Welcome to the 2021 Women Are Sacred Conference

Welcome to the 2021 Women Are Sacred Conference “Carrying Our Medicine and Strengthening Our Vision to End the Violence” JUNE 8 - 10, 2021 | Virtual Event

Artwork by Hillary Kempenich


The Staff and Board of Directors of the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center Send a Warm Welcome to All Conference Speakers and Attendees

Greetings to our relatives who are joining us for the 2021 Women Are Sacred (WAS) Conference! This gathering takes place virtually June 8-10, 2021 to help keep our relatives safe and provide 37 unique sessions, while also accommodating participants from Hawaii and Alaska to the East Coast and everywhere in between. Thank you for registering for WAS! If you are not yet registered, there is still time to sign up for this exciting event online at niwrc.org/was.

Our 2021 Theme: "Carrying Our Medicine and Strengthening Our Vision to End the Violence"

Carrying our medicine is how we have survived and continue to survive as Indigenous people. It is how we heal our spirit, our body, and the land we walk on. It is using traditional knowledge, skills, and practices to enhance the health and well-being of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nations. The Women Are Sacred Conference represents the strength and resilience of our people and the tools and knowledge we have to make a difference. It’s about our shared vision for the future in ending the violence.

Each day, hear from established and emerging Indigenous advocates, leaders and experts on specialized topics such as transitional housing, racism and sexism, trafficking, cross-jurisdiction, tribal strengths and resilience, and much more. Our conference platform, Whova, offers attendees an opportunity to engage with grassroots advocates, survivors, tribal leaders, and allies to strengthen our networks and enhance our advocacy. As an added benefit, each WAS workshop will be recorded and available online on Whova for three months for all attendees.

Day 1 Highlight: Celebrating Grassroots Advocacy Through the WAS Tillie Black Bear Memorial Award

Our much beloved Wa Wokiya Win (Tillie Black Bear), Sicangu Lakota, known as the Grandmother of the Movement to End Violence Against Women, played a major leadership role in the work to restore safety for Native women. She believed in the teachings White Buffalo Calf Woman brought to the Lakota people including that “even in thought, women are to be respected." Her work spanned almost four decades until her passing in 2014.

NIWRC honors Tillie’s legacy through the Women Are Sacred Tillie Black Bear Memorial Award, recognizing an outstanding grassroots advocate. This year's award will be presented on Day 1 of the conference as part of the Opening Plenary.

Day 2 Highlight: Tribal Strengths & Resilience: Initiatives Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women in Our Communities

Native women survivors, their families and advocates have been on the frontlines advocating for an end to violence against women at the tribal, state, national and international levels. The Opening Plenary on Day 2 is an opportunity to listen to grassroots advocates Elsie Boudreau, Rose Harris and Malinda Limberhand Harris share how their lives and families have been impacted by violence, leading them to become strong advocates to end violence against Indigenous women and other relatives.

This plenary will be grounded in the understanding that this violence is connected to the colonization of Indian tribal governments and Indigenous peoples by other governments is key to de-colonizing solutions that prioritizes local, Native responses. Because of their leadership, we have seen changes in laws and policies and cultural shifts. We must continue to center and focus attention on their voices and the needs of sovereign Indigenous nations to protect Native women.

Day 3 Highlight: Women Are Sacred: Listen and Act

As part of the Closing Plenary on Day 3, hear from voices in the movement including Nicole Matthews, Jonel Beauvais, Marissa Cummings, and Natasha Kingbird as they discuss the instrumental role of Indigenous women in creating the movement to end violence against women. Just as Indigenous societies traditionally rely upon the strengths, expertise, voices and leadership of women, the foundation and heart of the movement to end violence rests upon the strengths, expertise, voices and leadership of Indigenous women survivors and grassroots advocates.

Advocacy is about proactive social change, reclaiming relationships as relatives and Indigenous values and life ways. This closing plenary serves as a call to think critically about how decisions and actions impact the safety and integrity of Indigenous women. It is a call to renew and recenter the leadership of survivors, advocates, Native women, and honor the sacredness of women in all aspects of our work and our lives.


Get Social With Us

If you're joining WAS virtually this year, please share where you're logging in from and what sessions you're watching on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #WAS2021! NIWRC will be posting throughout the conference, so make sure to tag @niwrc and we will reshare! Follow our conference hashtag and stay tuned to Whova for more opportunities to connect!

Stay Well with WAS Wellness Corner

All conference attendees are encouraged to visit our WAS Wellness Corner for self-care resources, including breathing exercises and other links. We also invite you to join us for a Virtual Morning Wellness Walk before Day 2 and 3 sessions begin. Share how you are staying well with NIWRC on social media using #WASWellness21 and #WAS2021! Log into the Whova conference platform to learn more.

Help Us Celebrate Tillie Black Bear Awardee

NIWRC honors the legacy of Wa Wokiya Win (Tillie Black Bear), Sicangu Lakota, through a bi-annual award presented during our Women Are Sacred Conference to recognize outstanding grassroots advocates and direct service providers. This year, we will announce the new Tillie Black Bear Award recipient virtually during Day 1 at our Opening General Session. During the Closing General Session, the new Awardee will have the opportunity to accept the award and speak with us about their work in the community in ending the violence.

Check out the WAS Film Festival

This year, NIWRC will provide links to several significant and timely films featuring issues of identity, child welfare, MMIW, jurisdictional issues, and violence that so many of our women and children experience. We offer these films to promote conversations and discussions with your family, co-workers and communities. Please check the Whova app for updates.