The land that encompasses the present-day United States of America and Canada has been the home of numerous indigenous peoples, of whom there is not one clear, accepted name. Though monolithically defined as Native Americans, such a term does not allow for the wholly distinctiveness of each tribal group. The groups of people who resided and continue to reside post-Columbus colonisation have faced significant changes to their societies and culture since African and European interaction. In spite of colonial rule, many groups continued to rule and resist post-contact societal changes, and there are several noted female chieftains who were crucial to this resistance. For the purposes of this project, several of the women listed below are recorded with their tribe which was recorded as residing on the lands now known as the United States of America and Canada. As with their counterparts in Mesoamerica and South America, the concept of queenship does not mirror the experiences of rulership that female chieftains directly, however as noted in Elena Woodacre’s Going Global blog post, it is a useful term for exploring female rule.
You can find out more about some of these indigenous female rulers below!
- Quaiapen (Narangasset, c. 1603-1676)
- Weetamoo (Pocasset, c. 1635-1676)
- Cockacoeske (Pamunkey, c. 1640-c. 1686)
- Awashonks (Sakonnet, seventeenth century)
- Alliquippa (Seneca, c. 1670s-1754)
- Nonhelema (Shawnee, c. 1720-1786)
- Nanye-hi (Nancy Ward) (Cherokee, 1738-1822)
- Glory of the Morning (Hocąk, eighteenth century)
- Bíawacheeitchish (Gros Ventres, c. 1806-c.1854-58)
- Chipeta (Uncompahgre Ute, c. 1843-1924)
- Pi’tamaka, Running Eagle (Blackfeet, nineteenth century)
- Annie Dodge Wauneka (Navajo, 1910-1997)
- Elsie Knott (Curve Lake First Nation, 1922-1995)
- Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee, 1945-2010)
- RoseAnne Archibald (Taykwa Tagamou, c.1966/67-present)
Fox, Mary Jo Tippeconnic, Eileen M. Luna-Firebaugh, and Caroline Williams. “American Indian Female Leadership.” Wicazo Sa Review 30.1 (2015): 82-99
Hoxie, Frederick E., ed. The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016
Lyman-Whitney, Susan. Worth Their Salt: Notable but Often Unnoted Women of Utah. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996
Ostler, Jeff, Joshua L. Reid, and Susan Sleeper-Smith, eds. Violence and Indigenous Communities Confronting the Past and Engaging the Present. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2021.
Voyageur, Cora. Firekeepers of the Twenty-First Century: First Nations Women Chiefs. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008
Waldman, Carl. Biographical Dictionary of American Indian History to 1900. New York: Facts on File, 2001.