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Indigenous

United StatesActivistDoctor

Susan La Flesche Picotte

Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915) was a Native American medical doctor and reformer who became the first Indigenous woman to earn a medical degree. She dedicated her life to improving public health and advocating for the rights of Native Americans. Picotte established the first hospital on the Omaha Reservation and played a pivotal role in advancing the rights and well-being of Native American communities.

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United StatesEducatorIndigenous

Joyce Dugan

Joyce Dugan (born c.1952, Cherokee) is an American educator, school administrator, and politician. She served as the 24th Principal Chief of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from 1995 to 1999, making her the first woman to be elected to this position. As of 2022, she remains the only woman to have held this office.

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GermanyUnited StatesActivist

Wilhelmine Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett

Wilhelmine Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett was a Native Hawaiian suffragist who played a pivotal role in the fight for women’s voting rights in Hawaii. With her background in politics and support from her husband, Dowsett organized the National Women’s Equal Suffrage Association of Hawaii and continued to advocate for women’s rights even after the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. Her dedication and leadership had a lasting impact on Hawaiian society.

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United StatesActivistArtist

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu

Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu, also known as Kumu Hina, is a Native Hawaiian māhū, a traditional third gender person who occupies “a place in the middle” between male and female, as well as a modern transgender woman. She is renowned for her work as a kumu hula, filmmaker, artist, activist, and community leader in the field of Kanaka Maoli language and cultural preservation. Kumu Hina teaches Kanaka Maoli philosophy and traditions that promote cross-cultural alliances throughout the Pacific Islands. Her contributions to society have solidified her status as a powerful performer, cultural icon, and advocate for indigenous rights.

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United StatesActivistFilmmaker

Robin Maxkii

Robin Maxkii is a Native American technology activist, filmmaker, and writer. She is known for her work in broadening the participation of Native Americans in education and technology. Maxkii’s passion for technology began at a young age when she taught herself to code. She has made significant strides in activism, raising awareness on issues within Indian country and preserving Navajo oral history. Maxkii’s breakthrough came in 2016 when she co-starred in the Microsoft-funded PBS series “Code Trip.” Her impact has extended beyond her own journey, inspiring Native Americans to pursue careers in technology.

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PeruIndigenousMilitary

Tomasa Tito Condemayta

Tomasa Tito Condemayta Hurtado de Mendoza was a powerful leader and military figure in the indigenous uprising against Spanish colonial rule in 18th century Peru. As cacica of her people, she led her own women’s battalion, mobilizing indigenous women in the fight. Her bravery and contributions to the rebellion make her a notable figure in Peru’s history.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Heather Purser

Heather Purser, a member of the Suquamish tribe in Seattle, Washington, has been a trailblazer in the fight for marriage equality within her tribe. Despite facing challenges as a lesbian in a society that often discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community, Purser never gave up on her mission. Her efforts led to the legal recognition of same-sex marriage within the Suquamish tribe, and her activism has had a lasting impact on Native American tribes across the country. Heather Purser’s dedication to equality and social justice makes her an inspiration for future generations.

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United StatesIndigenousNative American

Awashonks

Awashonks was a saunkskwa, a female sachem (chief) of the Sakonnet tribe in Rhode Island. She was known for her talent for negotiation and diplomacy, and played a crucial role in securing amnesty for Native communities from English colonists. Despite challenges from rivals and the English, Awashonks maintained her leadership and power. She had two husbands and several children, including Mammanuah, who became the reigning sachem after her.

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AustraliaBalletDancer

Ella Havelka

Ella Havelka, born in 1989, is an Australian ballet dancer and the first Indigenous person to join The Australian Ballet. She overcame setbacks and discrimination to become a member of the prestigious company, making history and promoting diversity and representation in the arts. Havelka’s journey as a ballet dancer and her groundbreaking achievements have inspired aspiring dancers, Indigenous communities, and women everywhere.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Pearl Mankiller was a trailblazing Native American activist, social worker, and community developer. Born in 1945 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, she dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of her people and improving the lives of Native Americans. As the first woman elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, she made transformative changes, building health clinics, establishing education programs, and promoting self-governance. Her legacy continues to inspire others to advocate for marginalized communities.

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MexicoActivistIndigenous

Comandanta Ramona

Comandanta Ramona (1959 – January 6, 2006) was an officer of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a revolutionary indigenous autonomist organization based in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. She led the Zapatista Army into San Cristóbal de las Casas in 1994, and was the first Zapatista to appear publicly in Mexico City. Ramona was born in 1959 in a Tzotzil Maya community in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Growing up in a marginalized community, she experienced poverty and struggled to make a living. Ramona used to sell handmade goods to support herself before she joined the EZLN.

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EcuadorIndigenous

Diana Aguavil

Diana Alexandra Aguavil Calazacón, born in 1983, made history in 2018 as the first female governor of the Tsáchila nationality in Ecuador. Her journey to leadership was inspired by a desire to make a difference and address the gender disparities and lack of representation within her community. Diana’s election victory shattered traditional gender roles and served as a symbol of hope and empowerment for women across Ecuador. Her legacy continues to inspire future generations of women to pursue their dreams and engage in public leadership.

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CanadaActivistIndigenous

Mary Two-Axe Earley

Mary Two-Axe Earley, a Mohawk and Oneida women’s rights activist from Kahnawake, Quebec, fought against gender discrimination in the Indian Act. She co-founded the Quebec Native Women’s Association, confronted eviction attempts, and led the push for the passage of Bill C-31, which dismantled gender discrimination. Her tireless efforts brought transformative change to First Nations women in Canada.

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AustraliaActivistIndigenous

Pearl Gibbs

Pearl Mary (Gambanyi) Gibbs was an Indigenous Australian activist who played a pivotal role in the Aboriginal movement during the early 20th century. Born on July 18, 1901, in La Perouse, Sydney, Gibbs emerged as the most prominent female activist within the Aboriginal community.

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HondurasActivistIndigenous

Ana Mirian Romero

Ana Mirian Romero, a Honduran human rights activist, has dedicated her life to fighting for justice and defending the rights of indigenous communities. She has become a prominent leader and voice for the marginalized in Santa Elena, La Paz, Honduras. Romero’s activism includes advocacy for the rights and well-being of the Lenca people and opposing a proposed hydroelectric dam. Despite facing threats and violence, she continues to persevere, driven by her belief in a better future for her community. In 2016, Romero was honored with the prestigious Front Line Defenders Award, recognizing her fearless activism and unwavering commitment to human rights.

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AustraliaActivistIndigenous

Jessie Street

Jessie Mary Grey, Lady Street, was an Australian diplomat and suffragette who dedicated over 50 years of her life to fighting for women’s rights and gender equality. She played a crucial role in advocating for gender equality at the United Nations, ensuring the inclusion of gender as a non-discrimination clause in the United Nations Charter. Her unwavering commitment to social justice and her lasting impact on gender equality continue to inspire women around the world.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Debra White Plume

Debra White Plume, a prominent Lakota political activist and water protector, dedicated her life to preserving the traditional Oglala Lakota way of life. She founded Owe Aku, an advocacy group focused on cultural preservation and Lakota treaty rights. White Plume’s passion for environmental justice led her to protest against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline projects. She believed that water was the domain of women and saw it as their privilege and obligation to protect it. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2020 after battling cancer, but her legacy lives on inspiring future activists.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Phyllis Young

Phyllis Young is an American Indian rights activist, known for her leadership in the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle. She co-founded Women of All Red Nations to address the challenges faced by Indigenous women. Young played a pivotal role in initiating global dialogues on Native American issues, including coordinating the first United Nations conference on Indians in the Americas in 1977. She was involved in the development of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and continues to advocate for Indigenous communities. Young’s legacy as a dedicated activist has left an indelible mark on women’s history.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Madonna Thunder Hawk

Madonna Thunder Hawk, born Madonna Gilbert, is a Native American civil rights activist who has made significant contributions to the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She is also renowned as a co-founder of the American Indian organization Women of All Red Nations and serves as an organizer and tribal liaison for the Lakota People’s Law Project.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Waunetta McClellan Dominic

Waunetta McClellan Dominic was a Native American rights activist known for her advocacy for the United States government to fulfill its treaty obligations to Native Americans. She co-founded the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association and played a key role in winning a claim against the government for compensation under 19th-century treaties. Dominic was also a strong supporter of Native American fishing rights. Her dedication and influence were widely recognized, and she was awarded the “Michiganian of the Year” by The Detroit News in 1979 and posthumously inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

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United StatesBalletDancer

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief, America’s first major prima ballerina, revolutionized ballet with her talent and passion. As a member of the Osage Nation, she also became the first Native American to hold such a prestigious rank. Her mesmerizing performances and international tours earned her respect and admiration worldwide, leaving an indelible mark on the art form’s history. Tallchief’s contributions to ballet are celebrated and her legacy endures.

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FranceUnited StatesBallet

Rosella Hightower

Rosella Hightower was an American ballerina and member of the Choctaw Nation who achieved fame in both the United States and Europe. With her dedication and talent, she became known as the “newest star on the ballet horizon,” leaving a lasting impact on the world of dance.

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New ZealandDancerIndigenous

Amanaki Prescott-Faletau

Amanaki Lelei Prescott-Faletau, a multi-talented artist of Tongan descent, has left a significant mark on the world of performing arts. From her early experiences in church events to competing in national and international dance competitions, Amanaki has showcased her exceptional talent and passion for performing. With a deep connection to her cultural roots and her commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, she continues to inspire and uplift others within the industry. Her journey as an artist and trailblazer is truly remarkable.

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CanadaIndigenousMilitary

Running Eagle

Running Eagle, or Pi’tamaka, was a Native American woman and war chief of the Blackfeet Tribe. Known for her bravery in battle, she grew up in Southern Alberta, Canada, as the oldest among her siblings. Despite facing criticism, Running Eagle pursued her passions and became a renowned warrior, capturing horses and defending her tribe’s interests. Her legacy as a symbol of strength and resilience lives on.

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United StatesIndigenousMilitary

Buffalo Calf Road Woman

Buffalo Calf Road Woman, a remarkable Northern Cheyenne woman, displayed immense courage and loyalty during the Battle of the Rosebud and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Her heroic acts, including saving her wounded brother and striking the blow that knocked Lieutenant Colonel Custer off his horse, inspired the Cheyenne warriors. Her legacy as a symbol of strength and resilience continues to inspire generations of Cheyenne women.

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United StatesBusinessIndigenous

AnnMaria De Mars

AnnMaria De Mars (born August 15, 1958) is an American technology executive, author, and judoka. She is widely recognized as the first American to win a gold medal at the World Judo Championships, competing in the -56 kg weight class, for the 1984 World Judo Tournament. De Mars is not only an accomplished athlete but also a successful entrepreneur and advocate for Native American communities.

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MexicoIndigenousRunner

María Lorena Ramírez

María Lorena Ramírez Hernández, an indigenous long-distance runner from the Rarámuri ethnic group in Chihuahua, Mexico, rose to international fame after winning the Cerro Rojo UltraTrail in 2017 barefoot and wearing traditional Rarámuri attire. Her incredible achievements and unwavering dedication have inspired Rarámuri children and earned her recognition as a symbol of strength and resilience.

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AustraliaActivistIndigenous

Sister Eileen Heath

Sister Eileen Heath was an Anglican Deaconess dedicated to improving the welfare of Aboriginal children and families in Australia. Through her work, she raised awareness about the poor living conditions and mistreatment of indigenous people, particularly children, and fought tirelessly for their rights and well-being. Her dedication and activism left a lasting impact on society’s view and treatment of marginalized groups.

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AustraliaFilmmakerIndigenous

Essie Coffey

Essie Coffey OAM, a proud Muruwari woman, dedicated her life to advocating for the rights and welfare of Aboriginal people in Australia. From co-founding the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Museum in Brewarrina to her notable documentary films, Coffey left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire future generations. Her tireless efforts earned her the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1985, recognizing her significant contributions to the Aboriginal community.

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AustraliaIndigenousPolitician

Lidia Thorpe

Lidia Alma Thorpe (born 1973) is an Australian independent politician known for her advocacy for Aboriginal rights. She made history as the first Aboriginal senator from the state of Victoria, serving in this role since 2020. Despite leaving a mark in the political landscape, Thorpe’s journey has been one of perseverance, determination, and a commitment to fighting for justice.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Emma Nāwahī

Emma ʻAʻima Aʻii Nāwahī (1854-1935) was a Native Hawaiian political activist and newspaper publisher who played a significant role in opposing the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the annexation of Hawaiʻi to the United States. She co-founded the Hawaiian language newspaper, Ke Aloha Aina, and later became a supporter of women’s suffrage. Emma Nāwahī’s activism and dedication to Hawaiian sovereignty and women’s rights continue to inspire and shape the history of Hawaiʻi.

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IndiaActivistIndigenous

Rani Gaidinliu

Rani Gaidinliu, born in 1915, was a Naga spiritual and political leader who fought against British rule in India. Her involvement in the Heraka movement and subsequent imprisonment showcased her determination and resilience. Recognized as “Rani” for her unwavering spirit, Gaidinliu continued her fight for her people and their cultural heritage even after her release. She received the prestigious Padma Bhushan award for her contributions and remains an inspiration to many.

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New ZealandActivistIndigenous

Eva Rickard

Eva Rickard was a prominent activist for Māori land rights and women’s rights within Māoridom. Known for her tireless advocacy for the return of ancestral lands, she gained public attention through her protests and civil disobedience, leading to the return of the land and the empowerment of Māori communities. She also challenged traditional Māori protocol by calling for Māori women to have a voice in official gatherings, inspiring generations of Māori women to demand recognition and rights. Her impact on indigenous rights and gender equality in New Zealand is significant.

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New ZealandActivistIndigenous

Heni Materoa Sunderland

Heni Materoa Sunderland, also known as Nanny Heni, was a Māori kaumātua (community leader) in New Zealand who dedicated her life to fighting for women’s rights. She grew up in difficult circumstances but was fortunate to be raised by her grandparents, who instilled in her a strong sense of cultural identity. Sunderland’s determination and courage set an example for future generations and challenged traditional gender roles within her community. She was recognized for her exemplary community service and was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate for her impact and recognition as a leader and champion for the rights of her community.

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United StatesIndigenousJudge

Diane Humetewa

Diane Joyce Humetewa, born on December 5, 1964, is a highly accomplished and trailblazing figure in the legal field. She has made significant contributions as a judge and attorney, breaking barriers and making history along the way. With a distinguished career that spans diverse roles and responsibilities, Humetewa has become a prominent advocate for justice and equality, particularly as a Native American woman.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo is an advocate for Native American rights who has made significant contributions as a leader and activist in the Native American community. She has worked tirelessly to advance indigenous rights and challenge negative stereotypes, and her efforts have led to changes in policy and public perception. She has been recognized for her work with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, highlighting the profound influence she has had on society.

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United StatesIndigenousLawyer

Lyda Conley

Eliza Burton “Lyda” Conley, a Wyandot Native American and lawyer, was a trailblazer for Native American rights and preservation. She became the first woman admitted to the Kansas Bar Association and fought tirelessly to protect the Huron Cemetery from sale and development. Conley’s victory in arguing before the Supreme Court set a precedent for the protection of indigenous burial grounds, emphasizing the importance of respecting and preserving Native American cultural heritage. Her legacy continues to inspire activism and advocacy for indigenous communities across the nation.

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HondurasActivistIndigenous

Berta Cáceres

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was a Honduran (Lenca) environmental activist and indigenous leader. She co-founded COPINH and successfully campaigned against the Agua Zarca Dam. Despite facing constant threats, Berta’s dedication and sacrifice made her a central figure in women’s history, reminding us of the importance of defending indigenous rights and protecting the environment.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Mary Brave Bird

Mary Brave Bird, also known as Mary Brave Woman Olguin and Mary Crow Dog, was a Sicangu Lakota writer and activist who played a prominent role in indigenous activism during the 1970s. Her memoirs, including “Lakota Woman” and “Ohitika Woman,” shed light on the mistreatment of Native Americans and their children, highlighting themes of gender, identity, and racial inequality. Her contributions have had a lasting impact on the cultural, social, and political landscape.

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EcuadorActivistIndigenous

Dolores Cacuango

Dolores Cacuango, better known as Mamá Doloreyuk, was a pioneering figure in the fight for indigenous and farmers’ rights in Ecuador. Growing up in a low-income family, she witnessed the disparities between the wealthy landlords and the impoverished peons. Despite never learning to read or write, Dolores became a vocal advocate, mobilizing her community and founding the Indigenous Federation of Ecuador. Her commitment to social justice and feminism makes her an inspiration in women’s history.

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United StatesActivistIndigenous

Betty Osceola

Betty Osceola is a Native American Everglades educator and conservationist. She has dedicated her life to preserving the unique ecosystem of the Everglades, using her Native American heritage and passion for the environment as motivation. Through her involvement in prayer walks and activism, she has raised awareness about environmental issues and become an influential figure in protecting the environment and Indigenous communities.

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