9 Famous Native American Women In History That You Need To Know

9 Famous Native American Women In History That You Need To Know

Posted By PowWows.com October 21st, 2019 Last Updated on: June 2nd, 2020

It’s interesting to know that some of the great Native American women have played their roles as artists, healers, and much more and that too excellently.

However, unfortunately, you won’t find the names of many of these inspirational personalities in most history textbooks. 

Famous Native American Women

Here are nine awe-inspiring Native American women who have cemented themselves as some of the most influential cultural figures to date.

  • Wilma Mankiller
  • Susan La Flesche
  • Maria Tallchief
  • Pine Leaf
  • Pocahontas
  • Sacajawea
  • Winoa LaDuke
  • Elouise Cobell
  • Ashley Callingbull


Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010)

First on our list of famous Native American women is Wilma Mankiller, who was a Cherokee’s citizen and born in Oklahoma.

Mankiller relocated with her family to California at the age of 11 years under the Bureau of Indian Affairs Relocation Program. Even in her teenage years, took part in Indian Center of San Francisco, supported as well as helped the Black Panther Party in their initial days. Moreover, she got activist inspiration in Native American students’ profession and worked for Alcatraz Island’s reclamation.

In 1977, Mankiller came back to Oklahoma and got involved in numerous community development projects for benefiting her Cherokee neighbors.
In 1983, she was appointed as Cherokee Nation’s deputy principal chief, and two years later she became modern Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief.

Notably, she governed the United States’ second-largest tribe for ten years. Remarkably, she got the award for Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Susan La Flesche (1865-1915)

Did you know about the Susan La Flesche Picotte Center?

This hospital near Walthill, Nebraska was named after the famous Native American woman Susan La Flesche Picotte.

Native to Omaha, Susan was a 19th-century American reformer and a physician and widely recognized as the first Native American holding a medical degree.  On top of that, she worked for public health. Also, she served for the land’s legal and formal allotment to the Omaha tribe’s members.

As part of the 19th century’s temperance movement, she contributed to preventing drinking on the reservation where she served as a doctor.
Over and above that, she also ran a campaign for the prevention as well as treatment of tuberculosis which was incurable at that time.

Maria Tallchief (1925-2013)

When talking about famous Native American women celebrities, knowing about the breathtaking Ballerina Maria Tallchief is a must.

She was born in Oklahoma and then moved to New York City at the age of 17 pursuing a career in ballet dancing. Tallchief widely got acknowledgment as first major prima ballerina of America. In addition to this, she was the first Native of America who earned the rank.

Additionally, she toured the world, to become the first American who performed in Bolshoi Theater of Moscow.  In the 1970s, she worked for Chicago’s Lyric Opera as a director of ballet. Besides, she also made her debut in 1981 in the Chicago City Ballet.

In 1996, she was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievements.

Pine Leaf

Amongst the best Crow tribe’s warriors was Pine Leaf who also became a Chief.

In 1806, she was born in the Gros Ventres nation, and the Crow people captured her when she was 10.  Adding to it, a Crow warrior raised her and taught her all the required skills of an amazing warrior.

She was an excellent marksman and a horse rider. She also mastered the skill of field-dressing a buffalo.  When the Blackfoot raided her people, she safeguarded them, and that is from where she got recognition as a great warrior. As both a hunter and a warrior, Pine Leaf secured her post on the council of chiefs.

Pocahontas (1596-1617)

Another gutsy Native American woman was Pocahontas who got fame for her association with Virginia’s colonial settlement at Jamestown.

So much of her story has been changed and fictionalized through the years, unfortunately.

From Wikipedia:

Pocahontas was captured and held for ransom by the Colonists during hostilities in 1613. During her captivity, she was encouraged to convert to Christianity and was baptized under the name Rebecca. She married tobacco planter John Rolfe in April 1614 at age 17, and she bore their son Thomas Rolfe in January 1615.

In 1616, the Rolfes travelled to London where Pocahontas was presented to English society as an example of the “civilized savage” in hopes of stimulating investment in the Jamestown settlement. She became something of a celebrity, was elegantly fêted, and attended a masque at Whitehall Palace. In 1617, the Rolfes set sail for Virginia, but Pocahontas died at Gravesend of unknown causes, aged 20 or 21. She was buried in St George's Church, Gravesend in England, but her grave's exact location is unknown, as the church has been rebuilt.

Numerous places, landmarks, and products in the United States have been named after Pocahontas. Her story has been romanticized over the years, with some aspects discovered to likely be fictional. Many of the stories told about her by John Smith have been contested by her documented descendants. She is a subject of art, literature, and film, and many famous people have claimed to be among her descendants through her son, including members of the First Families of Virginia, First Lady Edith Wilson, American Western actor Glenn Strange, Las Vegas performer Wayne Newton, and astronomer Percival Lowell.

Sacajawea (1788 – 1812)

A Lemhi Shoshone woman, who aided the Lewis and Clark Expedition to achieve the objectives of their chartered mission by discovering the Louisiana Territory, was Sacajawea.

From North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, Sacagawea journeyed thousands of miles with the expedition. Adding to her services to natural history, she aided in the establishment of cultural contacts with the populations of Native American.

Winona LaDuke (1959)

Born in 1959, Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist, economist belonging to America. In addition to this, she is also a writer famous for her effort on tribal land preservation and claims, and sustainable development as well.

What’s more, she is Honor the Earth’s executive director, which is a Native environmental advocacy institute that contributed to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests actively.  Adding to it, LaDuke has also made her appearance several times in different documentaries.

Noticeably, she earned the BIHA Community Service Award in 1997. Apart from this, she also got the Reebok Human Rights Award the next year. From Augsburg College, she also received an honorary doctorate degree in 2015.

Elouise Cobell (1945-2011)

Also identified as Yellow Bird Woman, Elouise Pepion Cobell was a tribal elder, rancher and banker, activist. Furthermore, she was also a leading petitioner in 2009’s revolutionary class-action suit Cobell v. Salazar.

This challenged the mismanagement of the United States of trust funds related to over 500 000 American Native individuals. For the trust case, the government agreed upon a $3.4 billion settlement in 2010.

From 1996, she followed suit, demanding the government to justify fees from resource leases.

Ex-President Barack Obama gave her ward of a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom. On her behalf, her son Turk Cobell received this award.

Ashley Callingbull-Burnham (1989)

Born in 1989, Ashley Callingbull has got fame by winning the Mrs. Universe title in 2015.

In 2011, she served as a Canadian representative at Miss Humanity International in Barbados as well as at Germany’s Queen of the World Final in 2010.
Moreover, she also acts and plays the role of Sheila Delaronde in the series named Blackstone.

She has used her fame to be activist for many Native American issues.

So, these were only 9 of the famous Native American women, but the list is never-ending.

Knowing them is certainly awe-inspiring. Isn’t it?


Famous Native American Women in History


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4 thoughts on “9 Famous Native American Women In History That You Need To Know

  1. Sacajawea is my great-great-great grandmother. I have a book titled Indians of Today, copywrite 1971, editor and compiler Marion E Gridley. In it are many notable Indigenous people from the past century including many educators and entertainers.

  2. Suzie Gillis says:

    As European I am very interested in American first natives. Went once to a Pow-Wow. Would to find out the history behind this beautiful event.

  3. Anna Stallard Edwards says:

    I knew 3 or 4 of these women, but enjoyed reading about the others. Thank you for sharing the information. I am 65, still living the life and learning!

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