Indigenous women of today have been molded by generations of powerful women. Women who played indispensable roles in spiritual, political, and family life. Women who built nations.
Today, indigenous women of all ages continue to stand for great virtues, courage, and strength. After centuries of colonization, erasure, and devaluation, we still know our worth, and we boldly and firmly hold our place in our respective communities. And just as our ancestors did, we rise through pain, we (re)claim traditions, we raise our children tenderly, and we defend our loved ones with fierce love. We stand for causes, as guardians of tradition, and protectors of all things sacred.
Our interests and skills range from traditional to contemporary, from mother, to artist, activist, advocate, and healer. We devote ourselves and our energy to principles we hold dear. What might seem like the common indigenous woman, today, is overflowing with love – a deep love, that can be turned into an immensity of great things.
With our fierce and feminine love, we turn pain into purpose, committing ourselves to truth, empowerment, and community healing.
The courageous and impactful indigenous women featured here, are just a snippet of who we are. They are making a difference and standing their ground in their communities, ensuring survival, health, and wellbeing, for future generations.
Marita Growing Thunder, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux
High School Senior, Founder of Save Our Sisters Project
Marita Growing Thunder founded a project called Save Our Sisters: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness. She resides on the Flathead reservation in Montana, and attends Polson High School.
To bring attention to the tragic number of missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States and Canada, Growing Thunder wears traditional regalia on a daily basis to school. “I try to make a dress a day or every other day. It's hard now since I am working on school work and scholarships.”
“These dresses are speaking out for the voiceless who were denied their will and right to live. This issue (of murdered and missing indigenous women) has impacted many if not most families in the area. I am hoping for the day when we as Indian people are not treated less than human. A favorite quote that reverberates in my head every day, is ‘We are not disposable.’”
Andrea Landry, Anishinaabe
Mother, Professor, Personal Healing Advocate
Andrea Landry teaches Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and also does extensive work in the areas of grief and recovery, personal healing, and self-revolution through programming and therapy sessions in indigenous communities. She is from the Pays Plat First Nation (Pawgwasheeng) in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, and currently resides in Treaty 6 Territory on the Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
“I do the work that I do to ensure that our nations, as Indigenous Peoples, and more specifically our children in our nations can become and be present to the ultimate restoration of our nationhood. Not only does healing ourselves and our communities come with transformative change, but when we teach and show our children this work, it creates a balanced way of living, free of colonial residue,” says Landry.
Landry is mother to one 8-month old daughter, River-Jaxon.
“It all comes down to healing and indigenous based child-rearing. Healing as communities and nations, and indigenous based-child rearing in today’s generation resides in watching the restoration of unfaltering kinship in our indigenous family systems, and raising of our children with the knowing of who they are and where they come from, wildly and unapologetically,” says Landry.
“The reality is we now have a responsibility to raise our children as the route for restoring nationhood and revolutionizing communities. We are protectors and defenders of who we are and where we come from.”
Colene Paradise, Shoshone-Paiute
Mother, Educator, Suicide Prevention and Interventionist
Colene Paradise resides on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Idaho and Nevada. She co-founded a running group devoted to wellness and suicide prevention called Running for Wellness. Paradise is a trained suicide interventionist, and works with the local school and the Bureau of Indian Affairs police on the reservation, responding to suicide calls and intervening with at-risk youth. She is a treasured resource in the community.
“I take a strong stand for suicide prevention because I lost my son to it in 2014. I believe that we need to work hard at trying to understand why our people want to take their own lives. I also believe that we need to stand up and take control if we have lost someone to suicide. That will help others understand they are not alone if they also lost a loved one,” says Paradise.
“It’s hard getting the message out, because most Natives do not want to talk about suicide. We can come together though as a Native community, bring awareness, and heal.”
Annabell Bowen, Diné and Onondowagah
College Recruiter, American Indian Student Retention
Annabell Bowen is from Tuba City, Arizona, and currently resides in Tempe, Arizona. Her clan is Deer Springs People, born for the Bear Clan, her maternal grandfather’s clan is Manygoats People, and her paternal grandfather’s clan is the Snipe Clan.
Annabell serves as the Director of the Arizona State University Office of the President on American Indian Initiatives, and manages the ASU Tribal Nations Tour, a student-driven outreach program designed to recruit and retain American Indian students at Arizona State University. Annabell is deeply committed to empowering Native American students to pursue and achieve higher education, and visits many tribal communities throughout the southwest and Indian country to speak to Native youth about the value of higher education.
“I feel the importance of this work is providing direct student and parent services in our communities and to help develop meaningful relationships between ASU and Tribal Nations. I love being in our communities to encourage and instill hope to children and families to convey the message of, ‘yes, it is possible!’ We do this work so our people can thrive! It begins with the community, the people. I feel this is my obligation to give back and to remember the next generations coming up who need the guidance, support and love. This is why I do this work; it is my responsibility.“
TipiziWin Tolman, Wichiyena & Tizaptanna Dakhota and Hunkpapha Lakhota
Mother, Lakota Language Teacher
TipiziWin Tolman is a Lakota language immersion pre-school teacher on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. She teaches in the Lakota Language Immersion Nest, Lakhol’iyapi Wahohpi, which is located on the Sitting Bull College campus. TipiziWin has been deeply vested in the revitalization of the Lakota and Dakota language for approximately a decade, as a mother, a teacher and volunteer.
“Language is a key guiding factor in rebuilding our tribal communities and in reclaiming the healthy holistic living our ancestors lived,” says Tolman. “If we dedicate our energy towards the maintenance and revitalization of our tribal languages, blessings and opportunities will consistently open up for everyone involved.”
TipiziWin credits other members of the community, Sunshine Carlow, Nacole Walker and Sacheen White Tail Cross for “their dedication to the Lakota and Dakota language and opening the door, paving the way, and creating opportunities for myself and so many others, who have benefited from being involved in this field.”
Tolman is a mother to five children, ages 7 months old, 2 years, 6 years, 11 years, and 13 years old. She is also a devoted wife to her husband, Ti Tolman, who is also an immersion language teacher for grades K-2.
“My greatest achievement by far, is my family, my children and my home, we have reached a point of health and sobriety that I am so proud and protective of. It has been a long and tough road but it is worth it,” says Tolman.
“It is my hope that full immersion schools will be available in every tribal community on every tribal territory in the future. When we combine the love of our language and people with the willingness to work hard and work together, there is nothing that we cannot create or that can hold us back. The healing, nourishment and the help that our people need is found in our language and we all deserve a chance to experience it.”