How Native American Women Blend Passion with Duty
Whatever she puts her mind to, she will do. Resilient and persistent women are constant themes in all nations, but these Native American women show us how they took their passions and duties for their people and created change. We will explore the lives of Lyda Conley, Maria Tallchief, Annie Wauneka, and Michaela Goade.
Eliza “Lyda” Burton Conley
(Source: Women’s Museum of California)
Lyda Conley was the third woman and first Native American woman to argue a supreme court case. She was fighting to protect the Guardian of Heron Indian Cemetery, which is very close to her heart. Before women had the right to vote in the United States, Lyda became a lawyer, was admitted to the Missouri Bar, trained as a telegraph operator, taught Sunday school at her Methodist Episcopal Church and Spalding Business College in Kansas City.
Lyda was prepared to fight for the protection of the Heron Indian Cemetery because her mother, sister, and plenty of other Wyandotte tribesmen were buried there. Lyda did not give up as she stated that she would personally go to Washington and fight for the cemetery alone.
Lyda proves that when you’re passionate about something, fight for it. Lyda was persistent and resilient, breaking barriers as she did not care what others thought of her.
Maria Tallchief is the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. From a young age, Maria loved the arts. She played the piano and danced, but when she was twelve, her father told her she would have to choose between the two. Eventually choosing dance, she moved to New York City to achieve her dream at 17. She ultimately became a member of the famous Russian ballet company and was a soloist.
Maria is one of the only five artists to receive the Kennedy Center Honors in 1996. Shortly after, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She also received the National Medal of Arts awards in 1999, which is the highest award given to artists from the U.S. government. Maria is known for her contributions, excellence, and growth in her craft. She is a model to all little girls to have impactful careers in the arts and succeed.
Annie Dodge Wauneka
Annie Wauneka was the first woman elected to the Tribal Council. Tirelessly fighting for her people, she created the English-Navajo medical dictionary to irradiate the language barrier between doctors and patients. When Annie was young, the Spanish flu was very prevalent.
When she was eight years old, she started helping medical workers care for victims when she realized she loved to help people in medicine. She was an avid activist for the health and welfare of the Navajo people. In her career, she educated people about tuberculosis, regularly shared health and wellness information on a Navajo radio, served on advisory boards for the U.S. Surgeon General and U.S. Public Health Service, and improved housing and sanitation conditions in her community.
Annie lived her life fighting and educating her people. She spread her knowledge to the masses to aid the health of the Navajo people. In 1963 Annie received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her life of service. She is a faithful servant leader, showing others that one person can help an entire nation.
(Source: Juneau Empire)
Michaela Goade is an artist and Indigenous Kid Literature illustrator. She won the Caldecott Medal for her illustrations, making her the first Native American to win the award. Michaela shares how she had identity issues growing up, feeling ashamed about her Tlingit heritage and distanced from it due to her childhood being influenced by European culture.
As she got older, she realized the importance of representation and how impactful her art is when she is creating books for native people by native people. She explains how children’s books are reflections of our society. They communicate who is visible and essential in the world. She saw the need for books to represent the diverse experiences of Native Americans, and that is what she shows in her art. She wants to continue honoring and lifting native people in all nations.
These women show us how they took their passions in their fields to impact their people. They represent Native American women well in all of their accomplishments, but they also give back to their community to help others. Their lives are examples of servant leadership and giving back to the people who need it the most.
The representation they provided for Native Americans in their fields is admirable. We created Zoe because representation matters. Celebrating women worldwide doing great things, we honor all of the women paving the way for generations to come.
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