Indigenous Women Have Always Been Leaders

2019 International Women's Day Conference

Conference Overview

Every year on March 8 the world celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women during International Women’s Day.

Ruth Buffalo, North Dakota House Representative, District 27
Image of Ruth Buffalo, North Dakota House Representative, by Lea Black Photography

Join the Tiwahe Foundation, the Native Governance Center, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2019. The theme of this year’s celebration is: Indigenous Women Have Always Been Leaders.

Indigenous women have always been the backbone and heartbeat of their families and communities. They channeled their history of leadership into victories at the state and federal level during the 2018 election, marking a major turning point for their political representation. Indigenous women are poised, now more than ever before, to use their strengths to shape the future of their communities and awaken the nation. Don’t miss this daylong celebration of indigenous women’s leadership featuring speakers, artists, and food.

Native women have been leading our communities since time immemorial.” – Peggy Flanagan, Lt Governor of Minnesota, the nation's highest ranking Indigenous woman in executive office.


Conference attendance is free and open to the public, but registration is required.


Conference Co-Sponsors

Bush Foundation logo

*AIS contributed in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the department's founding.

Conference Agenda

Unless otherwise noted, events will take place in Cowles Auditorium.

Registration and Breakfast | 8:30–9:00 a.m. (Mondale Commons)

Welcome and Opening Remarks | 9:00–9:15 a.m. 

Opening Prayer | 9:15–9:25 a.m. 

Intergenerational Indigenous Women’s Leadership | 9:30–10:30 a.m. 

  • Alexis Davis, Native Governance Center Youth Rebuilders, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
  • Sharon Day, Executive Director of Indigenous Peoples Task Force, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe
  • Vanessa Goodthunder, Director of Cansayapi Wakanyeza Owayawa Oti, Lower Sioux Indian Community
  • Jaidyn Probst, Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet, Lower Sioux Indian Community
  • Brook LaFloe, Tiwahe Foundation and YWCA, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (moderator)

Break | 10:30–10:45  a.m. 

Video Address | 10:45–11:00 a.m. 

  • Deb Haaland, Congressional Representative from New Mexico, Pueblo of Laguna

Indigenous Women Political Leaders 11:00 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.

  • Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Ruth Buffalo, North Dakota House Representative, District 27, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation
  • Karen Diver, Former Special Assistant to President Obama on Native American Affairs, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Mary Kunesh-Podein, Minnesota House Representative, District 41B, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
  • Justice Anne McKeig, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, White Earth Band of Ojibwe
  • Jayme Davis, Program Director, Native Governance Center, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (moderator)

Lunch | 12:30–1:30 (Mondale Commons)

Keynote Address | 1:30–2:45 p.m.

  • Lourdes Tibán, former Ecuadorian Congressional Member and member of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Break2:45–3:00 p.m.

Blanket Exercise | 3:00–5:00 p.m. (Mondale Commons)

  • Prairie Rose Seminole, Program Director of American Indian Alaska Native Ministries, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation

Conference Venue

The conference will be held at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The address is:

301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

The main conference meeting spaces, Cowles Auditorium and the Mondale Commons, are located on the first floor and are fully accessible. To request disability accommodations, please contact

March 8, 2019
8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium
Humphrey School