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During the month of March, in recognition of Women's History Month, Native News Online will feature various Native American women who have contributed to the betterment of Indian Country.

Ingrid Washinawatok (July 31, 1957 — February 22, 1999)

Ingrid Washinawatok, which translates to “Flying Eagle Woman,” left a mark on the world through her unwavering commitment to her people and their struggles.

Born in 1957, Washinawatok was a member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin. She grew up on the Menominee reservation during the era of Indian termination and witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts of federal policies on Native communities.

The termination policy, which aimed to dissolve tribal nations and strip Indigenous peoples of their sovereignty, left a deep scar on tribal communities like the Menominee, putting them into poverty and social upheaval. During this time, Washinawatok’s activism was ignited.

During her high school years, Washinawatok became actively involved in the Menominee Nation’s restoration efforts, rallying support from tribal nations and advocacy groups to repeal termination and reinstate federal recognition for affected nations.

Washinawatok’s advocacy spanned various fronts, from education to environmental protection and Indigenous sovereignty. She believed in the power of education to uplift Indigenous communities and worked tirelessly to ensure that Indigenous youth had access to quality education that honored their cultural identity and history.

Washinawatok’s contributions to Indigenous education were significant. She co-founded the Waswagoning (Lac du Flambeau) Ojibwe Language Immersion School in Wisconsin, which aimed to revitalize the Ojibwe language and culture among younger generations. Through her efforts, Washinawatok sought to combat the erosion of Indigenous languages and promote cultural revitalization.

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Beyond education, Washinawatok was an advocate for Indigenous land rights and environmental conservation. She understood the intimate connection between Indigenous peoples and their ancestral lands, recognizing that the preservation of these lands was crucial for both cultural survival and environmental sustainability. Her work highlighted the importance of Indigenous knowledge and practices in stewarding the Earth.

Tragically, Washinawatok’s life was cut short in 1999 when she was abducted and murdered by armed militants while working on a humanitarian mission in Colombia. Her untimely death sent shockwaves through the Indigenous rights community, underscoring the risks and dangers faced by activists working on the frontlines of social justice.

Her legacy lives on through the countless lives she touched and the causes she championed. Her bravery, resilience, and unwavering commitment to justice continue to inspire indigenous activists and advocates around the world. Despite the challenges and obstacles she faced, Washinawatok remained steadfast in her pursuit of a better future for indigenous peoples everywhere.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.