In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we have decided to highlight Native leaders who are trailblazers in the sexual health and reproductive justice field.
Madonna Thunder Hawk is a member of the Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and co-founder of Women of All Red Nations (WARN). WARN is a radio program that discusses topics facing Native peoples and provides Indigenous womxn with activism opportunities that directly impact Native womxn. WARN has campaigned against coerced sterilization, as well as Pine Ridge Reservation water being contaminated by uranium which resulted in high rates of miscarriage, cancer, and birth defects among the Lakota tribe living on the reservation.
Coya White Hat-Artichoker is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a founding member of the First Nations Two Spirit Collective, which worked to provide analysis regarding Two Spirit people and sovereignty in the larger LGBTQ dialogue. Coya was selected as one of the “40 under 40” LGBT Leaders in 2019 by The Advocate and as one of VelvetPark’s Top 25 Queer Women in 2014. She currently serves as a board member of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.
Katrina Maczen-Cantrell is the co-founder of the Northstate Women’s Health Network which strives to share knowledge, experiences, and resources to empower women and promote the full scope of reproductive justice. Katrina now serves as the Associate Executive Director at Women’s Health Specialists and has applied indigenous attitudes and techniques to her mission of keeping women’s health in women’s hands by advancing cultural self-determination for indigenous and marginalized people, and by providing contraceptive and reproductive health services and education to all communities. Additionally, Katrina serves as Board President of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center in South Dakota and a member of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.
Crystal Lee is a member of the Navajo (Dine’) Nation in Arizona and her tribal clans are Tachii’nii (Red Running into the Water), Tabaaha (Water’s Edge), Tsenjikini (Cliff Dwellers), and Kin I ichii’nii (Red House). Crystal is an Assistant Professor of Health and Social Policy at the University of New Mexico, College of Population Health where her research focuses on sex work and HIV. The aim of her research is to assist in policy development from a tribal, tribal-state coordination, federal and international levels to improve global health policies relating to Indigenous youth health. In addition to conducting research to serve the Navajo Nation, Crystal also serves on the UN North American Caucus, UN Indigenous Women’s Caucus, and UN Gender Equality Task Force. She has also been honored by President Bill Clinton for her work with Indigenous communities at the Clinton Global Initiative. Lastly, from a non-academic position, Crystal is starting a podcast titled “It’s All Somehow” focused on discussing Native American love, dating, and relationships.
Nicolle L. Gonzales is a member of the Navajo Nation and her clan is Tl’aashchi’I, Red Bottom clan, born for Tachii’nii, Red Running into the Water clan, Hashk’aa hadzohi, Yucca fruit-strung-out-in-a line clan, and Naasht’ezhi dine’e, Zuni clan. She is the founder of the Changing Woman Initiative that seeks to renew cultural birth knowledge to empower and reclaim indigenous sovereignty of women’s medicine and life way teachings to promote reproductive wellness, healing through holistic approaches and to strengthen women’s bonds to family and community. Traditional healing practices have always been a part of Nicolle’s life growing up on and off the Navajo reservation. As a nurse-midwife, her primary goal is to keep birth sacred and in native communities, by integrating and applying traditional knowledge. In addition to Changing Woman Initiative, Nicolle serves as a mentor for emerging Native American midwifery students at the University of New Mexico and continues to support future midwives.
The Rez Condom Tour is a collective of sexual health educators and organizers within the Navajo Nation. It was launched to reverse stigma around sexuality, promote healthy sexual expression, raise awareness regarding the need for sexual education, and increase contraceptive assess in the Navajo Nation. During the annual Rez Condom Tour outreach, organizers and volunteers focus on increasing access to harm reduction materials and providing sexual health education to their people.