Panel Discussion – The Power of Matriarchy: Intergenerational Indigenous Women’s Leadership

Within most Indigenous communities of the Americas (and of the world) the cultural and societal responsibilities of womxn play a crucially important role in maintaining the wellbeing of the community—including the ecosystem. Their intimate relationship to Mother Earth ranges from the exchange of water in the birthing process to the role of decision-making within families and clans to ensure a healthy future for subsequent generations. In these especially challenging times, the coming together of Indigenous womxn in leadership is more critical than ever for all people and all cultures to re-evaluate their responsibilities to respect and protect the sacredness of Mother Earth. Hear three inspiring Indigenous women discuss how matriarchy, the sacred feminine, and Indigenous ways play an important part in their leadership.

Hosted by Cara Romero, Bioneers Indigeneity Program Director. With: Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca), Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), and Naelyn Pike (Chiricahua Apache).


Casey Camp-Horinek, Environmental Ambassador of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and Hereditary Drum-keeper of its Women’s Scalp Dance Society, elder and matriarch, is also an Emmy award-winning actress, author, and internationally renowned, longtime Native and human rights and environmental justice activist. She led efforts for the Ponca tribe to adopt a “rights of nature” statute and pass a moratorium on fracking on its territory. She has traveled and spoken around the world.

Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), is the founder and Executive Director of IllumiNative, the first and only national Native-led organization focused on changing the narrative about Native peoples on a mass scale. Crystal built IllumiNative to activate a cohesive set of research-informed strategies that illuminate the voices, stories, contributions and assets of contemporary Native peoples to disrupt the invisibility and toxic stereotypes Native peoples face.

Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Program Director of the Bioneers Indigenous Knowledge Program, previously served her Mojave-based tribe in several capacities, including as: first Executive Director at the Chemehuevi Cultural Center, a member of the tribal council, and Chair of the Chemehuevi Education Board and Chemeuevi Headstart Policy Council. Cara is also a highly accomplished photographer/artist.

Naelyn Pike, a 21-year-old Chiricahua Apache, is a lifelong fighter for the rights of her tribe and other Indigenous peoples. She follows in the footsteps of her renowned grandfather, the founder of the Apache Stronghold, dedicated to the protection of Apache sacred sites and Indigenous rights. Pike, the youngest Indigenous girl ever to testify in front of Congress, continues to fight for environmental sustainability and Indigenous rights at the local, state, and national levels.

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