by Shana Lombard, Communications Assistant
Two keynote speakers and one artist were the talk of the night Sept. 28 at Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center.
The Women’s Resource Center, WSU Native Programs, and the Coalition for Women Students brought in three women with a background of empowering others through their work.
Amy Sharp, Women’s Center director, wanted to have this event to showcase the cultures that are represented at the university and on the Palouse. Leaders in the Women’s Center caught wind that a group was traveling to WSU from American Samoa and wanted to jump on the opportunity of culture-sharing, not only of the Nez Perce tribe but also other cultures represented on campus.
“There’s more to the Palouse than just football,” Sharp said.
As for the reasoning for the “x” in Womxn and not an “e”, Sharp said she wanted to make sure those who personally identify as women felt comfortable enough to feel invited to the event, to “leave the door open for our transgender folks.”
Rebecca Miles (Nez Perce) and Lemala Thompson (Samoan) spoke on how they, as women, dealt with issues they’ve faced in their professions.
After a long day with tribal elections, Miles was the first speaker for the night. She shared about challenges she’s confronted as a woman who’s held some of the top leadership positions for her tribe, including serving on the tribal council and now as the Executive Director of the Nez Perce Tribe.
Miles spoke of times when she received unwarranted discrimination for the relationships she’s developed with legislators she’s worked with to navigate her people’s issues and concerns. Some people did not take those relationships seriously, she said, and implied that something inappropriate was going on.
Miles went on to share how moments like those empowered her to grow past those comments.
“I can tell you now to take it as a compliment because they have to be threatened in some way of the movement I represent or the powerful message that’s coming,” Miles said.
Thompson took to the podium at the front of the room next. She shared of a struggle she went through with her mother on what a woman should be doing.
“My mother didn’t believe in education,” Thompson said. “I was the oldest of four and as the only female, she thought it was best that I find work after school and help support her younger siblings.”
Thompson wasn’t going to let her mother determine her path in life.
“My motivation was to prove her wrong and to change her frame of mind,” Thompson said adding she recently completed a second master’s degree with her mother now supporting younger family members to pursue higher education.
Another woman was showcased at the event, primarily through her artwork, painted tapestries and tablecloths.
Doe Stahr was adopted into the Tlingit tribe through her husband who is of the tribe. Stahr brought easily over 50 pieces of her artwork in her minivan to make sure she had enough to dress the room. Sharp appreciated Stahr’s willingness to teach how to paint and the stories behind her art pieces but to also recognize that she’s not Native American and approaches her tapestries in a way that is respectful of the cultures she’s painting.
Stahr also held a painting workshop at the Native American Student Center for students, staff and community members to create their own mini-tapestries.
Elsie Cree is a senior studying elementary education. She said the workshop was helpful to her in dealing with the semester.
“I learned a new skill and a way to de-stress,” Cree said.
Sharp said with the overwhelming support her office received from the event, that they plan to have more in the future, perhaps in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples’ Day now that it’s celebrated at the university and in the city of Pullman.