“I’m stunned,” said delegate Ervin Keeswood after Lovejoy’s primary victory. “In Navajo society, it’s always said that a woman would never be in that position.”
But in fact, Lovejoy isn’t the first to walk this path.
Before Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to lead a major modern tribe (the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma), she, too, ran into severe gender bias. Her car’s tires were slashed. Someone called repeatedly and cocked a gun. Once, Mankiller was to fill in as chief during an inter-tribal council meeting, and nobody saved her a seat.
Still, a year later she was elected chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Besides sheer determination, Mankiller advises these two approaches:
- Follow through. “If I said I was going to build a health clinic, even if it took me 10 years, I’d get that clinic built,” Mankiller says. Too many people in try to do too many things and nothing gets done.”
- Make the best of the hand you’re dealt. “I’ve had cancer twice,” says Mankiller, “two kidney transplants and was in an accident that killed my best friend. I don’t always have control over what happens to me physically, but I have absolute control over how I deal with it. That translates to leadership. People gravitate toward people who find something solid and real and positive to hold on to.”
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