Celebrating Strong Cherokee Women
During March we celebrate Women’s History Month, honoring the enormous contributions Cherokee women have made throughout our history. From Isabel Cobb, the first female physician in Indian Territory, to Mary Golda Ross, a NASA aerospace engineer who helped America win the space race, Cherokee women have been at the forefront of defining our success. In 1851, we opened the first institute of higher education for women west of the Mississippi River. The Cherokee National Female Seminary's curriculum was academically challenging, reflecting our tribe’s vision of strong, educated women.
Cherokee Nation is a matrilineal tribe, and reverence for women is deeply rooted in our culture.
That is why during my tenure as Principal Chief, I’ve made every effort to place talented women in leadership roles within Cherokee Nation’s government and business entities. Women lead many of our tribal programs and departments as executive directors. In fact, with women comprising about 70 percent of our nearly 4,000 employees, it’s safe to say women dominate our government workforce.
In recognition of our changing work demographic, we created a more female-friendly work environment at Cherokee Nation. We established a fully paid, eight-week maternity leave policy for expectant mothers who work for the tribe. We raised the minimum wage for all employees. These initiatives enable our staff to continue working for the Cherokee people while meeting their family obligations.
Cherokee Nation’s legislative body, the Tribal Council, is shaped in large part by Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez, Secretary Janees Taylor and at-large Councilors Wanda Hatfield and Mary Baker Shaw. Their leadership and vision are driving the Cherokee people into a brighter future and carrying on critical work set in motion by those who preceded them.
Bill John Baker