Ruth Hopkins: In praise of many mighty Native women leaders

Zitkala-Sa was a Yankton Sioux writer, educator and activist. Photo from Wikipedia

Ruth Hopkins urges Native women to share each other's praises:
March is Women’s History Month. While everyone is singing the praises of Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, or Eleanor Roosevelt (and rightfully so), I lament over the lack of information available to the public about remarkable Native women. Google it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a list of one hundred famous Native women. In reality, there are scores more worthy of mention, throughout history and living today.

Native women are so humble. We don’t make a habit of acknowledging our accomplishments, and patriarchy encourages us to remain silent. Yet it’s crucial that we lift up Native women. Girls need to see their grown counterparts shine. They need positive role models to venerate; supreme examples of indigenous womanhood to aspire to.

The life of Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird, 1876–1938) has had a profound influence on me. She was Dakota and grew up on a reservation in South Dakota, like me. She was taken away by missionaries to be assimilated. In school, they cut her hair and forced her to give up her traditions. Later in life, she would write about how traumatic this experience was. Nonetheless, she would not be defeated. Red Bird excelled academically. While attending Earlham College, she began translating Native legends into Latin, and then English. She played the violin in Paris and wrote for Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Monthly. She accepted a position at Carlisle Indian Boarding School. The school’s founder, Richard Henry Pratt, a notorious assimilationist, is infamous for saying, “kill the Indian, save the man.” Zitkala-Sa did not agree with his barbaric practices and was summarily dismissed after writing a piece speaking out against assimilation and Native boarding schools.

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Ruth Hopkins: In Praise of the Mighty Native Woman IIndian Country Today 3/22)

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