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Native women get it done! In celebration of Women’s History Month, we're sharing some of the most prominent Native women making an impact in our country today. From the arts to politics and activism to academia, we are proud of the incredible work each of these women are doing on behalf of our communities.
Quannah Chasinghorse on the cover of Elle Magazine
Quannah Chasinghorse (Hän Gwich’in and Sicangu-Oglala Lakota) rose to prominence as a leader in the fashion industry in 2021 when her Met Gala red-carpet look went viral on social media. Always an advocate and celebrator of Indigenous fashion and brands, Chasinghorse has since been featured in Vogue and other magazines to fight the lack of Indigenous representation in media.
At only 19 years old, she has made serious contributions to her communities and was recognized for her accomplishments as part of Teen Vogue’s Top 21 Under 21. However, her activism extends past her fashion career. She is also a fierce advocate for environmental protection: sitting on the International Hän Gwich’in Youth Council, Chasinghorse traveled throughout the country to speak on climate action and Indigenous rights.
A photo of Asia Tail from her Instagram
A Tacoma-based Cherokee artist, Asia Tail has exhibited her own work throughout the Pacific Northwest, acted as a freelance consultant for many Native and non-Native organizations, and helped co-found yəhaw̓. yəhaw̓ is a growing collective of Indigenous artists that offers many opportunities for exhibitions, installations, performances, and grants. In 2019, Seattle Magazine named Tail as one of Seattle’s Most Influential People. Tail’s own artistic practices include oil painting, collage, and beadwork, as well as other media. Empowering Indigenous artists in the Coast Salish area directly through yəhaw̓ and arts organizations, Asia Tail has done immense work at uplifting her communities and raising the recognition of Indigenous art to the mainstream.
A photo of Autumn Harry from her Instagram
Autumn Harry (Numu and Diné) is a graduate student completing her Master’s program in Geography at the University of Nevada. Her research focuses on Indigenous ways of mapping and restoring the Indigenous place names of her ancestral Kooyooe Pa’a homelands. Although she is still attending school, Harry has made serious waves as a fisherwoman, land and water defender, and Indigenous rights activist. Having helped organize Reno Women’s March, Harry brought awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the necessity of equitable water usage and protection. With her skill and expertise as a fisherwoman and activist, Harry strives to reestablish the connection between the land, our foodways, and ways of being.
Deb Haaland being sworn in as Secretary of the Interior by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Arguably the most famous Native woman in our country, Secretary Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) currently serves as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Secretary Haaland made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. Her political platform primarily revolves around environmental justice, climate change, and missing and murdered Indigenous women. Her work and presence within the higher echelons of the political elite has created an example for our Native youth to follow and opened the doors for these youth who want to follow in her footsteps. Secretary Haaland’s most recent plans include removing the word “squaw” from all federal lands that include the word in their land title. Furthermore, she is putting forth efforts to have it officially declared a derogatory word. With the task force she formed, Secretary Haaland hopes to create more inclusive space for Indigenous people on our lands and reinforce our modernity.
Portrait of Korina from her website
Korina Emmerich (Puyallup) is a New York-based artist and fashion designer whose work is largely influenced by her Puyallup heritage. Her art and design aim specifically to dismantle systems of oppression and challenge colonial ways of thinking in the world of industrial manufacturing and artistic creation. Because of this, Emmerich’s work as a community organizer is highly focused on social justice, climate justice, and sustainability. The items her studio EMME Studio sells are all made in Brooklyn, New York. Her studio’s “key” items are made from upcycled and recycled materials.
Joy Harjo, photo from the US Library of Congress
Joy Harjo (Mvskoke) has been a prominent name not just in Indian Country, but across literary communities nation-wide in the US. She currently serves as the US Poet Laureate, a position that’s goal is raise national appreciation and celebration of reading and writing poetry. Harjo’s literary career began in 1975 with her first published poem, The Last Song. Although she specializes in poetry, she has expanded her repertoire since then and has written a play, non-fiction, and children’s literature. These works are heavily based in her effort to be a voice for Indigenous people on topics such as the effects of imperialism and colonization in the past and present. Harjo has proven to be a leader in both art and activism as seen through her current position and her key role in the Native American Renaissance literary movement.
Valeria Segrest is a Muckleshoot tribal member who has co-authored several publications that aim to bring attention to the importance of nutrient-dense diets through a culturally appropriate approach. Segrest earned her bachelor's degree in Human Nutrition and Health Sciences, her master's in Environment and Community, and is currently working on her PhD. With the tools of academia and cultural knowledge, Segrest is making the connection between Indigenous people and land more accessible in our world today. In partnership with her tribe, she helped organize the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project to increase their access to the traditional foods and environmental knowledge.
Recognized in 2019 as a Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth, Charitie Ropati is a member of the Yup’ik Village of Kongiganak as well as Sāmoan. Her advocacy focuses mostly on the issues facing Natives in academia and academia’s problematic, traumatic, and harmful histories against Native people. Ropati uses her platform to increase Western academia’s acceptance of Indigenous knowledge as credible. She advocates that education is crucial to the upliftment of our Native communities. The historical pattern of Western academia erasure and belittling of Indigenous knowledge must come to an end, and Ropati is one of our community’s foremost activists in trying to inspire this change.