March is Women’s History Month

“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen.
There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”
– Malala Yousafzai

Celebrating Women. Always.

This March, in honor of Women’s History Month, we at First Nations acknowledge the amazing women who have shaped our world. The women in my own life have made me the strong, resilient, confident woman I am today. From my mother’s perseverance, to my grandmother’s strength, to my aunties’ mentorship, I have been raised by amazingly intelligent, tough, and beautiful women.

Buffalo Calf Road Woman, Northern Cheyenne. Photo credit: Wikipedia

I consider myself very lucky in this capacity – I was never taught to be meek or mild. I was taught to be fierce and outspoken, and most importantly, I was taught to be proud of who I am! The women in my life have given me the strength to continue advocating for Indigenous peoples on a worldwide scale, while raising and advocating for the next generation of Indigenous women leaders.

The role of women as revolutionaries in the texts and stories of world history is often minimized or outright ignored. This month and every month, let us remember women whose stories refused to be forgotten – extraordinary Indigenous women who have made great strides:

Buffalo Calf Road Woman, Northern Cheyenne, is believed to have delivered the final crushing blow to General George Armstrong Custer. Although the exact details of Custer’s demise remain unclear, Cheyenne elders claim Buffalo Calf Road Woman knocked Custer off his horse, leaving him vulnerable. It’s said she may have even killed him.

Maria Tallchief (née Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief), Osage. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Maria Tallchief (née Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief), Osage, twinkled her toes to the top of ballet superstardom as New York City Ballet’s first and only Indigenous prima ballerina after her role in The Firebird in 1949.

Rigoberta Menchú, K’iche’ Mayan, was the first Indigenous person and woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize after she campaigned for social justice, ethno-cultural reconciliation and Indigenous peoples’ rights during and after Guatemala’s Civil War (1960–1996).

Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, became the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. In 2018, she was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, the other being Sharice Davis, Ho-Chunk, who is the first openly LGBTQIA+ Native woman elected to congress.

Rigoberta Menchú, K’iche’ Mayan. Photo credit: Wikipedia

So many more notable contributions have been by women. Stephanie Kwolek, a Polish-American chemist, developed a synthetic fiber that was so strong, it was bulletproof. DuPont later patented the fiber and named it Kevlar. Cotton mill worker Margaret Knight invented the paper bag in 1868, but a man named Charles Annan tried to steal and patent her idea first. And one of the most prominent women known around the world is Madam Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, as well as the first person and only woman to win two Nobel Prizes.

Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Not only have women been pioneers in technological advances, they also have advanced their positions in society as political leaders and revolutionaries, paving the path for future generations to make their mark on this world.

Every day is a day to honor women

Creating space for the accomplishments of women should not be limited to a mere few Hallmark holidays during the year, nor should it happen on only one day (like Mother’s Day). Women should be celebrated on a daily basis and be recognized for all their amazing feats, in spite or despite the diminishment of our history and contributions.

This month I hope we all have taken the time to appreciate all the women who have made a difference in our own lives and those who will make the future possible for all of us. Every day let us recognize our mothers, grandmas, aunties, sisters, cousins, and girlfriends. For without them our world would not be the same.

The critical role that women have played throughout history on a global scale is often suppressed by the men who write it. Recognizing this, we should acknowledge women every day and create the space for them to write their own narratives.

Marisa Page

First Nations Development Officer