Representative Deb Haaland (NM-01) of Laguna Pueblo made history this month when she became the first Native American to be confirmed as Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we want to acknowledge and express our love for all our women, especially Indigenous women, throughout the world. Women are the backbone of our cultures. They are the teachers, doctors, healers, advocates and medicine that is needed now more than ever. Thank you for being here for us since time immemorial. 

Wilma Mankiller was the first female Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation and a strong activist for her people. She helped to uplift her Tribe through many community and self-determination initiatives.

The official appointment of Madam Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), the first Native American to ever lead the U.S. Department of Interior, comes at no better time this spring. Her appointment is what we deem as The Future Is Indigenous Feminism. Her rise as a national leader and advocate for Indigenous peoples emulates the strength, resilience, and beauty of the women of the Bears Ears region and beyond. We hope, pray, sing and ask that Madam Secretary restore Bears Ears National

Ada Deer (Menominee) is an activist and former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs for the Interior Dept. She fought against Tribal termination policies and was the first woman to chair the Menominee Nation, and first Native American woman in Wisconsin to run for Congress.

Monument to 1.9 million acres, in line with our initial proposal to our ancestral home. Since the beginning of this Bears Ears narrative, our women have been involved with decision-making, like Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk (Ute Mountain Ute), former Co-chair to the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. She and other women of our Bears Ears community have been, and will continue to be, critical to our work – past, present, future. We are excited that an Indigenous Pueblo woman is now leading a federal agency that has historically displaced our relatives from their homelands and carried out campaigns against Native religious beliefs. Unlike no one else before, we know Madam Secretary will equitably manage our tribal trust assets between our various tribal sovereign nations and the U.S. government, including ancestral lands like Bears Ears National Monument, from her heart and life experience.

While this change may be new for some, it is what we always envisioned from our Native communities. That one day, we saw this blessing coming. We know this because our women always lead our communities – not only being the warriors of our homes, but also on the frontlines. Whether that being the first woman to ever lead her people in modern times, like Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee), activist and former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, or the Ada Deer (Menominee), known globally for standing against termination policies of our people. We cite Wilma and Ada in this piece in an effort to acknowledge how they laid the framework and foundation for women like Regina and our Madam Secretary to lead us politically in the 21st century. Thanks to Indigenous women like Wilma and Ada, we have made incredible strides towards justice for our people and the land. We would not be where we are today without them, and for that we are forever grateful.

Since time immemorial, our women have sacrificed themselves for the greater good of others, and during these challenging times, it has been women leadership that is dismantling the many systems of discrimination and inequality that affect our society. Going forward, we must all continue to look for ways to uplift and honor the women of our communities so they may thrive and grow in a space of safety and prosperity; we must ensure that all of our relatives are included in efforts to achieve equity and justice. Over the course of this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some changes in our societies where women are re-teaching the importance of kinship, care, and love.  We thank them all. As we say in the languages from the Bears Ears region, Askwali – Ahéhee – Tog’oiak – Kwakwhay – Elahkwa. Happy Women’s History Month!