Sifters: Native American Women’s Lives

Sifters are loosely-woven baskets that served, and continue to serve, as Native women’s tools for processing ground seeds. This collection of essays will serve as a useful tool for courses that include the study of Native American women. Chronologically, it ranges from the early contact period-Pocahontas (Powhatan), Mary Musgrove (Mvscogee Creek), Molly Brant (Mohawk), Sacagawea (Shoshoni)-to contemporary activists-Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash (Mi’qmak) and Ada Deer (Menominee). The biography of Catharine Brown (Cherokee) shows the influence of Christian missionaries on Native communities in the early nineteenth century. Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo), a renowned potter, Mourning Dove (Salish), a writer, and Lucy Nicolar (Penobscot) represent women as creative artists in the early twentieth century. Lozen, a Chiricahua Apache woman who fought with her brother Victorio and Geronimo in their resistance to the United States Army in the latter part of the nineteenth century, represents the warrior woman, who could successfully take on a male role and be recognized for her valor. Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Lakota) and Alice Lee Jemison (Seneca) were twentieth century political activists, fighting, respectively, for full rights of American Indians as American citizens and for national identity as indigenous sovereign nations. The life of Delfina Cuero (Kumeyaay) epitomizes the experience of Native women whose lives were disrupted by Christianity and the establishment of national boundaries; in Cuero’s case, this was the Catholic mission system in California and the border established by American/Mexican conflict.