Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

The Blog offers information about Indigenous women spanning topics from current events in Indian Country to book reviews to discussion of Indigenous women’s cultural histories and ritual cycles relating to the Earth. Above all, there are the voices of Indigenous women as they present themselves.

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Dr. Mays

Dr. Mays

Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.

b2ap3_thumbnail_th_Jenni-Monet-Oceti-Sakowin-water-protectors-FB-live-2-22-17.jpgLike General Braddock and his colonial-era armies that slaughtered Eastern Woodlands Indigenous peoples in Pennsylvania and Colonel Chivington (a Methodist minister) who lead his army against the Cheyenne ending in the massacre of Natives at Sand Creek in the 1800s, the 45th President of the United States and his supporters are leading a 21st century war under the same old banner of "social progress." However, this 21st century colonial war is for the same reason and intention of all previous colonial wars in America and around the world: confiscation of land, natural resources, and the willful harm of Indigenous people's cultural expression, personhood, and sovereignty. In this 21st century war it is ever clearer how those who benefit and support the old Dominator power structures continue to exploit and desecrate the land and Mother Earth's resources. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_DAPL-action-2017-Ray-Cook.jpgThe photograph above is a scene from Oceti Sakowin Camp that housed the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline who left the camp this past week. Protestors numbered up to 10,000 at times over the course of the movement. Indigenous people from all over Turtle Island came to the aid of the Standing Rock Sioux nation, and advocates of all races and identities, especially American Veterans, came to show their support of tribal sovereignty and protection of the Earth. On February 22 Water Protectors left the camp ceremonially (and somberly) singing and drumming to honor the work behind them and all that is still left to do. Some of the few protestors remaining were arrested by police. The photo just above shows police in riot gear and thus the level of tension and threat the Water Protectors bravely faced.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_strawberries.jpgA fundamental ethic of Eastern Woodlands Indigenous nations since their origins in the time before time unto today is to establish, practice, and maintain Communal Ethics. The intent of an ethic that centralizes the community is to bring the whole of life into the kinship networks of this world. These kinship networks include human beings, animals, Mother Earth, the plants, waters, stars, mosses...every one. We do not say every "thing" because the members of the biosphere are not "things". The entire biosphere contains a multiplicity of beings, not objects. These beings are sacred. They have purpose, destiny, intelligence, consciousness, and are spirit-filled, just like the human beings.

To Native American/First Nations people, the Community traditionally means everyone--human beings with all various skin tones, any gender identity, any sexual orientation, any physical and intellectual ability level and the whole non-human world. Personal responsibility that supported the nation was key in the Eastern Woodlands nations, not personal aggrandizement, personal specialness, or setting oneself apart from the nation. Personal responsibility and developing one's mind, spiritual awareness, and talents and skills to strengthen the nation were and still are a strong ethic. In the northeastern nations, opinions were given an open hearing without censure in the councils. Indeed, Consensus Decision-Making originated with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) League.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_cobell1.jpgOn November 22, 2016, President Obama posthumously awarded Eloise P. Cobell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a civilian. Cobell (1945--2011) was a Blackfeet Tribal Elder, a highly-accomplished woman championing the rights of her people, and the person who filed the largest class action lawsuit against the United States government in American history--and won!

In the 1980s, Cobell saw a systemic pattern of corruption in how the U.S. government was treating the Blackfeet and other Indigenous nations within their confederacy, and she took on the responsibility to do something about it. After taking a deep-dive into the historic accounting practices between the U.S. and the Blackfeet that entailed pouring over centuries-old treaties, she not only determined the mishandling of funds, but the staggering figure the government owed the Blackfeet.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you for this - it is amazing to see these past 500 years of history on the North American continent begin to turn as "the mo

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dapl_overnight_clash_11-20-photog_clayton_thomas_muller-twitter.jpgWater cannons in sub-freezing weather. Prayers. Rubber Bullets. Devotion. Concussion grenades. Love. The Indigenous response to tyranny and violence today is what it has been since 1492: band together even more deeply, practice ancient traditions, speak truth to colonial power, and pray and pray and pray. No matter the problem, the answer is always Love and Remember the Stories of Who Indigenous People Are and How to Live Correctly on Mother Earth. b2ap3_thumbnail_image.gif

Since Monday, November 21, violence has escalated in Morton County, Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of protestors stand around-the-clock watch to prevent an oil pipeline from being dug. Greenpeace spokeswoman Mary Sweeters calls it "nothing short of horrific" and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune calls what the militant police in riot gear are doing "act[s] of brutality" and "nothing short of life-threatening and inhumane." Meanwhile, top American government officials remain silent. Police are also stressed and under duress while their leaders make decisions that they are required to obey if they want to keep their jobs. Nevertheless, sacred objects are being confiscated and destroyed; the 528 people arrested are herded onto trucks that are little more than cages and then incarcerated in over-crowded cells--medical attention is not provided. These are Third-World country responses to peaceful protests--this is not supposed to happen in the United States. Above is a photograph by Rob Wilson published in Indian Country Today Media Network.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_index.jpgWith grief levels running deep in the United States and the world due to various global events, that now includes the recent American presidential election, some balm for our souls is needed.The American Thanksgiving holiday is two days away, yet many of us have heavy hearts. The true Thanksgiving story is a bleak part of our history that, this year, I will not repeat in my blog. Instead, let's take each others' hands now and be quiet together as we turn our minds to our origins.

The place for healing is always the stories of our people, whoever our ancestors are. Here on Turtle Island the original Story Keepers are Indigenous, and their stories infuse the land, waters, trees, rocks, and whole of life. The European settlers brought their stories here; stories that, if you go back far enough, are also filled with love of land. Though the stories of Turtle Island belong to Native Americans, all Americans can respect, learn from, and take solace in them.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_web_elderly_woman_being_arrested-photog_myron_dewey.jpgExcessive force indeed! The United Nations blasts the Americans on November 17 for its response to the Water Protectors' protest in South Dakota. The struggles around the Dakota Access Pipeline took an alarming turn when Donald Trump became the United States President-Elect on November 9th. At right is a photograph from Indian Country Today Media Network courtesy of Myron Dewey. What you see in this very disturbing photo is merely the continuation of what has never ended in the United States when it comes to Native Americans. Here is the American historical response to Indigenous sovereignty since the 1500s:

1. Militarized response to Indigenous peaceful protests;

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Alighieri_Giotto_y_Coln_-_Baslica_de_San_Francisco_Buenos_Aires.jpgShould the history behind publicly displayed statues be made readily available for viewers? How is the history of Columbus Day taught to American children and to kids around the globe? These are important questions to contemplate, and take action on, every October when Columbus Day arrives once again in America. More and more, though, "Columbus Day" is becoming "Indigenous People's Day" in the cities of the United States.

Before Christopher Columbus made his infamous voyage in 1492 from Spain to arrive in what is now called the Caribbean Islands (landing on Guanahani Island to be exact), there were legal statutes and religious doctrines set in place that shaped the outcomes of his voyage--and of history. Unknown to most Americans, those doctrines are still in place and annually contested by Native American nations.

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