Friday, August 5, 2016
August 5, 2016: Native American Leaders: 21st Century Leaders
[August 1st marks the 150th anniversary of Cherokee Chief John Ross’s death. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy Ross and other native leaders, leading up to a weekend Guest Post from one of our most talented and significant Native Studies scholars.]
Three leaders who illustrate just how fully our own moment’s examples extend those of the past.
1) Greg Graycloud: I wrote in that post about Graycloud’s inspiring chanting in the Senate chamber after the defeat of the Keystone pipeline, a ceremonial and communal moment that reflected and extended the impressive work done by numerous native activists to oppose the pipeline. Misuse, theft, and potential destruction of native lands are of course nothing new in our history, but neither is activist leadership to resist those attacks—from John Ross and the Cherokee Memorials to Sarah Winnemucca and her efforts in Malheur, some of the most vocal and vital Native American leaders have performed such acts of resistance. Graycloud and his peers are continuing those efforts, and deserve our full attention and support.
2) Santana Jayde Young Man Afraid of His Horses: As I noted in that post, Santana isn’t exactly an elected leader, at least not in the traditional sense; she’s the reigning Miss Oglala Lakota Nation, winner of the tribe’s annual pageant. Yet that pageant emphasizes service and leadership far more than beauty or poise (or other such conventional pageant priorities), and as I wrote in the post Santana’s year in the role (like her life and evolving career) has entirely reflected those emphases. Her work to strengthen both the lives and the perspectives and knowledge of young Native Americans, and to celebrate tribal community, language, history, and identity, continue the best of both the American Indian Movement’s activisms and Wilma Mankiller’s leadership efforts. That she’s doing so as a pageant winner, and through social media as much as on-the-ground service, simply reflects how such native leadership has evolved as well as endured into our own moment.
3) Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel: My week’s subjects share more than just their inspiring leadership efforts, of course, and one of the most significant shared elements is their use of writing to extend their voices and activisms to broader audiences and communities. Thanks in large part to my friend and colleague Siobhan Senier, I’ve had the chance to get to know a number of wonderful 21st century Native American writers, many of them scholars (like this weekend’s Guest Poster Donna Moody) or tribal historians and medicine women/men (like Linda Coombs and Steve Stonearrow). But of course creative literature and art performs just as vital a role in bringing voices and communities into conversation with broad audiences, and I know of no 21st century author (Native American or otherwise) doing that work with more talent and success than Zobel. I can think of few better or more enjoyable ways to support 21st century Native American leaders and communities than by buying and reading her books!
Special Guest Post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Native American leaders or figures you’d highlight?