Indigenous Writers for Women's History Month
The month of March has been designated as Women's History Month so that we work "to amplify women's voices to honor the past, inform the present and inspire the future".
While I admire many women who have made significant strides in history and community, I will always acknowledge and recognize Indigenous women first. I am Diné and will think of Navajo women, other Indigenous women, and women of color first and foremost.
As Audre Lorde once coined the phrase 'mythical norm', we are indeed beyond the 'mythical norm'. Too long our voices were not included in many spaces, even though many Native women spoke up, fought, were present, and loud. Their voices and words were not always included.
So this time of year, I like to recognize several of our brilliant Indigenous Women Writers. I put together this list (although limited) so that my students and community could have a point of reference. A place to start and hopefully add to their own libraries and use for references.
This is a list of writers that I recommend. I have several of their books on my shelf. Yes, I still like actual books.
Jennifer Nez Denetdale
Leslie Marmon Silko
Layli Long Soldier
Suzan Shown Harjo
Paula Gunn Allen
Terese Marie Mailhot
Devon A. Mihesuah
So what are American Indian women like?
"An American Indian women, like their non-Indian sisters, are deeply engaged in the struggle to redefine themselves. In their struggle they must reconcile traditional tribal definitions of women with industrial and postindustrial non-Indian definitions.....
An American Indian women is primarily defined by her tribal identity. In her eyes, her destiny is necessarily that of her people, and her sense of herself as a women is first and foremost prescribed by her tribe. The definitions of a woman's roles are as diverse as tribal cultures in the Americas. In some she is devalued, in others she wields considerable power. In some she is a familial/clan adjunct, in some she is as close to autonomous as her economic circumstances and psychological traits permit. But in no tribal definitions is she perceived in the same way as are women in western industrial and postindustrial cultures."
The tribes see women variously, but they do not question the power of femininity. Sometimes [tribes] see women as fearful, sometimes peaceful, sometimes omnipotent and omniscient, but they never portray women as mindless, helpless, simple, or oppressed. And while the women in a given tribe, clan, or band may be all these things, the individual woman is provided with a variety of images of women from the interconnected supernatural, natural, and social worlds she lives in" (Allen, 1992, p.43-44).
(The excerpt is from Where I Come From Is Like, The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen).
As a side note; many notable Native males writers may get all the attention and glory, but it's very important we recognize, read, and support our women too.
Stay tuned: I'll be editing my list of notable Indigenous Women writers, journalists, artists, elected leaders, filmmakers, community organizers, healthcare workers, fashion designers, educators, & history makers. I'll post the spreadsheet here when I'm done with the draft.
"The stories we tell deepen our understanding of women’s contributions to America and the world, showing how far women have advanced and how we as a country value equality and the contributions of all our citizens." From the WHM site.