As Indigenous women create new roles for themselves and reach higher levels of power and status, it seems some never lose sight of where they came from or their sense of collective responsibility.  Thus we would like to share stories with you about Indigenous women who have emerged from positions of authority in traditional tribal culture to more public roles and now leave a legacy of hope and inspiration. (Pember, 2008).

Ada Deer of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin “was the first woman to lead her tribe, the first Menominee to earn a master’s degree, the first woman to serve as the assistant secretary of Indian affairs in the department of the Interior and the first American Indian woman to run for Congress and for Wisconsin’s secretary of state” (Pember, 2008, p. 2). The author asserts that “Deer’s mother and tribe instilled her with a deep desire to do her part for her family and community and indeed the defense of her tribe and land was the main motivation drawing Deer into leadership” (Pember, 2008, p.2).   As it turned out “the tribe found itself devastated by poverty and at risk of losing its land which is what brought Deer back to the reservation to help organize opposition to the policy”(Pember, 2008, p. 2).  Deer and “other activists formed the Determination of Rights and Unity for Menominee Stockholders where she became the leader. In response to her leadership and dedication and her work,  President Nixon signed the Menominee Restoration Act in 1973, which ended the federal policy of tribal termination and reinstated their sovereign rights to land, hunting and fishing” (Pember, 2008, p. 3). Deer claims, “ her restoration efforts were the most important work of her life” (Pember, 2008, p.3).

Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the first female leader of the northern Minnesota band, started out as a single mother at 15.  While she struggled to take care of her daughter, she graduate with a degree in economics and a Master’s in public administration. (Pember, 2008)   Eleven years after leaving Fond du Lac to attend schools, Karen returned to her hometown and became the tribal band’s chairperson(Pember, 2008).   Essentially, “Karen’s philosophy encourages personal self-sufficiency for tribal members as the tribe emerges from a long period of dependency on federal and tribal programing” (Pember,2008, p.4).  She proceeded to implement programs that provide access to education from birth to the second year of college on or near the reserve which also led to the tribe instating a tribal scholarship for post secondary education. ( Pember, 2008, p. 2)