“A Thousand Voices” celebrates powerful Native women

In honor of Native American Heritage Month and American roots, the University of Idaho presents a look into history and an opportunity to discuss the importance of Native American ancestry.

UI’s Women’s Center is collaborating with the Native American Student Center to promote an event featuring the film “A Thousand Voices.” Also at the event will be a panel discussion with UI students of Native American ancestry.

The film features stories of Native American women in New Mexico and the roles of women in their traditional history and culture.

“It really brings to light the roles of women and different issues that are sometimes overlooked … making women specifically more visible,” said Bekah MillerMacPhee, the assistant director for programs at the Women’s Center.

The women featured in the film come from a variety of occupations, from entrepreneurs to historians to writers. While these women aren’t easily recognized by their names or appearances, the importance of their stories of resilience, courage and strength is still relevant.

“This is their version of how contact and invasion by Western culture changed their ideas about gender and women’s roles look like in their communities,” Lindsey Schneider, the program coordinator for the Native American Student Center, said.

Several different Native American tribes will also be represented, including the Navajo Nation, Kiowa and Cochiti tribes.

Four female students of UI will lead the panel discussion, talking about the history of women in their own tribes, MillerMacPhee said.

“It’s cool to bring in a local piece,” she said.

Some of the topics to be discussed include domestic violence, importance of education and the effects of colonization on gender roles in the tribes. All of it focuses mainly on Native American women.

Three different tribes are represented by the panelists at the event, including one from Nez Perce tribe. UI has students from 15 to 20 tribes, mostly around the Northwest, Schneider said.

This heritage is an important part of who we are, MillerMacPhee said. UI rests on native land, as the Nez Perce resided on the Palouse. This knowledge is incredibly important to pay attention to, as it shows the history of where we are and how Native American culture influences others.

“Unfortunately, there’s no requirement for that history to be taught in school,” MillerMacPhee said. “It’s important for us to learn about that influence (because) it’s relevant to where we are.”

Schneider said recognizing Native American heritage is a way for the U.S. to reckon with the history of colonization, specifically in the context of education. It is important for Native American students to come into educational institutions and know they are welcome on the campus.

The interactions with these students are important for those who don’t fully understand Native American cultures. There are those who may assume much, and this event is one way to enhance public education around the issue.

“(Native American student) cultures and contributions are valued and make the University of Idaho what it is,” Schneider said.

MillerMacPhee said she hopes people going to the event will feel a connection to the panelists and what they say whether or not they have roots in a Native American tribe. It’s a time to learn about an important population who helped shape the Palouse.

“For me personally, learning Native American history has been enlightening and given me a better understanding of my surroundings,” she said.

The film highlights the strength of Native American women, which is important because sometimes these women are given a victim mentality in the face of domestic and sexual violence. In reality, these women are strong leaders for their communities, Schneider said.

“We’re hoping people walk away with this sense of vibrancy of native culture and the resilience native women possess,” Schneider said.

The event will be from 6 – 8 p.m. Thursday in the Bruce M. Pitman Center at the University of Idaho. Admission is free, but donations are welcome, and proceeds will go to fund the Tutxinmepu Powwow put on by the Native American Student Center and the Office of Tribal Relations at UI.