Gov. Lewis Addresses National Indigenous Women’s Conference

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


A conference on indigenous women’s empowerment and wellness brought individuals from across the nation to the Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino on Nov. 5. The Native American Women’s Conference (NAWC), organized with the coordination of multiple programs and agencies, focused on three core values: “Health Wellness & Healing,” “Career and Life Purpose” and “Leadership and Life Planning.” 


Each of the three pillars were presented through breakout sessions that provided attendees with the resources needed to succeed in life.  


Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis opened the conference by describing women as the caretakers and wisdom-keepers of Native communities. “It means as a leader and a man, I need to listen and be humbled in order to lead the way forward for all of our people.” 


Gov. Lewis emphasized the resilience of indigenous people, saying that no matter the challenge – interactions with colonization, the taking of important resources or enduring through the pandemic, Natives have always had the ability to withstand crisis.


“We’ve always been resilient, that is the history of [our] people,” said Gov. Lewis. “We have always been there for one another, through historical trauma, through the boarding schools and even not so long ago with the reclaiming of our water rights.” 


Many conference presenters and topics focused on resiliency and breaking the stigma about what it means to be an indigenous woman in the 21st century. The presentations centered on interviewing skills, exploring holistic modalities to healing and being a successful entrepreneur with a start-up business. The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) was also discussed at length.


Gov. Lewis called MMIW an important issue being brought to light with the support of advocates from tribal communities and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland at the federal level.  “I am glad that we have such a great turnout here, our Native sisters that are at the forefront of today’s issues,” said Lewis.


The Gov. Lewis also spoke about the responsibility to pass along cultural knowledge, resiliency and strength during these critical times. 


“We don’t have to be victims anymore,” said Gov. Lewis. “We can stop the generational cycle of oppression, abuse, addictions and trauma.”