Indigenous Women’s Day

Today on Indigenous Women’s Day I celebrate my ancestors.

My first knowledge of Miskito Indigenous culture was learned from my ancestors, Rosina Nelson, my great-grandmother who was a midwife; and from my grandmother, Mandy Lee Thompson Nelson, who worked with the Moravian missionaries in Bilwi. 

Both of them were from the indigenous community of Karata located in front of a lagoon by the same name, where you can sit and enjoy drinking and eating coconut as much as you want while talking to the people who are friendly, and tidy in the way they maintain their community clean. Fishing is the community’s main source of economical income. 

Today, I celebrate these two women, who are my role model of indigenous women. They were strong, brave, and never renounced their tasks. I am proud that they are part of my roots.  

I had the opportunity to meet many indigenous women from different countries and backgrounds while working as a journalist in places such as summits, remote places, and during my daily life. They all are full of energy and carefulness.

Since 1983, International Day of Indigenous Women is still celebrated today. It was established in Tihuanacu, Bolivia during the Second Meeting of Organizations and Movements of America. The main objective of this day is to remember all the brave indigenous women who had fought for their families and communities to preserve the experiences, values, languages, and heritage knowledge. 

Bartolina Sisa was an Aymaran woman from Peru, who fougth against the Spanish colony and participated in the siege of La Paz with her partner Túpac Katari, and other natives. She was captured and executed by her enemies on the 5th of September, 1972.

Indigenous women are often discriminated against for their gender, ethnicity, and poor condition. However, countless outstanding indigenous women shaped and are shaping the history of their community and the world. Here, Women Wheel names 5 figures fought or are fighting for native welfare.  

Shirley Colleen Smith ( 1924-1998), was a Wiradjuri woman, activist, and social worker who devoted her time for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in New South Wales. She was the one who created the aboriginal legal, medical, and children services, a housing company and a tent embassy. 

She was known as Mum Shirl, because while visiting her brother in prison she would talk to the other prisoners, so the guards asked what was her relationship with them. She replied, “I am their mum”.

Autumn Peltier (2004-), is a young water activist from Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario, Canada, known as the “water warrior”. For years, she has been advocating for safe drinking water for indigenous people in Canada and other countries.  

In 2018, she spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA, where she said: “Our water should not be for sale. We all have a right to this water as we need it”.

Peltier addressing the UN in 2018

Finnish Sami women,  Tiina Sanila-Aikio, Riikka Karppinen, Inka Saara Arttijeff, Anna Morottaja, Petra Laiti, and others are fighting to save their land, water, and animals ( reindeer-herding and fishing) that are threatened by climate change, the construction of an Arctic Railway, forestry, and mining. 

Brazil Indigenous girls and women activists, Rayanne Cristine Maximo Franca, Célia Xakriabá, Sônia Guajajara, and many others are campaigning under the slogan “Our land, our body, our spirit” to save the Amazon rainforest which is called the “lung of the Earth” from deforestation, climate change, and mining. 

My fifth figure of the list, but in no way the least,  is someone I know from my hometown and had the opportunity to work at moments with her. She is Lottie Cunningham Wren, an indigenous lawyer and human rights defender who has been fighting and working efficiently with the Miskitos, Mayangnas, and Afro-descendants communities in Nicaragua for many years. 

Do you know an indigenous woman in your community, who is changing history? Share your story!