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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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