As blessings go, the steady movement toward the reclamation of Native women’s individual and collective voice is a significant one. As this high season of ceremony continues in all corners of Native America, numerous efforts are underway at the grassroots level to help rebuild the self- and community esteem of women. In the areas of health (not just health care), family and social relations, governance, and legislation, the important messages that Native women have to offer are being heard and heeded.
The appointments of several capable and talented Native women to the Obama administration signals an acknowledgement of the importance of meaningful consultation between and among Native peoples. It is also a wise recognition of the responsibility inherent within Native women leaders to promote peace and respect. As work to rebuild Indian nations from the effects of colonization continues, empowering women as a strategy is always found to be successful. It is said that restoring and safeguarding women’s rights is the key to solving problems of any particular society. Generational wisdom, traditional tribal roles, and practical contributions by women only strengthen Native societies, be they small and local or large and collective.
Bringing the voices, stories, power, and pride of Native women to the national consciousness requires encouragement, participation, and the intelligence of all generations. At the community level, rites of passage ceremonies for young women are true community endeavors. How better to prepare women for leadership roles than to immerse them in the ancient cultural traditions of their own people?
It is these practices which remind us of our relationships with the universe, our ancestors, and those yet unborn. The very concept of leadership can be transformed from brief terms of tumultuous politics to a deeper respect for the processes by which we maintain our identities as indigenous peoples.
The sacred duties of women and the leaders among them include childbearing and rearing, planting and cooking, for good reason. At one time, these important tasks ensured the continuity of future generations. Today, they are constant reminders of our roots to the land, and leaders who remember the land in their deliberations tend not to make hasty decisions.
It is in this spirit that Indian Country Today offers a special section on the Strength of Native Women. It is an acknowledgement of the simple but revolutionary acts indigenous women perform each day by virtue of their very survival.