Mitchell Museum
of the American Indian

3001 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201


Contemporary Native Women Opening Doors to Change

June 2016 to December 2017

“Contemporary Native Women Opening Doors to Change" is a year-long exhibit that takes an in-depth look at twelve Native women leaders whose contributions have shaped the future in a range of social justice issues from tribal sovereignty, culture and language, land and environmental issues, imagery and stereotypes to the arts. Through biographical accounts and each woman’s own words, photographs, videos, documents, art, and artifacts, visitors will learn about major issues faced by indigenous people today and how these challenges are being overcome to bring about change, inspire the next generation, and break ground for women everywhere.

Learn about the first Native American woman to successfully argue a case before the United States Supreme Court. Learn who is leading the charge in the fight against using racial stereotypes as mascots. Discover who was named one of the “35 people who made a difference in the world” in 2005 by Smithsonian Magazine. Meet an internationally recognized Native woman whose art work featured on postal stamps. Designed to stimulate conversations in community responsibility and engagement, visitors will learn the unique life stories of the incredible women behind these and many more accomplishments. Throughout the exhibit, the women’s life stories are supported by art and artifacts that represent the challenges the women have faced and the victories they have championed. The following are introductions to the amazing women leaders featured within the exhibit.


Susan L. Allen (Rosebud Sioux). In 2012 Susan L. Allen made history by becoming the first American Indian woman elected to the Minnesota state legislature and the first openly gay American Indian woman to win election to any state legislature.

Ada Deer (Menominee Nation). The first woman to be appointed Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, Ada Deer has worked as a social worker, community organizer, political activist, educator, and administrator.

Sarah Deer (Muscogee (Creek) Nation). Professor of Law at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and co-director of the school’s Indian law program, is a legal scholar and advocate for Native American rights.

Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee). Founding president of The Morning Star Institute, a national Indian rights organization founded in 1984. Suzan Shown Harjo is a writer, curator, and policy advocate who has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of Native Peoples

Heather Kendall-Miller (Athabascan). A senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund in the Anchorage office. Heather Kendall-Miller has represented Alaska Native communities in numerous legal battles for over twenty years.

jessie little doe (Mashpee Wampanoag). A linguist who has, along with her community, revived Wampanoag (or Wôpanâôt8âôk), the mother language of her tribal nation.

Arlinda F. Locklear (Lumbee). The first Native American woman to successfully argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Arlinda F. Locklear has practiced law for some forty years.

Donna Loring (Penobscot Nation). A Vietnam veteran with a professional background in law enforcement. Donna Loring was the first woman police academy graduate to become police chief in Maine, serving as the Penobscot Nation’s police chief from 1984-90.

Jane Mt. Pleasant (Tuscarora). A national expert in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) agriculture. Jane Mt. Pleasant is on the faculty at New York’s Cornell University.

Daphne Odjig (Potawatomi/Odawa/English). Born on Manitoulin Island’s Wikwemikong Reserve in Ontario in 1919, Daphne Odjig is one of the most celebrated First Nations painters and print makers in Canada.

Janine Pease (Crow/Hidatsa). The first woman in the Crow Tribe of Montana to earn a doctorate, Janine Pease is a national leader in education.

Susan Kelly Power (Standing Rock Sioux). Born in 1925 in Fort Yates, North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Susan Kelly Power moved to Chicago in 1941, building a lifetime of activism and service there.



About the Curators:

The exhibit is guest curated by Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette Molin (Member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe from White Earth), who are two prominent humanities authors and museum consultants with over 25 years of experience. Both have published numerous books on Native American topics and history, including The Encyclopedia of Native American Religions, The Extraordinary Book of Native American Lists, and American Indian Stereotypes in a World of Children.

Tuesday – Saturday:
10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12pm – 4pm

Adults: $5.00
Children, students, teachers, seniors: $3.00 
Mitchell Members: FREE
Tribal Members: FREE



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