In Celebration of Women’s History Month: Honoring Native Women

Writer Nanette Bradley Deetz (L) earlier this month with Lakota Elder Muriel Antoine (R) at a reading in Oakland.

Writer Nanette Bradley Deetz (L) earlier this month with Lakota Elder Muriel Antoine (R) at a reading in Oakland.

Editor’s Note:  In most Native nations across Indian country, it is our women that hold culture, take care of families, begin projects, teach children, youth, and even adults about language, traditions and generally weave everything together creatively.  In celebration of March being Women’s History Month, the Native News Online reached out to Nanette Bradley Deetz to write about Native women. This is the first of several articles Ms. Deetz has written to honor Native women:

Profile: Mureil Antoine (Lakota)

OAKLAND — Muriel Antoine is a Lakota elder, who is from Mission, South Dakota on the Rosebud reservation.  She is a noted educator, artist, and poet who regularly visits Oakland from her home in South Dakota, in order to visit with her two daughters and their families, and her many friends.  

Ms. Antoine holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree and an Master’s in Education degree from the University of South Dakota, and was the principal of Cheyenne River Junior High School in South Dakota, where she established the first program for gifted students.

She is one of the co-founders of White Buffalo Calf Woman Shelter, the first domestic violence shelter on a U.S. Native nation. She also previously served as the chairperson of her community in Rosebud. She is a life-long poet who writes under her Lakota name, Anpetu Wi meaning “Day Woman.”

She has also been an accomplished mask maker and painter for over forty years.

On March 5, Ms. Antoine was asked to be a Featured Reader at Books Inc. in Alameda, California where she presented her poetry and photos of her exquisite masks.

“Each one of my painted masks were made from impressions of my grandchildren. They are now mixed with many different cultures, and I wanted to represent their different cultural backgrounds and see how much Lakota culture is still there”, explained Antoine.

“One is part Pomo Indian from California, and you can see from the colors and how I included those pretty flicker feathers in the headdress. This one is part Chinese, so I painted the dragon across the mask”, said Antoine. “When I first started making these masks, some people asked me why I was making masks. They said things, like, “why do you want to do that? It’s not traditional.” Well, it is now, because I’m traditional, and I’m doing it”, laughed Antoine.

During her poetry and art presentation, Ms. Antoine graciously shared some Lakota history and culture and answered many questions from non-native poets and writers eager to learn from her.

Ms. Antoine’s poetry and art are part of an on-going exhibit entitled, “Generation Nexus: Peace in the Post War Era” until the end of April in San Francisco at the new Japanese Cultural Center. This exhibit is curated by Janeen Antoine (the poet/artist’s daughter) and Betty Kano and reflects upon the little known history of Native Americans and Japanese Americans during WWII.

” I am also a proud mother of four daughters, eight grandchildren and, now, let me think, twenty-two great grandchildren,” laughed Muriel Antoine.

Ms. Antoine is a veteran herself, and on March 15 she will be honored as a treasured elder by Richard Moves Camp at the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland.

Nanette Bradley Deetz is of Dakota, Cherokee and German descent. She is a poet, writer, educator and sometimes musician whose poetry appears in several anthologies. The most current is “Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down,” published by Scarlett Tanager Press; “Turtle Island to Abya Yala, A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women,” Malinalli Press, and “Alameda Island Theme Poems, 2004,2005 & 2006.” She combines poetry and music in her band, Redbird Giving which performs at many Bay Area native and non-native venues. She is a correspondent for the Alameda Journal and Native News Online.

UPDATED: Monday, March 17, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. -EDT

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