Let me make this short and sweet: We at Indian Country Today have a glorious gallery of Native American writers and thinkers, and a great many of these folks are immensely imaginative and seriously wise indigenous women.
My loving mother, a wonderful indigenous woman herself, taught me two things early on in life: "Never sit on your lips when you should open your mouth," and "Now shut up and let the women talk." These lessons have served me well so far, and why stop now? Indeed. Lo, here's Part I of our series on Native American women at ICTMN.
1. Sheena Louise Roetman, Lakota
Sheena Louise Roetman
Sheena Louise Roetman is a Lakota journalist from Wyoming, living in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a speciality in American Indian and advocacy media from Georgia State University where she sits on the board of the alumni association for the student newspaper, The Signal, and advises the editorial board on sports media, op-eds and media law. She is Director of Membership and Programs at the Atlanta Press Club, and regularly works on projects involving eating disorders, food sovereignty, cultural care and infertility in indigenous communities. Follow her on Twitter @sheenalouise.
"Native American women are the single most under-represented demographic group in media, holding only 0.1-percent of jobs in the journalism industry, while also suffering from some of the worst statistics involving sexual assault, access to health care and systemic racism," Roetman said. "It is absolutely crucial that we support Native women in media, and that we train and encourage the next generation of Native journalists, so that we are in control of our own narrative and can begin to work toward homegrown solutions and true sovereignty."
2. Tessa McLean, Pinaymootang First Nation
Tessa McLean, Ojibwe, is a student, scholar, and activist from Pinaymootang First Nation. McLean is a United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues delegate.
"Our story as Native women has always been dictated by a patriarchal and dominating society; it’s so important to write our own narrative," she said. "Our communities have been marginalized for so long, I want to show that we can break free and liberate ourselves. Within my own community, our homeland was flooded by the province and is now inhabitable; many people including elders have been displaced permanently. More recently, my loved one was murdered by domestic violence. Will justice for my homeland and loved one ever come if we are silent?"
3. Genesis Tuyuc, Maya Kaqchikel
Genesis Tuyuc, Maya Kaqchikel, was born and raised in New York City. Tuyuc is a writer and filmmaker. Her passion for indigenous issues has led her to pursue a degree in journalism, with a focus on documentary film, at Columbia University. She will graduate in May 2017. Follow her at @Genesis_Tuyuc.
"For there to be meaningful and positive change within our communities, which includes how we, as original peoples of these lands, relate to each other and to other communities of color, it is imperative that women's perspectives are consistently in the forefront," Tuyuc said. "Our opinions, our bodies, our dreams are continually scrutinized, yet they never cease to come in such beautiful array of shapes and forms. By being present and active in media, we are slowly reclaiming that respect we have always known we deserve. We do it because we know the power of the contributions of our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunties, etc. It's time for everyone to recognize it, too."
4. Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation
Tara Houska at the People's Climate March, NYC. Courtesy Ay?e Gürsöz.
Tara Houska is a citizen of Couchiching First Nation, and a tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C. She is the National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, an environmental justice non-profit, a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, and an advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Houska's work has ranged from grassroots organizing to clerking for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Tara is dedicated to mino bimaadiziwin, Ojibwe for "The way of a good life." Follow her on Twitter @zhaabowekwe.
"Native women are often called the 'backbone' of our communities,'" Houska said. "Whether it's revitalization of indigenous languages or fighting on the frontlines against extractive industries, women always play a key role. This should be no different in the media; all genders have a voice and perspective that is essential to representing the rich diversity of Native peoples."
5. Dr. Adrienne Keene, Cherokee
Dr. Adrienne Keene
Dr. Adrienne Keene is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and is a scholar, writer, and blogger. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University, and will be starting as an Assistant Professor of American Studies at Brown in the fall. Her academic work examines Native students and college access, and she is also the creator and author of the blog Native Appropriations, where she examines and critiques representations of Native people in popular culture. Follow her on Twitter @nativeapprops.
"Native peoples in general are so invisible in the media, and Native women's voices continue to be silenced and marginalized," Keene said. "Women have always been the heart of our Indigenous communities, and our perspectives and words are vital in order to transform the way Native issues are discussed and debated in the media. I too often see topics suddenly become relevant and timely as soon as a male voice speaks out--even when Native women have been sharing and writing about the same topics for years. The only way to change and challenge that inequality is to continue to elevate women's voices and provide platforms for our words to reach larger audiences. The more women we have in these spaces, the better."
6. Emily Van Alst, Sihásapa Lakota
Emily Van Alst. Courtesy Adriana Miele.
Emily Van Alst is Sihásapa Lakota. She will be graduating with an Anthropology and Archaeology double major at Yale University in May 2016. Her academic focus is on indigenous archaeology, Lakota culture, and the curation of Native American objects in museums. She currently works at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) grant assistant, photographing and cataloging over 1,200 Alaskan Native objects. Follow her on Twitter @emilyvanawesome.
"In my academic career I combat romanticized and stereotypical views of Native people every day," Van Alst said. "By consistently having female Native voices in the media, I know that I am not alone. It is crucial that our younger generation of Native girls, fellow Native women, and our Native elders, as well as non-Native people, all see strong, resilient, and diverse Native women working in Indian country, making a difference in our communities, all while defeating misinformation and stereotypes."