Anchorage Daily News
Wednesday, August 13, 1997
Page: A1 Section: Nation: Edition: Final
ALASKAN IS 'WOMAN OF HOPE'
By Esther Pan, Daily News Reporter
By Bob Hallinen, Daily News Photo
Article used with permission from Anchorage Daily News for educational purposes only.
Reporter Rosita Worl has what she calls a particularly Native sense of time. Which is to say, fuzzy. She doesn't know exactly how old her three children are. She can't tell you which years she published Alaska Native magazine, only that there were eight of them. She's not even sure of her own age.
"Fifty-eight, maybe 60," she said. "I don't really know. It's not important to me."
What is important to the Tlingit activist from Juneau are Native issues, history and rights. As an anthropology professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, adviser to President Clinton on subsistence issues and board member of several Native corporations, Worl has worked for years to help her people.
For her efforts, Worl is featured with 11 other American Indian women activists in a new poster campaign called "Women of Hope," which highlights their contributions to their people and society.
The educational campaign is produced by Bread and Roses, the cultural arm of the National Health and Human Services Employees Union, which represents mostly minority women who work in New York's health care industry. The 12 posters feature the women in their home states and come with a fact-filled historical study guide aimed at increasing the visibility of accomplished Indian women.
Moe Foner, executive director of Bread and Roses, started the project several years ago following visits he made to U.S. schools. While many classroom lessons focused on black men, he discovered, few noted the achievements of black women.
The poster campaign that followed, featuring 12 strong black women, was so popular Foner did another one featuring inspirational Latinas. Now comes the Indian campaign, which is also getting rave reviews. A future campaign will feature Asian women.
The poster sets have appeared everywhere from New York City subway cars to classrooms, museums and libraries around the country.
The 12 honored women were chosen by a panel of Indian scholars and activists, said Foner, who looked for each woman's devotion to her culture and community in addition to distinction in her field.
So Lori Arviso Alvord, a Navajo from New Mexico and the first woman in her tribe to become a surgeon, qualified. Alvord, a graduate of Stanford University Medical School, advocates the use of medicine men and traditional Navajo songs to treat the sick at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in New Mexico.
And Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the first woman to lead her tribe, was a natural choice. Now an author and lecturer, Mankiller is credited with tripling her tribe's membership, doubling its annual budget to $90 million and raising the overall visibility of her people.
Worl, who modestly calls fellow honorees like Mankiller "way out of my league," has numerous accomplishments of her own.
She grew up in Southeast Alaska, living in Haines, Juneau and Petersburg and working in canneries in the summer. She studied anthropology at the University of Alaska Southeast and the University of Alaska Anchorage and eventually ended up at Harvard.
"I was just excited to learn," she said. "It was like a curtain opening up. There was a whole world out there very different from my world: art, museums, law and business classes. I found it so exciting."
Worl's portrait was taken in the boardroom of the Sealaska Foundation, which she heads, in front of a Chilkat blanket made by her grandmother. The blanket, woven of cedar bark and wool, features the family crest of a wolf.
"I would've been happier outside, because that's where I feel especially close to the land," Worl said. "But it was a great honor for me because of my grandmother's blanket."
Maggie Bertin, deputy director of the group raising money for the planned National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., said the posters will help people understand the tenacity of native and Hawaiian women.
"It's a wonderful way to educate people about the contributions of native women," Bertin said. "For so long, their stories have gone untold."
Charlotte Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota Indian from South Dakota, is determined the stories be remembered. She has long fought to improve the quality of life on her reservation, where unemployment hovers near 85 percent and families still live without running water and electricity. She has also led the fight among Indians to have the historic Black Hills in South Dakota returned to her people.
"Our history is who we are," Black Elk said. "To forget is not to belong."
To order the American Indian and Hawaiian, African-American and Latina Women of Hope poster sets, write to the Bread and Roses Cultural Project Inc. 330 West 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10036. Or call (212) 631-4565.
*Anthropologist and Tlingit Rosita Worl is one of 12 American Indian women activists featured in a poster campaign called "Women of Hope."WOMEN OF HOPE Knight-Ridder Newspapers The Native American "Women of Hope" campaign features:
* Charlotte Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota Indian from South Dakota. A spiritual leader, she is known for her creative storytelling and commitment to traditional ceremonies and cultural practices.
* Wilma Mankiller, a Cherokee from Oklahoma. In 1987 she made history by being elected the first female principal chief of her tribe. Now retired from that post, she spends her time writing and lecturing.
* Joanne Shenandoah, an Oneida from New York. She is a singer and songwriter. She uses Native chants in her music and has won numerous awards.
* Juane Quick-to-See Smith, a Flathead Salish Indian from Montana, whose traditional and contemporary paintings are a part of numerous collections in the United States and Europe.
* Rosita Worl, a Tlingit Indian from Alaska. She is an anthropologist and a professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Southeast. Worl also founded an Alaska Native newspaper.
* Lori Arviso Alvord, a Navajo, and the first woman from her tribe to become a surgeon. She operates the Gallup Indian Medical Center in New Mexico. She incorporates medicine men and traditional Navajo songs in her hospital environment.
* Muriel Miguel, a Kuna/Rappahannock Indian, who grew up in New York City. An actress and director, she runs the Spiderwoman Theater, a feminist group she helped start 20 years ago.
* Carrie and Mary Dann, sisters from the Shoshone tribe in Nevada, who have spent years battling the federal government to preserve their 24 million-acre homeland with its miles of mountains, streams and wide-open spaces.
* Joy Harjo, a poet and musician from the Muskogee Nation in Oklahoma. She was selected for writing about tribal losses and survival.
* Pualani Kanahele, a Hawaiian teacher, historian and mother who works to keep her heritage alive through her school lessons and animated storytelling.
* Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabe Indian from the White Earth reservation in Minnesota. She graduated from Harvard and went on to become a political and environmental activist working to recover reservation lands for her tribe and others.
* Janine Pease-Pretty on Top, a Crow Indian from Montana. She is president of Little Big Horn College, a tribal school she created in 1982.
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