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National Museum of the American Indian Showcases American Indian Women’s Achievements During Women’s History Month

Events in Washington To Feature Activists, Artists, Business Leaders and National Policy Makers

March 1, 2016

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center near Battery Park in New York City will present four programs celebrating the genius and creativity of Native American women. The signature event is the landmark symposium, “Strong Women/Strong Nations: Native American Women and Leadership,” which takes place Friday, March 18, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Rasmuson Theater at the museum on the National Mall. The event will also be webcast live at Admission to all events is free.

Washington Programming

The “Strong Women/Strong Nations: Native American Women and Leadership” symposium offers historical perspectives on the complex identities of Native women and lively, insightful discussion about contemporary challenges, obstacles and opportunities they face. Inspiration for the symposium comes from the late Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller who said, “Every step I take forward is on a path paved by strong Indian women before me.”

Speakers include Karen Diver (Chippewa), special assistant to the President of the United States for Native American affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council; The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw), minister of justice and attorney general of Canada; Joy Harjo (Muscogee [Creek]) playwright, poet and musician; activist Ashley Callingbull Burnham (Cree), Mrs. Universe 2015 and tireless advocate to end violence against Native American women; and 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom Award-winner Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee),  poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate, who has helped Native Peoples protect sacred places and recover more than 1 million acres of land. Harjo is one of seven Native people who filed the 1992 landmark case, Harjo et al v. Pro Football Inc., against the Washington football team’s disparaging name.

In conjunction with the symposium, the museum will host the Monument Quilt project March 16–20. The collection of more than 1,000 quilt squares holds the testaments of survivors of rape and abuse. The variety of stories, told by the survivors themselves, aims to create and demand a public space for recognition and healing. Approximately 100 of the squares created by Native American women will be displayed throughout the five-day period in the museum’s Potomac Atrium. More information about the quilt is at

On Thursday, March 17, the Lili‘u Project, conceptualized and performed by Starr Kalāhiki (Native Hawaiian), will bring new attention to the story, music and poetry of Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Nation. Through her performance, Kalāhiki explores themes of love, healing, forgiveness, loss, beauty and gratitude. This program will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. in the museum’s Potomac Atrium.

New York Programming

On Saturday, March 12, the museum in New York will host “Crossing Lines: Women and Ledger Art.” Though historically associated with male artists, many women are now known for their fine ledger art. Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux) and Wakeah Jhane (Comanche/Blackfeet/Kiowa) will demonstrate and discuss their work with visitors as part of the opening of “Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains.” The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the museum’s rotunda. Support for this project is provided by Ameriprise Financial.

 The events in New York conclude Thursday, March 17, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. with a screening of the film My Legacy, directed by Helen Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot’in). In an effort to determine why she is unable to form lasting, committed relationships, Haig-Brown looks to her relationship with her mother for clues. As she learns about her mother’s trauma and the complicating effects of residential schools, she is able to find forgiveness and healing. A discussion with Haig-Brown will follow.

About the National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. To learn more about the museum’s mission, visit

In Washington, the museum is located on the National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. It is open each day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is accessible from L’Enfant Plaza Metrorail station via the Maryland Avenue/Smithsonian Museums exit. Follow the museum on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

In New York City, the museum is located at One Bowling Green, across from Battery Park. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays until 8 p.m. By subway, the museum may be reached by the 1 to South Ferry, the 4/5 to Bowling Green, the J/Z to Broad Street or the R to Whitehall Street. Follow the George Gustav Heye Center on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Josh Stevens   

Lisa M. Austin