Native American Heritage Month
November is National Native American Heritage Month! We are featuring five Native American women who have made history for the work.
Linda Legarde Grover
Linda LeGarde Grover is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is also a columnist for the Duluth Budgeteer. The Dance Boots, her debut story collection, was the winner of the 2010 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and co-winner of the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is the coauthor of A Childhood in Minnesota: Exploring the Lives of Ojibwe and Immigrant Families 1880–1920, and the author of a poetry chapbook, The Indian at Indian School. In April 2012, LeGarde Grover received the Albert Tezla Teacher/Scholar Award from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Jennifer Denetdale is the first Diné/Navajo individual to earn a Ph.D. in history. She is an Associate Professor of American Studies at University of New Mexico and teaches courses in Native American Studies. Denetdale is especially interested in gender and feminism in conjunction with Navajo history and culture. She is the author of Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita and The Long Walk: The Forced Exile of the Navajo and is currently working on a research project regarding the history of Navajo women.
Elizabeth Peratrovich was born on July 4, 1911 and was an Alaska Native civil rights activist of Tlingit descent. In 1931, Peratrovich married her husband Roy, who served four terms as the mayor of Klawock, Alaska. Seeking greater opportunities, Peratrovich and her family moved to Juneau, AK . In Juneau and all across Alaska the discrimination against Alaska Native people was rampant. Both Elizabeth Peratrovich and her husband were leaders of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood. Peratrovich and her husband lobbied for the Alaska Native Anti-Discrimination Act when it came up for re-evaluation in 1945 after being defeated in 1943. In 1945 Senator Allen Shattuck’s asked the senate, "who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?" Peratrovich famously responded to Shattuck’s question during her testimony stating, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.” The Bill passed 11 to 5. Pertarovich did not receive recognition of her advocacy during her lifetime; she died in December 1958. Thirty years later the Alaska State Legislature established February 16th, the anniversary of the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act, as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.”
Wilma Mankiller’s family was relocated through the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Indian Relocation Act before her birth in 1945. The United States Army usurped the land of 45 Cherokee families, including that of the Mankiller family, during this time. The family settled in Daly City, near San Francisco, California where Mankiller attended San Francisco State University. Mankiller became involved in activism in the 1960s and joined the Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969. In the late 1970s she moved back to Oklahoma and began working for the Cherokee Nation. In 1983 she was elected deputy chief and when principal chief Ross Swimmer was promoted, Mankiller took over his position, making her the first female principle chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was elected in her own right in 1987 and again in 1991. The political system during Mankiller’s service was heavily male-dominated, unlike the traditional Cherokee culture which depended upon both sexes in leadership positions. During her terms in office, Mankiller worked hard to strengthen tribal businesses and improved infrastructure, including the construction of a hydroelectric facility. She is also credited with preparing the way for the Government-to-Government relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. Federal Government. Wilma Mankiller passed away in April 2010. She is remembered as a strong leader for the Cherokee Nation and an inspiration for Native American women in politics.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Growing up in the in the 1940s and 1950s, a time plagued by alcohol abuse, poverty, and restrictions on Native American expression, made an impression on Madonna Thunder Hawk. She has been involved with activism of all kinds since the 1960s including Native American cultural preservation and environmental justice. Thunder Hawk was an original member of the American Indian Movement and is the co-founder of Women of All Red Nations, which has brought attention to a number of causes including forced sterilization of Native American women in the 1970s and the effects of pollution in the Pine Ridge Reservation on women’s reproductive health.