Inspirational American Indian women are all around us. Like women of all backgrounds, many are artists, activists, teachers and so much more. Whether currently active or living on through history books, these women have left their mark. There are a number of women I admire for their work and accomplishments. Below is a list of seven inspirational American Indian Women I’d like to introduce to you to.
Grandma Thomas is a language preservation pioneer, and one of the most inspirational American Indian women. This woman amazes me; simply amazes me! Thomas graduated high school at age 29 while married with eight children! She turned her legendary passion for preservation into a mission by completing college and co-founding the Navajo language immersion program in Chinle, Arizona. Also, each year, 82-year-old Thomas walks nearly 70 miles (one way) to raise money for a local youth center.
Ballet is a beautiful, complex, and athletic style of dance. And who doesn’t want to be a ballerina! I mean the high bun and the makeup – come on. One of the most wonderfully talented dancers on record is Maria Tallchief. Born in 1925, Maria was the first American Indian woman to break into ballet. She became not just a ballet dancer but also a Prima Ballerina. In fact, Maria was the very first Prima Ballerina of the New York City Ballet.
Can you imagine being the leader of your country, responsible for the care and protection of its people, culture, language, and political future? In 1985, at age 40, Wilma Mankiller did just that and more during her term as Principal Chief for the Cherokee Indian Nation of Oklahoma, 1985-1995. Wilma was the first woman elected to the position of Principal Chief to the federally recognized tribal nation.
Maria Edmonia Lewis was born around 1844 to a freeman father and Ojibwe mother. Lewis became a world-renowned neo-classical sculptor; the first neoclassical artist of black or American Indian heritage – let alone a mixture of the two! She attended Oberlin College and received training in the US and Europe. Maria funded her education and training with money earned from selling pieces of her early works.
Patricia Michaels is a fabulous designer from Taos Pueblos, New Mexico. Her designs are visionary and the fabrics look wonderful and creative. She has been a designing for a number of years and the product is like wearable art! This past season (season 13) Patricia was picked to compete on Project Runway!
Summer Peters left the corporate world to pursue her passion of beadwork art full-time, creating Mama Longlegz. Widely known for her use of the traditional Ojibwe floral style, Summer occasionally creates lifelike portraits. This mother of three has won awards for her art and was even recognized at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City. The lady is fiercely talented!
Radmilla Cody is a singer/song-writer and former Miss Navajo Nation. Her most notable accomplishment was winning the coveted title of Miss Navajo Nation in 1997, becoming the first bi-racial Miss Navajo Nation in history. Her journey has been rough and filled with controversy; from winning the title of Miss Navajo Nation to incarceration in a federal prison then rising, again, to become a Nammy award winning artist and Grammy nominee!
There is a multitude of lists of important women from all backgrounds throughout history? Well, that’s because we rock! Is there anyone you would add to the list? Please, share!
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