5 More Native Women Who Know Their History

Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo
Indian Country Today
March 30, 2016
By Tanya H. Lee

History matters. And so does who teaches it. For Women's History Month we have put together a list of a few American Indian women who teach Native history, adding their unique voices and perspectives to the American story.

JoEllen Anderson, Ojibwe, is a Native American Studies lecturer at the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University. She recently served as a consultant in Minnesota and California on Native American histories in children's school books. Her publications include "Cowboys & Indians, the Perceptions of Western Films Among American Indians and Anglos," and "Ft. Peck Indian Reservation." Her teaching and research interests include Indian education, histories of tribal nations, and indigenous politics.

"As an Ojibwe sociologist and historian who grew up on an Indian reservation, I bring an additional voice to, and at times different interpretations of, our past, present and future. My personal background clearly informs my teaching and this expands students', Natives and non-Natives, educational experiences," she said.

Malinda Maynor Lowery is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She was born in Robeson County, North Carolina, but raised in Durham. She is an associate professor of History at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as director of the Southern Oral History Program. Her teaching, writing, and community-engaged research creates opportunities for Native people to tell their own stories, founded on the principle that self-representation is an exercise of sovereignty.

She feels that as a Native historian, and one who writes a good deal about her own tribal community, she has a responsibility to represent her ancestors so they would recognize themselves in her work.

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, grew up in Syracuse, New York and received her Ph.D. in History from Cornell University. This year, she is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she is completing a book about Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people in the post-Revolutionary War period that focuses on the history of the Buffalo Creek Reservation near today's Buffalo, New York.

"I realized that one of the most productive ways I could address my frustrations regarding the absence of Native history courses and the shortage of Native perspectives in the classroom was by becoming a professor myself. When I'm teaching, researching, and writing, I'm able to bring together my interdisciplinary training in Native American and Indigenous Studies with my training in history. I'm always working to integrate Native voices into my writing, seeking out documents authored by Native people and developing analyses that center tribally-specific perspectives.

"It has also been wonderful to witness the growth of Native American and Indigenous Studies over the past decade and to see the incredible group of emerging Native scholars who are at various stages in their Ph.D. programs. For me, teaching and mentoring Native students is an important part of my work, and I think it is just as important as the research and writing that Native faculty do. I have been privileged to work with impressive Native students at a number of institutions and, whether or not they become historians, it's wonderful to see them receive their degrees and continue on in their lives."

Amanda Cobb-Greetham, Chickasaw, currently serves as Coca-Cola Professor and Chair of the Department of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. During her tenure at the Chickasaw Nation's Division of History and Culture, she launched the state-of-the-art Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma, and directed the museums, archives, language programs, and Chickasaw Press, the first tribal publishing house of its kind, which received the Harvard Award for Excellence in Tribal Self-Governance under her guidance.

Cobb-Greetham won the American Book Award for "Listening to Our Grandmothers' Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females." She is co-editor of "The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations with Amy Lonetree." She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals, has served as the editor of American Indian Quarterly and was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

"It is absolutely critical that Native American history be taught by Native people. And, it is equally critical that we, as Native people, actively research, document, and write our own histories. Telling our own stories is an important act of cultural sovereignty, that is, taking historical narratives that have often been used by others as tools of dispossession and turning them into tools of survival and cultural continuance."

Leola Roberta Tsinnajinnie, Diné & Filipino, is an assistant professor of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

"I am able to connect with Native Studies' students through teaching as mentorship. My work is centered upon student pathways utilizing indigenous education, decolonization, and nation building concepts. My goal is to contribute to Native communities as an instructor who honors indigenous narratives and emphasizes critical thinking for the purpose of strengthening our quality of life in all respects," she said.

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