Inspiring Indigenous Women Share Leadership Tips

To continue the celebration of Women's History Month, we asked successful Native women across the continent – artists, entrepreneurs, vice presidents, executive directors, students, managers and chief officers – to share how they show up for themselves and those around them.

These women, in every role they take on, embolden their communities. Innovative and unstoppable, they lead with other people in mind. Feeling unsure of your leadership capabilities? Work these tips into your daily habits and you'll step into your confidence!



Hopi/Navajo/Chicana. Master of Public Health. PhD Student at University of Southern California.

How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

"I am driven to push myself and continue in this path because of community. No matter which spaces I walk in, I remember our teachings (values). One of those is that we are always learning, whether it’s for ceremony or my field of research. I am able to grow and develop as a leader through mentorship and partnership with community members, other researchers, and folks who are on the ground doing the work. If you don’t approach something with humility and openness to learn, I think that is the quickest way to stunt your growth no matter which field it is."


Snoqualmie Tribal Member. Executive Director of Governmental Affairs & Special Projects for the Snoqualmie Tribe.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a leader?

"Leaders are present throughout communities and at every level of a workplace. A degree or job title is not at all required, nor does having those things automatically make someone a leader. Know what values ground you, but also show up with an open mind. Be willing to take a strong stance on things that matter most to you, especially when it's harder than the alternative."


Tlingit, based in Seattle. Retail and Special Projects Manager at Eighth Generation.

What characteristics do you try to embody as a leader?

"You have to be brave about saying what you’re going to say even though it might not be fully accepted, because you’re staying true to your morals and values. A leader should also embody a willingness to be held accountable, even to themselves. This is a whole other level beyond accepting criticism. To grow, you have to be able to not take it personally. And remember, perfection isn't attainable for anybody."


Anishinaabe from Fond du Lac in Minnesota. Artist, CEO of Heart Berry and Eighth Generation Inspired Natives Collaborator.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a leader?

"I wouldn’t aspire to be a leader. Leadership is a responsibility. I would aspire to be rooted, grounded and willing to learn. I would aspire to be compassionate. I would seek vision and identify your roles. I would get clear about those roles and build your community with them. We all have a role to play and they’re all different...I am an organizer and love to create spaces and build what I hope to exist. Whether in wellness and running or in art, I believe in our power to create a place where we want to thrive and grow into."


Anishinaabe and Hopi. Chief Operating Officer at Eighth Generation.

How do you keep organized as a leader?

"In my role as Chief Operating Officer at one of the fastest growing Tribally owned businesses in the U.S, I’m responsible for managing a wide range of people, projects, activities and deliverables in collaboration with our executive and Tribal leadership. 

I love to keep organized with detailed records, meeting notes, correspondence and paperwork accessible in digital and hard copy form. In addition to creating massive to-do lists each day, I utilize large whiteboards in my office to keep track of projects, orders and information.

Being a woman in a leadership position is not easy, so it’s also important to identify what self-care tools you need to be happy and energized. You cannot pour from an empty cup."


Gitxsan/Nisgaa. Owner and Operator of Jada Creations.

What barriers do you face and how do you solve them?

"As a solo entrepreneur, not only am I the creator/designer but also the website/content developer, customer service, photographer, administration, shipping and handling, sales, marketing, and everything else in between all while being a single mom. I am a mom first and work comes second. Having a balanced schedule is key otherwise it could lead to burn out and trust me when I say I've been burnt out plenty of times! I've learned what works for me is having a vision board, one that I look at daily and is constantly updated. My vision board consists of SMART goals, which are smaller, easier and more manageable. I make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic or Relevant and within a Time frame - SMART."


Pawnee. Executive Vice President of the Seattle Indian Health Board and Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a leader?

"Every person has leadership abilities, no matter your age or education. Don’t ever doubt you have the ability to grow your skills and contribute to your community. Seek out mentors to learn from and be willing to take their critical feedback, it will make you a stronger leader. For Indigenous people, it’s important to always know that your ancestors are with you and it is our responsibility to do our best to be good ancestors to the next generations."


What leadership tips have worked for you that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!