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“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” — traditional Cheyenne saying

As an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation, Patricia Cutright herself knows the struggles and hardships thrust upon indigenous women.

Her journey has taken her many places from Brooklyn, New York, to the Federated States of Micronesia and others in between. She herself knows the rigors of walking between two worlds, one of culture and dance, language and heritage balanced between cell phones, internet and continuous change.

RISE ABOVE

But the story she tells isn’t about herself. Her first attempt at a novel-length body of work is about the stories of 12 women from the First Nations of Canada and America.

Her new book entitled, “Native Women Changing their Worlds,” features women like Debra Haaland, the first Native American to serve as the United States Secretary of the Interior to the late Mary Golda Ross (Cherokee), an elite aeronautical engineer at Lockheed. Closer to home, she also tells Yakama Nation’s Emily Washines’ (also Cree and Skokomish lineage) story.

Cutright will read excerpts from her book, which is available on Amazon.com, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the John Clymer Museum/Gallery on Aug. 7.

PREFECT SETTING

The setting is perfect in that the Clymer Museum/Gallery’s current exhibits feature the Middleton-Hunt Collection from the Blood/Blackfoot Reserve in Alberta in the McGiffen Room and Ancestors of the Future’s Past in the main gallery.

“The reading turned out so perfectly. It’s such complementary setting with the exhibits and something like this,” said Cutright, who retired as the Dean of Libraries at Central Washington University in 2017. “I feel really honored to be able to do this reading at with the two exhibitions at this time.”

She has published articles and written book chapters on library technology, but this is her first attempt at a full-length book. She was in her comfort zone with the extensive research, but the rest was new.

SOMETHING NEW

“Most of my career, I was expected to produce scholarly works, so this type of writing was very different for me. There was a lot of research because it covers 12 indigenous women. So, that was conducive to what I was used to doing,” she said. “I sat down and made it my job for about five months. To actually write the book was a different experience, but it was very rewarding.”

Historically, Native women have filled their communities with strength and leadership, both historically and as modern-day warriors, she said. The 12 Native American and First Nations women featured in the book overcame hardships — racial and gender discrimination, abuse and extreme poverty — only to rise to great heights in the fields of politics, science, education and community activism.

Each profile begins with an inspirational quote, she explained, and features approximately six to eight pages describing early life and later achievements, concluding with a list of their awards and honors.

CULTURAL HISTORY

Though Cutright did not live on the Cheyenne River reservation in central South Dakota, she was able to make the connection and define important cultural aspects of each tribal member in a clear and precise manner.

“The main focus is how each of these women faced a lot of hardships and problems and rose above it,” she said. “Whether they’re indigenous or not, women really have that strength that upholds the culture in society for all of us.

“The idea is to give inspiration to young people. It tells them they can conquer move forward no matter what happens to them.”

Cutright is expected to read several excerpts from her book before opening it up for audience participation with a question-and-answer period. There will also be a book signing afterwards.

Cutright is a decorated librarian. Her awards include the 2003 American Library Association/LITA Gaylord Award for Achievement in Library and Information Technology, 2002 Oregon Librarian of the Year, 2017 University of Washington School Distinguished Alumnus Award, and 2016 Presidential Administrator Award from Central Washington University.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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