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Women’s History Month: An Indigenous Perspective

Women’s History Month:  An Indigenous Perspective

By Montoya A. Whiteman (Cheyenne and Arapaho)
First Nations Senior Program Officer

NOTE: While researching information to develop a Legislative & Policy Update for First Nations Development Institute’s email subscribers, Montoya was unfulfilled by the recognition and ready availability of resources that highlight, support and celebrate Native American women and their positive and inspiring role in U.S. history. This piece encourages us to always demonstrate the estimable standing and role of women in our families, communities and nations..

The Woman is the planter, the cultivator, the harvester of the corn, and this [rite] is meant to portray the important part she plays in the drama of life
~ Anonymous

March is Women’s History Month that annually recognizes the contributions and events, past and present, of women in the United States.  If one were to visit online sites dedicated to this matter, it would be difficult to find a link with a compilation of resources such as literature, photos or exhibits dedicated to American Indian women. Once again, we emphasize our role and presence as the first residents of this abundant land. 

Bless us with the knowledge and wisdom to live as a good relative, with happy hearts and strong spirits, who can face the next millennium with the courage of love and power of peace.  ~ Henrietta Mann, Cheyenne

The roles that American Indian and Alaska Native women serve — including matriarchs, life bearers, cultural teachers, artists, storytellers, homemakers, healers, writers and mentors — is profound.  The strength, knowledge, spirit, ingenuity and beauty of past generations are in each of us. 

They wear an awl case to show they are industrious. They used this a long time ago to make clothes and tipis, everything. The little pouch is for a fire striker, to show they are hospitable and can make a warm home for family and visitors. They wear the knife case to symbolize generosity and the feeding of the people. ~ Lucy Swan, Oglala Lakota

Take a moment to reflect on your mother, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and extended female relatives who influenced you and who are an integral part of your life.  Did you listen, watch and learn?  Our gratitude is great to those who gave us our Indian ways … who spoke, taught and encouraged us as individuals and as sovereign nations.

Smoothing away time with the fluid line
of your memory
I am in place at your table
in the morning damp of your still dark kitchen
I wait for you to come
stepping through the curtained doorway
you enter intent on this day
restart the fire
fill, place the kettle
pull open the kitchen door
inviting daylight to come
welcoming it into your house—
bringing it into mine.
~  Kimberly Blaeser, Anishinaabe

Is a congressional resolution or presidential proclamation necessary to move one toward valuing the meaningful and powerful influences women — all women — have made to our lives?  Do you need encouragement to see the greatness in the woman or women whose hands molded the events, great and small, that shaped your being?

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled to give you form and breath. You are evidence of her life, and her mother’s, and hers. ~ Joy Harjo, Mvskoke Nation

As the Light Snow Moon transitions to the Moon of Budding Trees, it is a time of rebirth, renewal and reconnection. We recognize the hardships, difficulties or suffering that are happening throughout the world.  Reach out to a grandma living alone or to the woman who desires tranquility in her life.
Life’s realities are harsh, but the spirit of American Indian women is everywhere.  American Indian women’s love, dedication, contributions, and their status in and to our Indigenous nations, is a daily blessing to us all!