Melinda Gates has her eye on Indian country – particularly Tara Houska.
Gates, the wife of Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates, awarded Houska, a tribal rights attorney and water protector of the Couchiching First Nation, the Good Housekeeping 2017 Awesome Women award.
This year’s list of winners includes CNN news anchor Poppy Harlow, Every Mother Counts founder and Calvin Klein and Maybelline model Christy Turlington Burns, and actor, comedian, TV host Whoopi Goldberg. The full list of recipients, including interviews, can be read in the September issue on shelves now.
“Awesome only begins to describe the women we’re celebrating in this special section,” Gates wrote in the magazine of the award winners. “They are the people whose ideas and innovations are shaping the future, who are filling gaps in the market with creative products and meeting our biggest challenges with bold solutions. Their stories deserve to be shared, and I love thinking of the young people who will hear these names and be inspired to put their own ambitions into actions.”
In her interview with the magazine, Houska, who is also the campaigns director for the non-profit group Honor the Earth, as well as a contributing writer with Indian Country Media Network, said one of her proudest moments was when her advocacy prompted an invitation by then-presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to join his campaign as a Native American advisor.
During Sanders’s run for the presidency, Houska was the lead author of his Native policy platform. “It was historic,” she said in reference to a leading presidential candidate’s inclusion of the Native voice. Following his campaign, Senator Sanders sent Houska a signed copy of his book, “Our Revolution,” thanking her for her work to drum up the Native vote.
Houska, originally of International Falls, Minnesota, was a Washington, D.C.-based tribal attorney before she left to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota in 2016. She lived in the Standing Rock encampment for six months where she was arrested and thrown into a dog kennel. Houska is now preparing for the ground fight against Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline that is threatening to cut through northern Minnesota.
“Across Turtle Island, indigenous peoples are rising; with each generation we grow stronger and breathe new life into resistance,” Houska told ICMN. “Right now, Native youth are canoeing down the Mississippi, through the wild rice beds and treaty territory we must protect from Line 3 tar sands. Right now, Enbridge is constructing this pipeline in Wisconsin, knowing it lacks approval in Minnesota. Enbridge knows how powerful we are when we stand together. Strong hearts to the front.”
Follow Houska on Twitter @zhaabowekwe.