Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) are recognizing Native women this month with a hash tag campaign that also features prominent indigenous females on social media.
Celebrated so far in honor of Women’s History Month are Elouise Cobell, Kathryn Harrison, Hilary Tompkins, Wilma Mankiller and Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, who in various ways have all successfully protected and fought for civil rights as well as pushed back against discrimination.
“Native American women have helped shaped this nation and their contributions to society are a rich part of our history and heritage,” said Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, in a statement on March 1. “Let’s all take a moment to honor the hard work of these trailblazers as we preserve their inspirational stories for the next generation of American leaders.”
Tester launched his social media campaign with a nod to Elouise Cobell, “a proud member of the Blackfeet Tribe whose strength led to the compensation of $3.4 billion to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans for the federal mismanagement of Indian trust land,” he said in the statement.
Wilma Mankiller was also honored.
Also in the works are tributes to the late Osage prima ballerina Maria TallChief, who paved the way for American Indian women in dance.
At the end of Women’s History Month, Tester said he plans to introduce legislation that increases protection for American Indian women and children suffering from domestic violence.
“From Sakakawea, who helped pave the way for one of the grand expeditions across the country, to Alyce Spotted Bear, a great leader and educator on MHA Nation in North Dakota who I named my first bill in the U.S. Senate after, Native American women have left their marks on our country’s history,” said Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in the senators’ joint statement. “Throughout the month, Senator Tester and I will tell the stories of just a few of the many Native women who have influenced our communities and our country, and led the way for future generations of Native women.”
Heitkamp highlighted Hilary Tompkins, who was born in Zuni, New Mexico, but grew up in New Jersey, adopted by a non-Native family. Tompkins has gone on to practice tribal law.
“Hilary Tompkins is one of many Native American women who have gone above and beyond for their community and tribe,” Heitkamp said in her tribute. “Hilary is an invaluable and inspiring role model for young Native women across the country.”