International Women’s Day

In support of Women’s History Month, NIWRC and its Research arm created an educational resource containing biographies of four Indigenous women, which will accompany a Twitter Storm for International Women’s Day on March 8. The brief biographies highlight their contributions to the movement of securing the protection, health, safety, and welfare of Indigenous women and children for the awareness and considerable actions of social justice, policy reforms, and strengthening Tribal sovereignty. 

In commemoration of March as Women’s History Month, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) has provided four educational biographies, highlighting Indigenous women for their contributions to the movement in the efforts of securing protection, health, safety, and welfare for our Indigenous women and children. Their efforts of awareness, advocacy, and actions are heard throughout Indian Country. Each of the women has provided the strength, knowledge, and their voice to the next generation of Indigenous women for the desires, the urgency, and the needs of Indian Country to develop strong Indigenous women’s voices. NIWRC is extremely grateful for each of the women’s contributions for the understanding of the importance of social justice by redefining social constructs of settler colonialism frameworks, the need for mass policy reforms, and providing the avenues to strengthen Tribal sovereignty. 

NIWRC also recognizes and acknowledges all the countless women that have contributed to the movement of protecting Indigenous women. This work is not done and will continue until safety, justice, and laws are secured for Indigenous women and girls.   

Tillie Black Bear (Sicangu Lakota) 

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) recognizes Tillie Black Bear, Wa Wokiye Win (Woman Who Helps Everyone), as a founding woman leader to Native cultural-based and women-centered grassroots efforts in the violence against women movement to end violence against Indigenous women, and the grandmother of NIWRC. She founded in 1978, the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), where she was the first woman of color to become the chairwoman for NCADV. Black Bear held a Master of Arts from the University of South Dakota, and a Bachelor of Science from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She also served on the Board of Directors for the St. Francis Indian School, St. Francis, South Dakota, and was on the Board of Regents for Sinte Gleska University, Mission South Dakota. The basis rooted principles of Indigenous cultural knowledge that Tillie stood firm on, is the importance and the use of Indigenous tribal stories, cultures, and traditions for addressing violence within our communities. She provided warmth, hope, and spaces of healing that span across generations of advocates, survivors, and gave the base for advocate training for Native American women and programs. Tillie’s endless grassroots organization also provided significant roots to bring forth injustices and the awareness of multilevel disparities within federal and state laws for policy reforms. In 1978, she was the first Native American woman to organize a national movement and provided a powerful testimony on Battered Women: Issues of Public Policy to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to educate Congress from an Indigenous women’s perspective on the crisis of domestic violence within our communities. In 1980, the White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society was the first women of color shelter established in the country and the first to be on an Indian reservation in the United States. The shelter is the oldest shelter that provides safety and security for women and children to end domestic and sexual violence. In 1988, Tillie was recognized and awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice for her work with victims of crime, and in 1989 received a Point of Light Award from President Bush. Tillie is also recognized as one of the ten founders of the domestic violence movement in the United States at the 1999 Millennium Conference on Domestic Violence in Chicago. With Tillie as the chair-woman, NCADV was instrumental in the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Tillie was the recipient of the 2000 Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton. In 2003, she received the first annual Lifetime Achievement Award from Lifetime Television. Women’s E-News recognized Tillie in 2004 as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Award. The National Organization for Women (NOW) presented her with the Woman of Courage Award at the 2005 National NOW Conference.

Tillie provided the foundations for NIWRC’s work in the roots of cultural-based and women-centered priorities for our women and children. Tillie provided a lifetime of knowledge for all generations and for those to come. For this, we say Mvto, Neyaway, Wado, Kanike, Pilamaya, and many other Thank You’s to Tillie Black Bear!  

“Even in thought, women are to be respected. We teach this to our children. We teach it to our grandchildren. We teach it to our kids so that the generations to come will know what is expected of them. Those generations to come will also know how to treat each other as relatives. – Tillie Black Bear.


Beyond the Shelter Doors, short documentary White Buffalo Calf Woman Society.  

Tillie Black Bear ‘Women Are Sacred’ Day WoLakota - Honoring, Respecting, and Being a Good Relative - NIWRC

Celebrating the Life of Tillie Black Bear -

Honoring Tillie Black Bear, the Grandmother of Our Movement -

Farewell Tillie Black Bear - FaithTrust Institute 

Feminist History-Makers: “Because as women we are very sacred” -Tillie Black Bear:

Sarah Deer (Citizen of Muscogee Nation)

NIWRC would like to highlight Sarah Deer, for her significant efforts in bringing to the forefront the needs of policy reforms, justice, and taking considerable actions for tribal sovereignty and autonomy in the protections of Indigenous women. She received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Kansas School of Law, where she is currently a professor passing her knowledge to the students at the School of Public Affairs and Administration - Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Although trained as a lawyer, she has over 25 years of experience in advocacy working with Indigenous women survivors of abuse. In 2007, Deer was instrumental in the Amnesty International Report, Maze of Injustice, for reframing sexual violence issues in Indian Country as international human rights issues. Bringing to the forefront the connections of violence against Indigenous women and tribal governance, sparked the efforts for changes with federal policy reforms that inhibited Tribes from prosecuting offenders. In 1 of 4 testimonies before Congress, Deer played a critical role in the passage of The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 with her powerful testimony for the increasing of tribal sentencing in the prosecution of offenders in Indian Country. Before the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, Tribal judicial systems were limited to prosecutorial sentencing. In her most recognized efforts, she has been quoted as a major contributor to the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). As a result of the passage, this allowed the tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans for assault of Native spouses or dating partners, as well as violations of protection orders within tribal jurisdiction. As a Native American author, Deer is an extinguished author writing and co-authoring multiple textbooks as well as a plethora of academic publications. The most notable for her work on sexual violence in Indian Country is her work in the 2015 book, The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America. One of the many accomplishments for Deer came in 2019 when she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, for her work to end violence against Indigenous women. Deer has a lifetime of achievements and many more to come, as she continues to reshape the colonized perspectives of tribal sovereignty for the protection of Indigenous women.            


University of Kansas - Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Sarah Deer 

MacArthur Foundation; Sarah Deer

Sarah Deer

Karen Artichoker 

Karen Artichoker has been involved and instrumental in the movement to end violence against native women. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of Colorado, and a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health from Sinte Gleska University. Over the years Karen’s work has spanned from substance use/dependence, mental health fields, and domestic violence abuser educational programs. Karen is key to the movement, with her philosophies around the intersections of lateral violence and internalized oppression as the stopping force in the creation of effective strategies and responses to respond to the overwhelming issues of violence within our tribal communities and families. As an employee of the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, she co-coordinated the first Indian Nations: Justice for Victims of Crime Conference. She also served on the board for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) in support of her long-time friend and mentor, Tillie Black Bear. She has been accredited for her contribution in providing a Native women’s voice and lens in draft language and passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with language assuring Native American women were included in the Act and resources were provided to Tribal Nations to create programs to respond to violence against Native women. Karen has provided her voice twice with testimonies in front of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. With her voice and expertise, she developed relationships that led many national organizations to ally with native women and organizations, moving native women towards a more “visible” status. In 1987, a three-year grant funded the Medicine Wheel Project on the Pine Ridge Reservation to end domestic violence, thereafter, becoming a tribal program and a 501(c)3 organization in 1996. Most notably, Karen is the founding mother of Sacred Circle, National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women. Sacred Circle became the fifth resource center that provided national technical assistance and training with the ability to create culturally specific resources in addressing violence against native women. She is also a founding mother of Cangleska, Inc. an award-winning domestic violence prevention and intervention program located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Karen received an award for her efforts in the 1994 VAWA passage from the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) Justice for Victims of Crime 2004 Conference. In 2006, Artichoker received the national award from Women’s eNews, “21 Leaders for the 21st Century”. The same year, she co-authored the Violence Against Native Women is not Traditions handbook from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, as an education tool on violence against native women and the effects on “individuals, families, communities, and Native Nations''. Karen provided a powerful written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs “Oversight Hearing on the Prevalence of Violence Against Indian Women” in 2007, providing language understanding the disproportional victimization of violence in the U.S. due to federal law jurisdictional gaps, 2005 VAWA enhancements, along with other recommendations to help secure safety and security for our Native women. As a 2009 Co-Chair of the National Congress of American Indian Task Force on Violence Against Women, she assisted in the submission of a written statement for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs “Examining S. 797, The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009” thus advocating for systemic changes and policy reforms to address the epidemic of violence against Native American women. Karen’s vision is that of a world where women are valued and respected as sacred, a world without violence! 


Karen Artichoker - NIWRC

Honoring WOMEN: Karen Artichoker - Indian Country Today

Examining S.797, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009, Hearing Before the Committee on 

Indian Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, First Session, 

June 25, 2009 - Homeland Security Digital Library

Violence Against Native Women is not Traditional - U.S. Department of Justice: Office of 

Justice Programs

Written Testimony: Karen Artichoker- U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: “Oversight 

Hearing on the Prevalence of Violence Against Indian Women, 2007 

Honoring those who seek justice for women - Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI), 2004

Lenora “Lynn” Hootch (Yup'ik Member of the Alaska Native Village of Emmonak) 

Lynn is Yup'ik and a member of the Alaska Native Village of Emmonak, located in the Yukon Delta Region of southwestern Alaska. Residing in Emmonak where she was born and raised, she is an active member of her community. Over her lifetime she has held several elected positions in Emmonak, including Emmonak Tribal Council, Emmonak City Council, Vice Mayor the Village of Emmonak, a member of the Parish Council, and Advisory School Board member. Also serving in various capacities for different women’s organizations in Alaska, including the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKWRC), the Alaska Native Women’s Coalition, and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. In 1979, Lynn joined forces with other Native women in her village to develop the Emmonak Women’s Shelter with the donations funded by the community and the usage of a village building, to increase the safety of women and their children. It has grown into a non-profit and provides shelter and resources to victims of the spectrums of violence from Emmonak and neighboring sister villages. The shelter was the first and oldest in the state of Alaska and has a lifetime of more than thirty years of providing shelter and assistance. Lynn is a founding member and has served as the Executive Director of the Yup’ik Women’s Coalition (YWC) for 14 plus years. The regional Tribal coalition serves 13 rural villages, representing eighteen Tribal governments in the Yukon-Delta region. YWC's goals are to raise public awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence, and enhance the response to violence against Native women at the local, state, and national levels. YWC takes pride in providing technical assistance to Tribal Nations in Alaska to enhance access to essential services for Native women. Lynn has also provided her expertise, and cultural and traditional Yup'ik beliefs as a guiding voice for national Native cultural-based women-centered organizations, including becoming a member of the NIWRC family as a former board member, and co-chairing the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Task Force on Violence Against Women. In 2004, she was awarded the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) Justice for Victims of Crime 2004 Conference award.                

“From the birth of NIWRC, Lynn was a calm and inspirational source of leadership for the board and the entire NIWRC family”. “Centered by her Yup’ik cultural beliefs, Lynn provided clarity on the strategic development of NIWRC as a Tribally centered national resource center. We thank her for her years of service to the organization and to our movement” -Executive Director of NIWRC, Lucy Simpson. 


Founding Member Leaves NIWRC Board to Focus on Issues Facing Alaska Native WomenNIWRC

Director & Staff - AKNWRC

Yup’ik Women’s Coalition 

Honoring those who seek justice for women - Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI), 2004