Virtual Event

2021 Women Are Sacred Conference



Our 2021 Women Are Sacred Conference theme was "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. 

WAS is one of the largest gatherings of tribal domestic violence programs, advocates, survivors, tribal leaders, and community members, law enforcement, and tribal court personnel dedicated to ending violence against Indian women and children. Our 2021 conference provided virtual training opportunities, presentations, and keynote addresses by established and emerging Indigenous leaders and experts in the movement to end the violence on various topics focused on supporting tribal nations, tribal domestic violence programs, and tribal community-based programs. Registered attendees will have access to the Whova conference platform for several months.

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View the complete user's guide here: Whova User Guide

View the complete speaker's guide here: Whova Speaker Guide

Nominations for the 2021 Tillie Black Bear Award are now closed.

NIWRC honors the legacy of Wa Wokiya Win (Tillie Black Bear), Sicangu Lakota, through an award presented during its Women Are Sacred Conference to recognize outstanding grassroots advocates and direct service providers that exemplify the teachings and dedication Tillie instilled in restoring safety for Native women. This year's award was presented virtually during the WAS Conference to two recipients: Sandra Pilgrim Lewis (Lakota) and Leanne Guy (Diné). Congratulations to the 2021 Tillie Black Bear Awardees!

Our much beloved Tillie, 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 teaching White Buffalo Calf Woman had brought to the Lakota people that even in thought, women are to be respected. Tillie’s steadfast leadership was rooted in the clarity of her beliefs and dedication to Native peoples and women. Her work spanned almost four decades until her passing in 2014. Tillie’s understanding of social change, organizing, movement building, served her well as a leader, an inspiration, a teacher, and a sister-mother-friend-icon.

“Native women have survived, Indian nations have survived, because of our beliefs and teachings.” –Tillie Black Bear


This year’s Honor Wall is devoted to all the people that were nominated for a Tillie Black Bear Award. The pictures and stories in this space, which will be hosted online on the Whova conference platform, pay tribute to amazing Native advocates that inspire our work today. These advocates have paved the way for our Movement to restore safety for all Native women through their leadership, compassion, endeavor, and commitment to Native peoples and Nations to make our shared world a safe, healthy, and just place to live.

Walking in their footsteps, we find comfort, strength, resilience, healing, and hope. The stories remind us that we are indeed the living legacy of these women as we continue to carry out the teachings that Women Are Sacred.



In 2018, we launched a new initiative for Women are Sacred: WAS Talks! For WAS 2021 we are continuing this initiative. WAS Talks provides a unique forum for victim/survivors, advocates, researchers, community/ family members, writers, poets, actors, artists, philosophers, community leaders, politicians and tribal leaders to make a statement, voice your concerns, express your creativity through poetry or staged reading, talk about the future or direction of our movement, the role of advocacy, VAWA reauthorization, historical trauma, domestic violence practices, sexual violence, Missing and Murdered, sex trafficking, EVERYTHING!!! WAS Talks will be recorded prior to WAS. WAS Talks is inspired by the national TED Talks. Our stories hold power in shining light on the issues of violence in our communities. It’s time to talk! Please check the Whova App for more information.



This year at WAS we are organizing a film festival. We will be introducing a new film each evening during WAS. For the first night we will introduce Lakota Daughters, with Dr. Kelly Hallman and her work with girls, on night two, we will highlight Sisters Rising, with Lisa Brunner and on the third night we will show both Predator on the Reservation with Drs. Daniel and Rebecca Crawford Foster, and Dawnland, with Sandy Whitehawk. After each showing there will be time for discussion. Since this is a virtual event, these films can be downloaded at any time for your viewing convenience.



Facilitator: Kerri Colfer, NIWRC Senior Native Affairs Advisor

This roundtable discussion with indigenous survivors and advocates will inform NIWRC’s development of a toolkit/training for program development and working with American Indian/Alaska Native victims and survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. The conversation will be pivotal in the development of culturally appropriate and trauma informed guidance based in indigenous world views, teachings, and beliefs. Conversations will be facilitated by NIWRC staff working on the creation of toolkit/trainings.

Supporter packages for WAS 2021 are now closed.

The 2021 Women Are Sacred Conference is an incredible opportunity to reach hundreds of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian survivors, advocates, grassroots organizers, Tribal leaders, law enforcement, child welfare, social services, and Tribal court personnel.