Native American Female Figures to Celebrate for Native American Heritage Month
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
In the United States, November is Native American Heritage Month, which honors, celebrates, and amplifies Native people’s voices, cultures, and traditions. It is also a time to educate ourselves about Native American history and issues that are impacting the Indigenous community. Here are just a few remarkable Native American female figures who are inspiring change and incorporating their heritage into politics, art, social justice movements, beauty, the fashion industry, and more.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland (she/her)
Secretary Deb Haaland is a member of The Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican. Once a single mother in poverty, she started college at 28 years old and eventually graduated from both the University of New Mexico (UNM) and UNM Law School. Secretary Haaland made history as the first Native American to become a cabinet secretary and one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. She cares about issues like climate change, environmental justice, and increasing representation for other women and minorities.
Natani Notah (she/her)
Natani Notah, a poet, interdisciplinary artist, and member of the Navajo Nation (Diné) earned two fine arts degrees from Cornell University and Stanford University. Notah’s work is inspired by Native American identity, decolonization, and Diné womanhood and has been featured in magazines and exhibitions across the country, such as in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. She uses materials like Native beadwork, leatherwork and fiber to tell powerful stories about Indigenous loss, survival, and identity through her artwork.
Chrystos is a member of The Menominee and a San Francisco Native. They identify as two-spirit (2-spirit), a gender identity that describes people who embody both femininity and masculinity in the Indigenous community. Chrystos is a writer and activist whose books and poems focus on themes like feminism, social justice, and Native Americans’ civil rights. They are very passionate about giving a voice to victims of injustice through their work.
Isabella Aiukli Cornell (she/her)
Isabella Aiukli Cornell is a youth activist and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She gained attention in 2018 when she wore a red dress with a Crow tribal design to her senior prom. Cornell wanted her symbolic fashion choice to shed light on the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Her viral story was featured on Teen Vogue and her dress is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum. As Cornell continues to advocate for the Indigenous community, she currently studies Psychology and Native American Studies at Fort Lewis College, with the goal of providing mental health care to Indigenous youth someday.
Quannah Chasinghorse (she/her)
Quannah Chasinghorse is a fashion model with Hän Gwich’in and Sičangu/Oglala Lakota Indigenous ancestry. She was motivated to become a model by her love for fashion and the lack of Indigenous representation within the industry. Chasinghorse strives to incorporate Native American jewelry into fashion shoots to raise visibility for her culture. Her traditional tattoos also pay tribute to her culture and challenge the beauty standard for models to be untattooed. Chasinghorse uses her platform to speak on issues she deeply cares about such as: climate activism, decolonization, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2-Spirit People Movement (MMIWG2S), and BLM.
A Note on Native American Feminism, Activism, and the MMIWG2S Movement
Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people are disproportionately affected by violence. They are going missing and being trafficked or murdered at alarming rates. Unfortunately, many of these cases have not been solved. In response to this crisis, the Indigenous community created the MMIWG2S Movement, which seeks to obtain justice for victims and end the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2-Spirit people. You can help the Native American community by raising awareness for this movement and amplifying the voices of Native American female figures and activists.
Written by Valerie Leija