Special Month for Women

By Bobbie A. Hickman

March was the month College of Southern Nevada celebrated Native American Heritage in addition to women’s empowerment.

Combining these two extraordinary movements together into this one month shinned a light on the important issues still facing both groups. CSN was unique in this decision.

CSN President Federico Zaragoza wrote in his blog for the College, “At CSN we chose to listen to our student groups and decided to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in March because November can be a difficult time of year for the Native community.”

Debra Anne Haaland

On March 15, for the first time ever, a Native American woman was appointed as Secretary of Interior in President Joseph Biden’s cabinet: Debra Anne Haaland. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican. With this momentous position filled with a woman of indigenous background, there is no doubt she will move the needle farther for both women and Natives.

“The Department of the Interior, established in March 1849, was responsible for many government-sanctioned atrocities committed against Native Americans and heartbreakingly the violation of every treaty signed from 1778 to 1871,” said Sara Quintana, CSN chair of Native American Heritage Committee. “A strong Pueblo woman can hold the department responsible for generations of trauma impacting millions of relatives.”

“CSN honors Native American Heritage Month in the spring, which typically marks the beginning of Powwow season,” Quintana said. “March would serve as a good month that will also afford exploring the intersection of Native women’s issues such as missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

According to National Center for Education Statistics, as of fall 2019, 57% of students enrolled at CSN are women and only 163 students are Native Americans and Alaskan natives. Representation of these students matters and was the focus of this month’s celebration.

Women’s rights and Native American rights did not always work together as the movements had different priorities.

“The women’s rights movement has been almost exclusively led by white, middle-class women who prioritize issues most important in their circles,” said Dr. Sondra Cosgrove, professor of social sciences and chair of the Native American Heritage Committee at CSN. “Native American women obviously have had different priorities such as treaty rights, stopping land encroachment and protecting indigenous families from policies such as boarding schools.”

Matilda Joslyn Gage, a founding member of the National Women Suffrage Association in 1869, was an important advocate for Native Americans. “Matilda Joslyn Gage certainly influenced the early women’s rights movement by offering her culture as an example of how men and women can live with more equality,” Cosgrove said. “Gage was able to strengthen the arguments for women gaining political and economic rights.”

“Women’s rights are human rights,” said Anne DeClouette, chair-elect of the CSN Women’s Alliance Committee. “Students benefit from women faculty and those in leadership and not just for female students. Same goes for faculty and staff who benefit from women executives. It’s great to have a woman chancellor; that gender diversity must be at all levels.”

CSN embraces representation as the modern women’s rights movement is more inclusive. Cosgrove said, “Native American women hold positions of power within their own cultures, so the CSN Women’s Alliance felt it was a natural evolution of our diversity committee to merge with the CSN Native American Heritage Alliance.”

“The problems and threats facing indigenous American women is so important to spotlight,” DeClouette said. “The Women’s Alliance was happy to partner with Dr. Sondra Cosgrove to support those efforts during Women’s History (Empowerment) Month.” 

For more information on diversity at CSN, visit https://www.csn.edu/inclusive.

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