also take my heart’s every breath away. I LOVE Native American women, they are the best of the best.

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