Born in Nebraska in 1854, Susette, also called Inshata Theumba (Bright Eyes), had French and Native American ancestry. That year the United States government promised the Omaha tribe would keep 300,000 acres of their traditional lands for their reservation. Susette’s father believed the Omaha must accept reservation life to survive. Young Susette learned to read and write English at the reservation missionary school.
But corrupt government agents pocketed tribal funds while doling out shoddy goods and poor food. The Omaha faced hunger and suffering. And they knew, like other tribes, that treaties did not protect them from the threat of removal to Indian Territory, an arid, harsh land in present-day Oklahoma. Continue reading Susette La Flesche; Native American Activist
Annie Dodge Wauneka was a member of the Navajo tribe, who dedicated her life to improving the health & well-being of her people.
Born on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, Annie was the daughter of Navajo leader, Henry Chee Dodge. Her father was wealthy and could speak English; he had acted as a translator between the US government and the Navajo people, and become a successful businessman with a ranch, where Annie and her siblings grew up.
As a girl Annie tended to the sheep on her father’s ranch, which she enjoyed. Like many other young Navajo children, when she was 8 she was sent to the government-run boarding school. Her experience of leaving home and being sent to school led to her campaign later in life for schools to be built much closer to people’s homes across the reservation, so that children did not have to leave their families. Continue reading Annie Dodge Wauneka
Susan La Flesche Picotte was an Omaha Indian who became the first Native American physician and spent her life caring and campaigning for her people.
Susan was born on 17th June 1865 on the Omaha reservation in Nebraska. Both her parents were mixed race and her father, Iron Eyes (Joseph La Flesche), was the chief of their tribe. It was a time of much change and upheaval for Native Americans, and her father tried to manage this by encouraging people, including Susan and her three sisters, to adapt and become educated in the ways of the white world around them. Continue reading Susan La Flesche Picotte
Pauline Johnson, a 19th century Canadian poet who was part Mohawk and part English, became famous for her dramatic poetry readings in which she appeared first in “Indian costume” and then in European evening dress.
The daughter of a Mohawk chief and his English wife, Pauline was raised in a bicultural family. It was this biculturalism that made her famous in drawing rooms, church halls and theatres throughout Canada, the United States and England. Continue reading Pauline Johnson
Emonia Lewis was a world famous African American and Native American sculptor. Born in America, she spent most of her career in Rome.
Edmonia was born on 4th July 1844. Her father was Haitian, while her mother was from the Native American Ojibwa tribe. Sadly, by the time she was 9 they had both died, so Edmonia and her brother went to live with her aunts in Canada, where her mother’s tribe came from. While living with them she was known by her native name, ‘Wildfire’, while her brother was called ‘Sunshine’. She helped make traditional baskets with her aunts, which they sold to tourists near Niagra Falls.
Continue reading Edmonia Lewis – Sculpting Shero
Zitkala-Ša (which means ‘Red Bird’), also known by the name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a Native American writer, musician and activist. She was born on 22nd February 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Her mother was a Sioux American Indian, her father a white American who left the family when Zitkala was only young.
In 1884 Christian missionaries came to the reservation and took many of the children, including Zitkala, away from their home, traveling 700 miles to their missionary school. Despite her mother’s concerns, she allowed Zitkala to leave, at the age of 8, to attend White’s Manual Labor Institute in Indiana.
Continue reading Zitkala-Ša – The Sun Dance Shero