The University of Arizona

UA to Honor Arizona's Native American Women

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications | April 11, 2012

The arch will be dedicated and blessed on April 13 in a 2-4 p.m. ceremony at the Women’s Plaza of Honor.

The effort to recognize Native American women began in 2007 with the formation of a UA committee including women from several tribal nations.
The effort to recognize Native American women began in 2007 with the formation of a UA committee including women from several tribal nations.
Tohono O’odham Nation council member and teacher Molly Garcia blazed a trail for others in an era where women, let alone Native women, were educated and earned degrees in education and political science in the early 1920s.
Tohono O’odham Nation council member and teacher Molly Garcia blazed a trail for others in an era where women, let alone Native women, were educated and earned degrees in education and political science in the early 1920s.

The University of Arizona will honor the contributions of the women of tribal nations in Arizona on April 13 from 2-4 p.m. at the Women's Plaza of Honor, located next to Centennial Hall. 

The effort to recognize Native American women began in 2007 with the formation of a committee including women from several tribal nationals. The committee contacted each tribe in Arizona to request that the tribal government identify women from their nation to honor on the arch.

Thanks to the efforts of this committee and the financial support of several tribal nations and other donors, the UA Women's Plaza of Honor now will house an arch dedicated to the impact of the Native American women.

The Women's Plaza of Honor publicly and permanently celebrates women who have made significant contributions to the history of Arizona or have enriched the lives of others. The plaza offers alumni, employees and students of the UA, members of the community and people everywhere the opportunity to commemorate outstanding women.

Each of the 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona wanted to be included, agreed to participate and nominated women or a woman from their tribe to honor.

"Honorees on the arch have been chosen by each tribal government and reflect a wide range of women's contributions across many fields, including politics, public health, language and cultural preservation, traditional arts, education and family," said Leigh Spencer, program coordinator for the Women's Plaza of Honor and Women's Studies Advisory Council.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has chosen to honor the Maala Hiibwa'areom Cocineras, the women who cook for the tribe's Lenten and Easter celebrations, said Angela Storey, Women's Plaza of Honor and Woman's Studies Advisory Council research assistant.

"Tribal governments have honored women on the arch for many unique reasons. We are excited to be able to bring attention to the stories of these varied and exemplary Native American women."

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe has chosen to honor the first woman Chieftess, Viola "Sicatuva" Jimulla. Jimulla bridged the historical span from the early frontier days in Prescott to the present modern day. As leader of her tribe, she urged her people to withdraw their claim to land from the Fort Whipple military reservation with stipulations that the land be used for development of a college and a city park. The results are Yavapai College and Roughrider Park.

Jimulla is being honored for her political savvy, expertise as a basket weaver and her devout Christian faith, which led her to be sought as a mother confessor and as a financial and medical advisor to her people.

Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson is being honored by the Dine' (Navajo) tribe. A UA alumna, Henderson is the vice president for the Black Hills Center for American Indian Health, an American Indian nonprofit health organization located in South Dakota.

Henderson received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the UA and earned a Master of Public Health degree from Yale University. In 2000, Henderson became the first American Indian woman to graduate from the Yale University School of Medicine and was the first person to receive the Patricia Nez Award, an annual award given to recognize a Yale School of Medicine graduate committed to improving the health of American Indians.

Being honored by the Tohono O'odham Nation is council member and teacher Molly Garcia, who blazed a trail for others in an era where women, let alone Native women, were educated and earned degrees in education and political science in the early 1920s.

She taught for 20 years in California before returning to the community of Ge Oidag. Upon her return, she helped to build a community building and soon gained election to the traditionally all male Papago Tribal Council. While on the council, she worked to bring about the revised 1986 Constitution of the Tohono O'odham Nation while also working to preserve and protect the sacred sites of the O'odham people.

The ceremony will include a blessing song for honorees and speeches by Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., Arizona Board of Regents member LuAnn Leonard and UA President Eugene G. Sander.

Guests also will enjoy a musical performance by Gabriel Ayala. Light refreshments will be provided.