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Parker: Empowering women and communities

Every summer I look forward to an important gathering of Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations at its annual conference. It gives me time to focus on gaining new tools for my business and personal life, and the opportunity to strengthen cultural ties and feel the bond and support from other Native women.

Since 2004, WEWIN has provided support and training to American Indian and Alaska Native women working in their communities to make a difference. Through our conferences, women are provided tools and training in grassroots activism, business ownership, advocacy skills, leadership development, financial management, building reservation economies, as well as educational seminars on sovereignty and personal wellness.

Our typical WEWIN member is someone who is active in her community, either in business, politics, or community activism, and is devoted to bringing about a better future for their community and Indian country at-large.

Against all odds and with great personal sacrifice, these women have taken actions during their lives to preserve the well-being of their daughters and sons seven generations from now.

This year’s 6th Annual WEWIN Conference is focused on “Sovereignty: The Strength for Native Women,” and is being held from July 20 – 23 at the Cherokee Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, a suburb of Tulsa, Okla.

Our mission is to build a stronger voice among women in Indian country, and to promote increased dialogue and political support for Native women. Our founding members – many of whom are former elected leaders – are committed to working with other organizations to strengthen and sustain tribal cultures for the benefit and destiny of our children.

I’m very excited about this year’s conference, especially since it is in my home state of Oklahoma. I’m very proud to come from a state that has strong Indian women leaders, many of whom will be joining us at the conference this year.

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The Cherokee Nation is hosting this year’s gathering, and the Honorable Cara Cowan Watts, deputy speaker of the Cherokee Nation, will provide the welcoming address for several hundred attendees. Margo Gray-Proctor, a successful Osage business leader who is also chairwoman of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, will provide a workshop for hopeful entrepreneurs.

We will also pay tribute to several outstanding Oklahoma Indian women who will be recognized at the honoring luncheon with awards that acknowledge their service to the community. Against all odds and with great personal sacrifice, these women have taken actions during their lives to preserve the well-being of their daughters and sons seven generations from now. They are an inspiration to all Native women.

The Oklahoma Indian women leaders to be honored include Dr. Henrietta Mann, Southern Cheyenne; Kalyn Free, Choctaw; LaDonna Harris, Comanche; and the late principal chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller, who was a founding member of WEWIN.

There will also be a special tribute to Wilma from her sisters and fellow board members of WEWIN. Other workshops will focus on topics such as political leadership support from the White House Project, strategies for community wellness, managing stress, personal finance, ethical leadership, effective lobbying, and prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Two favorite topics offered at every conference are tribal and personal financial management tools provided by Lynn Rapp, president of 7 Generations, Inc., and the ever-popular workshop on balancing your personal and professional life, presented by Cecelia Fire Thunder, former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribes who is also a nurse and longtime advocate for preventing violence against women.

WEWIN offers training and support like no other conference available because it is tailored to meet the needs of Native women and is presented by Native women with a long history of helping our communities.

Come join us for three days of positive healing tools for the body and mind, new skills to help achieve success in your personal and professional lives, and good information to help build your communities. For more information and registration, visit or contact me at You may also contact WEWIN Co-President Susan Masten at

Patricia Parker, Choctaw, is president/CEO of Native American Management Services, Inc., and a founding member of Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations who chairs the Business and Economic Development Committee.