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Date: Tue, 14 Jul 98 09:51:50 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: INDIAN NATIONS: Women's Leadership Is Re-Emerging
Article: 39008
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.11654.19980715181536@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 125.0 **/
** Topic: INDIAN NATIONS: Women's Leadership Is Re-Emerging **
** Written 12:23 AM Jul 14, 1998 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 11:45 AM Jul 11, 1998 by XColumn@aol.com in list.beijing95 */
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Date: Thu, 9 Jul 1998 22:49:29 EDT
From: XColumn@aol.com
To: AlbqX@aol.com
Subject: Native Women's Leadership

Women's leadership is re-emerging in Indian Country

By Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez, UPS,
10 July 1998

In Dineh (Navajo) teachings, you can't pray without the female deities. Women provide balance. No prayer is complete without the female. Without the female nothing can be done, says LeNora Fulton. She figures it should be the same way in government.

So when Fulton decided to run for president of the Navajo nation, she started hauling 400-pound timber to build a hogan with her own hands. The traditional home is used as her headquarters and to show that she didn't need outside help. You do all your planning for your family, the council and the nation from the home, she says.

She goes against seven male candidates for the leadership of her people on Aug. 4. While she's been told the presidency is men's work, she notes that key issues facing Indian Country have been the traditional purview of women -- education, the family, housing and health.

Navajo women have historically been part of the decision-making and were key to defeating gaming on the reservation last year. Fulton, who is a grandmother and the granddaughter of a medicine man, had bought land and was raising her own alfalfa and sheep by age 18. And like other Navajos, she was taught she has divine beginnings. I'm a sacred being, raised to be a leader.

All over Indian country, women are reasserting leadership, whether it be in tribal government or establishing drumming societies, which are primarily men's domain. Native women and elders view this as the manifestation of prophesies predicting that the power of women would re-emerge to strengthen their nations.

While some tribes have elected female chiefs such as Cherokee Wilma Mankiller, others do not permit women to vote or to serve on tribal councils, some arguing that it goes against tradition. It's not tradition that needs to change, says Fulton of her own tribe. It's the Bureau of Indian Affairs- imposed form of government. Tradition has always honored and revered women.

Fulton notes that the councils, established in the 1930s, diminished the participation of elders, traditional leaders and women. Consequently, these relationships went out of balance. Women agreed to the councils as long as the men conferred with them and they reached a consensus. This arrangement no longer functioned in the 1970s with the increase in alcoholism and divorce and the loss of traditions in general. In the past decade, Dineh women started electing females to tribal council, and now 51 more are running.

Female creators, forces and protective spirits are central in many native religions, showing how women and the feminine principle were long revered. Among the Iroquois and Cherokee, women selected and deposed of chiefs and participated in decisions of war and peace. In one famous encounter of the early 1700s, a Cherokee leader asked the British, Where are your women? While the Iroquois Confederacy is credited with inspiring the U.S. Constitution, less commonly known is that it was the decisions and words of the women's council that were represented by male envoys to other tribes and to the likes of Benjamin Franklin, who chose to diminish the rights of women in the Constitution.

And traditions do change. Sharon Mountain, a Dakota and Red Lake Anishnabe Indian who is drumkeeper of the Red Drum Woman Society, says that elders speak of long ago when the women drummed and the men danced. Then they let the men come to the drum and the women switched, she said. Elders also told her that she would lead differently and with the drum. Often, families bring daughters to the drum who are unruly, and they learn to walk a good path and return as community leaders, Mountain said.

Germaine Tremmel is the last living ancestral member of the Red Robe Society, which was inspired by a Lakota grandmother who fought in battle. She speaks of the reappearance of women's societies that had gone underground. As a result of a woman's vision, one society was created to protect women from violence. Her tribal elders have told her of the renewal of indigenous cultures, but first women must take their place of honor. To that end, she established the Mending the Sacred Hoop Within Project, based in Minnesota and South Dakota.

An Eastern Cherokee friend who lives in Michigan recounted recently how about three years ago, young girls just started walking up to sing with the drummers at gatherings all over the state. The men didn't have enough nerve to stop them. Now the girls and women have been singing ever since. She says, It's one magnificent sound.