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International Women's Day, 8th March 2021

In celebration of International Women’s Day we would like to share with you 5 influential and powerful Native American Indian women who each in their own unique way broke the stereotypes and stigma against women through inspiring and brave actions;


* Sacagawea, ‘The Woman who made Lewis and Clark a Success'

* Nanye-Hi, ‘Beloved Woman of the Cherokee'

* Lozen, ‘The Apache Warrior’

* Susan La Flesche, ‘The Healer’

* Buffalo Calf Road Woman


* Sacagawea, ‘The Woman who made Lewis and Clark a Success'


Sacagawea was a Shoshone Indian born approximately in 1788, who from an early age endured severe hardships and abuse as she was kidnapped by the Hidatsa tribe when she was around 12 years old, and at the same age married to a French Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. Sacagawea is best known for her crucial skills and actions which were priceless and vital to the success of Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition in 1805-06 - where they journeyed from the Northern Plains through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and back. Her skills as a translator were invaluable, as was her intimate knowledge of some difficult terrain. Perhaps most significant was her calming presence on both the expeditionaries and the Native Americans they encountered, who might have otherwise been hostile to the strangers. Remarkably, Sacagawea did it all while caring for the son she bore just two months before departing. Without her knowledge, initiative, courageous actions, they would not of succeeded. Yet unlike her husband who received 320 acres of land and $500.33 for his services on the expedition, Sacagawea received nothing. A blatant documentation of the discrimination and sexism women of the time were up against.


* Nanye-Hi, ‘Beloved Woman of the Cherokee'


Nanye-hi was born into the Cherokee wolf clan approximately in 1738. She stood by her husband during a fight against the Creeks, chewing the lead for bullets in order to provide his ammunition with deadly ridges. When her husband was fatally shot, Nanye-hi grabbed a rifle, rallied her fellow fighters and entered the battle herself. With her on their side, the Cherokee won the day. These actions led to Nanye-hi being named ‘Ghighau’ (beloved woman) of the Cherokee, a powerful position whose duties included leading the women’s council and sitting on the council of chiefs. Nanye-hi also took part in treaty talks (to the surprise of male colonists when they were on the other side of the bargaining table). As the years progressed, some Cherokee wanted to fight the Europeans who continued to crowd into their land. But Nanye-hi, who likely realised the Cherokee couldn’t win against the numerous and well-supplied colonists, thought the two sides needed to learn to live together. (Which she practiced coexisting herself, when marrying an Englishman called Bryant Ward in the late 1750’s, which led to her being known as ‘Nancy Ward’). At a 1781 treaty conference, Nanye-hi declared, “our cry is all for peace: let it continue. This peace must last forever.” Seeking peace didn’t stop Nanye-hi from recognising the dangers of ceding Cherokee territory - in 1817, she made an unsuccessful plea not to give up more land. When she died in 1822, she’d spent years trying to help her people acclimate to a changing world.


* Lozen, ‘The Apache Warrior’


Lozen was a famous female warrior born into the Chihenne band during the 1840’s, who was the prophet of the Chihenne Chiricahua Apache as well as the sister of an important Chief called Victorio. On one occasion, her brother Victorio described her importance during the battles: “Lozen is my right hand…strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Loren is a shield to her people.” According to the legends and stories that surrounded her name, she was able to use her spiritual powers in battle. She called on the favour of the gods to learn the location and movement of the enemy. She participated in many fights on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona together with her brother, and during those fights she helped many women and children to escape from the hands of the enemy as well as avoiding capture herself. According to a warrior named Kaywaykla, she was one of the more skilful of the Apache: “she could ride, shoot, and fight like a man; and I think she had more ability in planning military strategy than Victorio did.” Lozen was the most renowned of the Apache war women, as well as a gifted medicine women, seer, and Shaman.


* Susan La Flesche, ‘The Healer’


Born in 1865, Susan La Flesche grew up on the Omaha Reservation. During her childhood, she saw a white doctor refuse to treat an ailing American Indian women, this spurred La Flesche to become a physician herself. In 1889, she was the first female Native American to earn a medical degree in the United States. After finishing her internship, La Flesche started to work on the vast (30 by 40 mile) Omaha Reservation. She took care of about 1300 patients who suffered from ailments that included tuberculosis, diphtheria and influenza. A worn-down La Flesche had left this position by 1894, though she continued to see patients in private practice and served as a medical missionary. She also married and had two children. In 1909, as a trust period that had limited Omaha control over their property was about to end, the federal government decided that these landowners still lacked the ability to manage their property. La Flesche felt that “the majority of the Omaha are as competent as the same number of white people”, therefore led a delegation to Washington D.C. to make this very case. This resulted in the Omaha being allowed to control their land. However, La Flesche’s focus remained on improving the health of the Omaha; through the years she treated most of the population. She also helped raise the funds to open Walthill Hospital in 1913, in which after her death in 1915, the facility was renamed the ‘Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Memorial Hospital’. She was a true advocate for public health and for the formal, legal allotment of land to members of the Omaha tribe.


* Buffalo Calf Road Woman


'Buffalo Calf Road Woman' was a Northern Cheyenne women warrior who became famous after saving her wounded brother. Her brother, 'Chief Comes in Sight', was shot during the 'Battle of the Rosebud' (1876). When she saw him fall, she rode on the battlefield and rescued him. This brave act motivated the rest of the Cheyenne warriors to regroup and win the battle. Later that year, she fought along with her husband ('Black Coyote') during the famous ‘Battle of the Little Bighorn’. In Cheyenne lore, she is credited of striking the blow that knocked Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer off his horse before he died. ‘Buffalo Calf Road Women' is an historical and powerful symbol of a women breaking the stereotypes and stigma.

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