Native women in leadership share ‘common struggles’
Below is a transcript of the video.
(SOUND BITE OF SUSAN MASTEN SPEAKING AT THE CONFERENCE)
SUSAN MASTEN: I really wanted for there to be an environment where we prepare people for leadership because a lot of people find themselves on council and they have no experience at all and they're making major decisions that, you know, can have an impact for generations.
TSANAVI SPOONHUNTER: Fifteen years ago, Susan Masten helped create WEWIN, which is Women Empowering Women for Indigenous Nations. This year, she is being honored for her contributions.
MASTEN: WEWIN is as an organization of women, we created it to be able to empower leadership. And so the way that we do that is we offer professional and personal trainings to them in a safe environment where they feel encouraged, loved and supported. And it creates a network opportunities.
SPOONHUNTER: The agenda is filled with all kinds of important topics. One that will be discussed is the issue of Native women in leadership positions across Indian Country, there are panels and discussions that better equip these leaders for their roles.
MASTEN: Sovereignty is always, of course, a key component that we have at each conference because we feel that providing everyone, whether you're want to be a tribal leader or you work for a tribe or you work with tribes. You have to understand, tribal sovereignty and be able to support those principles so that you don't unknowingly compromise the sovereignty of the tribe.
MASTEN: When you're sitting in and you're negotiating with the government or governmental entities, you have to know that forwards and backwards. Because we spend probably 95 percent of our energy educating Congress, educating them on their responsibilities, and that they took an oath to uphold it. And it is their responsibility to trust responsibility to the tribes and not only to the tribes but to our tribal resources.
SPOONHUNTER: Debbie Thundercloud has strong ideas of what women need to do as leaders.
DEBBIE THUNDERCLOUD: I think some of the common struggles are a lack of confidence and we have to work, I think, a little harder than anybody else to build our confidence. I think believing in ourselves and some of the historical trauma that we've faced and through the generations has given us more challenge in developing leadership roles.
SPOONHUNTER: For both Masten and Thundercloud, culture is a key aspect of leadership so they emphasize that at the conference.
THUNDERCLOUD: Within our Native culture and traditions, we have a strong base and a lot of us are going back and learning about that and it is empowering us as women to be stronger in our communities, to be stronger for our children and for our future generations.
MASTEN: I think the most important is making sure they understand who they are. That they know their culture and traditions, that they participate in their ceremonies and that they are grounded with those values. That they're balanced, you know, spiritually, mind and body because that is what carries you through. If you don’t know who you are you can’t sit in a negotiation for your people.
SPOONHUNTER: In Alpine, California, for Indian Country Today, I'm Tsanavi Spoonhunter.
Tsanavi Spoonhunter, Northern Arapaho and Northern Paiute, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. She is a Chips Quinn Fellow.