University of Arizona Honors Native Women

University of Arizona Honors Native Women

Lee Allen

Among the red brick buildings on the University of Arizona campus is a serene tree-lined walkway that houses the Women’s Plaza of Honor where the contributions of 700 women have already been recognized. More were recently added on April 13 with the dedication of a Native American Women’s Arch.

“This is a proud moment as we honor the lives and accomplishments of Native women who have had tremendous positive impacts on our community, our state, and throughout the United States,” said Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Dr. Ned Norris Jr.

“Native women have been among the strongest leaders, finest artists, and most dedicated citizens, and yet all too often their achievements have gone without the recognition they deserve. This is an important step in correcting that imbalance as the women honored here serve as an example for all of what can be accomplished through compassion, determination, and creativity. Never underestimate the power of a woman.”

Addressing a crowd of about 300, many of them representing Arizona’s 21 federally recognized tribes, Dr. Ofelia Zepeda, American Indian studies and linguistics professor, noted: “Tribes represented here all have in common the fact that they hold women in the highest regard, both in the family and in the community, recognizing the histories of women warriors, leaders, healers, educators—all of which are critical in the physical and emotional well-being of a tribe.”

The plaza and its archways represent both physical monuments and a public history project linking what came before with what is still to come. “The plaza not only recognizes past achievements, but enables future successes. It’s an ongoing project and many opportunities still exist to honor the women who have shaped lives,” said University of Arizona Women’s Studies Department head Dr. Miranda Joseph.

Dedication speaker Luann Leonard, Hopi/Tohono O’odham, the first Native American member of the Arizona Board of Regents, governing body for the state’s three universities, told the crowd: “Native American enrollment and graduation trends are encouraging with strong track records of Native students at all three degree levels. Over 800 undergraduates and 300 graduate and professional Native American students attend the University of Arizona today and this school ranks among the top 5 universities in the United States that confer PhD’s to Native American students.”

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