Famous Native American Women
This is our list of noted Native American Women we consider exceptional and well known. If you think someone who isn't listed should be here, let us know.
Sacheen Littlefeather On March 27, 1973, a young woman took the stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, to decline Marlon Brando’s Best Actor Oscar. She said that Marlon Brando cannot accept this award because of the treatment of American Indians by the film industry and the recent happenings at Wounded Knee.
Zitkala-Ša or 'Red bird' (1876–1938), was also known by the missionary-given name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. The child of a full-blood Yankton Sioux, she was born in 1876 on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and raised in a tipi on the Missouri River until age 12. She went to a Quaker missionary school for Indians, eventually becoming a teacher, musician, author and activist.
She’s among the Army’s first members from Navajo tribe. Despite her five foot-one-inch frame, Lt.Col. Nathele Anderson stands tall as a Native American serving her country. “I take every opportunity I can to tell people that I am a Native American because I’m proud of my heritage. I want people to ask about being a Native American because I don’t think there’s enough emphasis put on our heritage as this nation’s first Americans,” she said.
Portrait of Zitkala-Sa by Gertrude Kasebier, about 1898. Zitkala-Sa was the pen name of writer and activist Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (1876-1938). She exposed the hardships faced by students at Native American boarding schools by writing about her own experiences as a student and as a teacher. Zitkala-Sa also published a book of tribal folklore called Old Indian Legends. She also founded the National Council of American Indians, which was trans-tribal, to lobby for better treatment for all.
Marie Bottineau Baldwin (1863-1952) was a Chippewa attorney. Marie was the first Native American student and first woman of color to graduate from the Washington College of Law. Today the Women’s Law Association at her alma mater funds a scholarship in her name. Following law school, Marie worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was treasurer the Society of American Indians.
Mary Edmonia Lewis (ca. July 4, 1845 – ca. 1911) was the first African American and Native American woman to gain fame and recognition as a sculptor in the international fine arts world. She was of African American, Haitian, and Ojibwe descent.
Ella Deloria (Yankton Sioux) 1889-1971, became a renowned scholar of the Dakota language and culture. She produced a huge body of work including books on Dakota society, Sioux grammar and a Sioux Dictionary. In 1944 she published "Speaking of Indians". From that book, on the question of the first human inhabitants of America she stated: "The vital concern is not where a people came from physically, but where they are going, spiritually."
Zitkala Sa, wrote several works chronicling her struggles in her youth as she was pulled back and forth between the influences of American culture and her Native American heritage. She wrote books in English that brought traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership. Photographed 1898 by Gertrude Kasebier.
Zitkala-Sa with William F. Hanson, co-composed the first American Indian opera, The Sun Dance, which premiered in 1913. She founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for the rights of Native Americans to American citizenship, on which she served as president until her death in 1938.
Micmac Chief 39 Years Ago Margaret LaBillois, Eel River Bar (1998 recipient of the Order of Canada)(Order of New Brunswick recipients 05/08/01) In 1939, Margaret LaBillois became the first resident of Eel River Bar to graduate from high school. In 1982, she graduated from Lakehead University with an Honours Degree in Native Languages.