Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations


Left-to-Right: Susan White (Oneida), Irene Cuch (Ute), Cecelia Fire Thunder, (Ogala Lakota): Loretta Mextoxen (Oneida) Margo Gray Proctor (Osage) and Cherrah Quiett (Muscogee Creek) were among the dynamic women who attended the conference.  Cecelia Fire Thunder gave the keynote speech on "Leadership Committed to Change."  Photo by Valerie Taliman

HINCKLEY, Minn. - More than 250 women attended the fourth annual Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations (WEWIN) conference hosted by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.


Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of Mille Lacs and a Center board member, welcomed hundreds of Native women from around the nation who came to build leadership skills, to create change in their communities, and to discuss tribal business opportunities as well as government and legal policies impacting Indian Nations today.


"Women are the backbone of our communities," said Benjamin. "Part of our mission is to empower, educate and encourage women to be leaders and role models in our communities. We are sharing our experiences about the traits you need to be a leader -- integrity, accountability, motivation, dedication, and a spiritual foundation to your culture and community.

"In today's environment, it is so important to have an organization like WEWIN that focuses on the sisterhood and strength of our American Indian women because there is so much talent and commitment within our circles," she said. 

Workshops were focused on leadership skills, the power of the Indian vote, finance, public relations, lobbying, intergovernmental relations, and preventing violence against women.  The Center presented a workshop on how tribes can use the newly adopted United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"We wanted to create a forum for women in leadership to discuss issues of paramount importance in Indian Country," said Susan Masten, former Chair of the Yurok Nation and co-president of WEWIN. "Drawing upon our cultural traditions and values, we hope to create stronger networks, impact public policy, foster economic growth, continue professional development, and offer encouragement and support to one another."

Masten is also Chair of the Board of Directors for the Indian Law Resource Center. 

WEWIN, formed in 2004, is an organization dedicated to strengthening tribal cultures, educating others about the history and inherent rights that Native nations exercise for the good of our people, promoting honest and dignified tribal leadership, instilling a balance between service to community and fulfilling responsibilities to loved ones, and serving our communities as role models.




Summit looks at abuse of women  September 4, 2008 | The Bismark Tribune

MIKE McCLEARY/Bismark Tribune photo.





Native Women Lead | Minnesota Women's Press

Includes profile of Indian Law Resource Center
board member, Melanie Benjamin