Dear Native Women, We Are Resilient

DEAR NATIVE WOMENDear Native American and Indigenous women,

For some time now I’ve been pondering on how to write a blog concerning Native American women. So I will begin by saying this: we are beautiful, we are strong, and we are resilient.

When I say we are beautiful, I do not mean the way mainstream society perceives us. We are not celluloid princesses or hyper sexualized women. For many years, Native women have been classified as submissive through the use of dehumanizing terms such as “squaw.” I would like to make it clear that our beauty is not to be misconstrued; our beauty is in all aspects within us and not just the outer image.

Today, imagery of Native women is dominated by films like Disney’s Pocahontas. It’s a continuing controversy for many of us. Yes, Disney probably intended to portray Native women positively, but it ultimately set women back by using derogatory stereotypes. We are still on the frontline with this issue— continue to stand strong.

We are strong, my Native women, because our grandmothers, mothers, and sisters persevered through devastating events, reshaping Native women’s history to empower us today. The negative images brought to our attention enable us to teach mainstream societies about our true selves.

Native women historically were in the shadows, but that does not mean they were unimportant. In Theda Perdue’s Cherokee Women, women were disciplined to incorporate European culture. Through missionary schools and conversion, Cherokee women were able to culturally persist without forgetting their values. In all tribes that went through historical trauma, it was the women who maintained the societies and the culture, and who were leaders. We’re no longer in the shadows today, we are resilient.

Today, Native women are becoming more informed and have been taking a stand on issues that have not been getting enough attention from the media. Missing and murdered Indigenous women have been a top issue, along with sexual and domestic violence. For certain Native women’s issues are being recognized and we need that recognition.

We are resilient, my sisters, because we know who we are and where we come from. Empower one another because we are proud. We are more than just pretty faces, more than how Europeans have misrepresented us, and much more than “squaws.” I am proud to know many Native women who are tired of such misconceptions and who are taking a stand everyday by teaching positively (and most times, aggressively) about our existence and importance to the outside world.

Continue this course of action, continue to inform, and we cannot lose.

Shaina Nez (Diné) is a graduate of Diné College and author of the TCJ Student blog, Red Storyteller.

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