Many tribes are matrilineal. In these communities, women historically played a significant role in holding and dispensing traditional knowledge. Women also held positions of leadership, shared in decision-making, and helped direct the future of their tribal communities. However, due to colonization, the traditional role of women was disrupted and displaced, in part through the patriarchal social structure imposed by the United States. It is only more recently, beginning at the end of the 20th century and continuing to present day, that Indigenous women have begun to reclaim their decision-making authority to improve the well-being of their communities. As tribal communities continue to heal and restore kinship traditions, more women are serving in leadership roles and having an impact on important issues, including climate change.
While Native women are increasingly reclaiming leadership roles, they are often not sufficiently prepared to navigate the various challenges they will inevitably face in their professional career. With an increasing number of women stepping into leadership roles within their community, it is important that current and future leaders receive the necessary support to succeed. In 2022, the Water & Tribe’s Initiative formed the Indigenous Women’s Leadership Network (IWLN) to help meet this need within the Colorado River Basin. The IWLN’s core values include connecting individuals, sharing knowledge, and developing a community for Native American women to mentor, support, and inspire one another.
As part of its programming, IWLN hosts quarterly webinars that create space for discussion, and share collective knowledge of leadership and professional development skills. On February 9th, the IWLN is hosting its next webinar, Finding and Leveraging Allies, from 12:00-1:00 pm (MT). Panelists include Celene Hawkins (The Nature Conservancy), Pamela Adams (Bureau of Reclamation, retd.), and Moises Moreno-Rivera (California Natural Resources Agency). The session will be moderated by Bidtah Becker (Navajo Nation).
Heather Tanana is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a member of the Stegner Center Law and Policy Group. She is an Assistant Research Professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah and an Associate Faculty with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. Heather serves as the coordinator for IWLN.