WEWIN conference to empower women

Author:
Updated:
Original:

HINCKLEY, Minn. - Hundreds of Native women will hone their leadership skills at the fourth annual WEWIN Conference later in July.

WEWIN - Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations - will take place at the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians' Grand Casino Hinckley in Minnesota July 29 -31.

The three-day training and development conference will be packed with workshops, presentations and training sessions aimed at enhancing the leadership skills of female elected tribal officials, Indian community leaders, and state and federal program managers, who are commited to change and progress.

The conference was founded in 2004 by a group of dynamic female tribal leaders from across the country including Susan Masten, Yurok, former Yurok tribal chairman and former NCAI president; Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians; Patricia Parker, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, president and CEO of Native American Management Services; Wilma Mankiller, former 10-year principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Nora McDowell, chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe; Rachel A. Joseph, chairman of the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe; and Veronica Homer, Mojave/Shasta.

The goal of the conference, according to the group's Web site, is ''To empower American Indian women working in all levels of government. WEWIN nurtures these women's understanding of tribal responsibilities, issues faced on reservations, and political challenges experienced at the state and federal levels. WEWIN also supports its members in finding balance between their career and family roles.''

The biggest difficulty Indian women leaders face is ''balancing the family, community and leadership responsibilities while remembering to take care of ourselves during the process,'' Masten said.

The conference itself provides a model of what the founders aim to inspire in its attendees.

''What we're doing is having a wonderful impact on women across Indian country. Our participants have told us that they have found exactly what they were looking for when they came to the conference. They have found jobs, developed business partnerships, found comfort in an hour of need, gained valuable experience and knowledge from the workshops, and created new friendships.''

Many participants return each year, and the conference has generated a network of women buying goods and services from each other.

Providing a supportive environment where that kind of networking can flourish is one of the best things about the conference, Masten said. ''Where else can you be surrounded by so many wonderful Native women role models who possess such a wealth of knowledge and experience?''

Benjamin, who is also the WEWIN treasurer, will open the conference July 30 with a call to order and ceremony including the Native Women's Color Guard and an opening prayer.

WEWIN co-presidents Susan Masten and Veronica Homer will present opening remarks and introduce Cecelia Fire Thunder, former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, who will deliver the keynote speech: ''Leadership Committed to Positive Change - The Power of One.''

Conference leaders have adopted Fire Thunder's title as the theme of the conference: ''The Power of One is a Strength of Our Nation.''

The next two days will be filled with workshops and training sessions:

"Sue Williams of Williams and Works, and Amy Bowers of the Native American Rights Fund, will present ''Sovereignty 101: History of Public Policy and Court Decisions.''

"Winona LaDuke, of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, will present ''Creating Community Change.''

"Elizabeth Homer, former commissioner with the National Indian Gaming Commission, will present a session on ''Ethics and Leadership.''

"There will be workshops on ''Leadership Traits, 'Personal Finance,' Intergovernmental Relations and Lobbying/Advocacy.'' Other sessions will include ''Get Out the Vote'' and ''Finance 1010: Understanding Tribal Budgets - Indirect Costs, Grants, Discretionary Funds, and Fiscal Responsibilities.''

On July 29, a daylong pre-conference workshop on ''Human Rights Training'' will be given by the Indian law Resource Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization with offices in Montana and Washington.

The first session - ''The New Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: How to Use It'' - will focus on how international advocacy at the United Nations can be used to address human rights violations against American Indians and Alaska Natives.

''Violence Against Women - using International Law to Protect Our Families'' will discuss how international advocacy can be used to raise awareness of the high rates of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and pressure the United States to fulfill its international legal obligations to ensure that Native women can enjoy their right to be free and safe from violence.

The third session - ''Effective Public Relations: Using Media to Tell Your Story'' - will focus on the fundamentals of how to use press releases, press kits, editorials, electronic newsletters, Web sites and blogs to get a story told. The presenters will also cover effective public speaking and how to frame a message.

A golf tournament will also take place July 29.

For more information and to register for the conference, visit www.wewin04.org.