There’s no doubt that the ongoing health and wellbeing of our planet, even despite the sickly state that it is in currently, can be credited to the work of Indigenous women. Women of indigenous descent have long cared for our environment and the people around them. As leaders, indigenous women have managed to prevail and continue despite the persistent attempts to keep them down and stifle them.
Sadly, these women who should be cherished and honored, face extreme violence and civil rights violations. And yet, they still strive to achieve success and health for their communities despite being overlooked and underrecognized.
We asked Latinas on FIERCE about Indigenous Sheroes they admire so that we could learn more about them.
“Shima, my mom, is my Indigenous Shero. She grew up speaking only Navajo and was raised in traditional Navajo home. She Was taken at 8 to boarding school and punished till she learned English. Graduated high school and college. She retired from the state of Oklahoma as a child social worker and worked for a few more years as a sexual abuse advocate. Her and my dad have been married for 47 years, have four successful children and grandchildren. My mom experienced abuse, prejudice, hunger, poverty and fought for the life she wanted. She endured these snd many more hardships with a smile and kind heart. She is still the most loving and forgiving woman I know. She is my constant cheerleader, my best friend, and an example of unconditional love. Her family and home has been her joy. I was blessed that she chose me to be her daughter. My mom blesses my life daily. I would not have the life and adventures of she wasn’t always telling me to “just do it” or “go for it.” Ahe’hehe shima.” –cheebah73005
“@rigobertamenchu, an Indigenous feminist and human rights activist in Guatemala who has tirelessly fought for the rights of Guatemala’s Indigenous People during and after our Civil War. She’s an admirable woman.” –nuschb
“@raynaespinosa_ she will literally take her shirt off her back to help others. She is always there to fight for everyone’s rights she will do whatever it takes to make her voice heard! I admire her strength and I admire how she is not afraid to show her roots and educate others.” –mitchitymitch
On June 5, 2002, Elizabeth Smart’s story made national headlines after she was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah.
At the time of her kidnapping, the then-14-year-old was tragically raped and tied up daily for the next nine months and endured endless amounts of physical and mental abuse. Thankfully she was rescued nearly a year later on March 12, 2003, after two witnesses recognized her abductors Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. While the details of her kidnapping were splashed across headlines for years after her kidnapping Smart is now revealing that she did not want to talk about the details with her parents.
In a recent interview, Smart revealed that after being kidnapped as a teen, she couldn’t bring herself to share the details of her experience with her parents.
“The truth is I never sat them all down and had a ‘tell all’ experience with them,” Smart wrote on Instagram earlier this week. “Honestly when I got home I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened I was embarrassed and ashamed… I was brought to an advocacy center where I had to disclose much of what happened to two professionals and they, in turn, relayed much of what happened to my parents. But I don’t think my parents ever heard in detail what happened from my own lips until my court appearance almost a decade later.”
“I have so many thoughts and feelings on this topic, first and foremost I never want anyone to compare their experiences to me, we are all different and unique and we can never accurately compare our experiences to someone else’s,” Smart continued in her Instagram post. “I also want to point out my case was highly publicized, everyone already knew crimes were committed against me. So it didn’t take me coming forward and disclosing the extent of my abuse to multiple people before my captors were taken into custody. Nor did I have people doubt me.”
Smart shared in a separate Instagram post on Monday that she decided to reveal the details of the abuse she endured to prevent other victims from feeling shame.
“I’ve noticed a lot of comments about dealing with the shame and embarrassment that I felt after I was rescued and didn’t want to tell anyone the details about what happened,” she wrote. “For years if a discussion or a situation occurred that would seem a natural opener to talking about what happened I generally sidestepped it. In my mind what had happened was something that I hated and never wanted to acknowledge so I just avoided thinking/talking about it.”
“But I remember one day my dad came to me and started discussing the charges Brian Mitchell was going to be charged with, and I felt anger, because of all the charges he was faced with none of them included the worst things he did to me. It was ultimately in that moment that I stopped caring and worrying about the shame and embarrassment that I felt.”
Smart revealed that speaking out about what happened to her ultimately made her feel empowered.
“If someone judged me for what happened, in my mind I came to the conclusion that they did not matter and clearly were not worth my time,” Smart explained. “Since then I became more and more involved in advocacy and as I went out I realized I was not alone in being a victim of rape and sexual abuse. This more than anything made me want to do more, change the culture, speak and share my story if it helped others. In my eyes the first step towards changing the culture of how we treat victims and survivors is to start by believing them!”
Since her kidnapping, Smart has become a mother of three and created a campaign for her Elizabeth Smart Foundation called #WeBelieveYou. The campaign works to encourage people to believe victims of sexual violence.
“For these and many other reasons I want Victim’s to know that #Ibelieveyou and I hope that as all of us move forward when we come across Victim’s and survivors our first reaction is to believe them!” she wrote on Instagram. “Should we have friends or family disclose to us just listen, they don’t owe us answers to our questions or curiosities. Love them, support them, and be their friend.”
Seventeen years after her rescue, Smart continues to express her thanks for those who helped find her.
“For my seventh day posting about gratitude I feel I can not go without saying thank you to every person who searched for me, prayed for me, followed my story, and did everything they could to bring me home safely!” she wrote on Instagram Sunday. “I shudder to think what my life would be like if it weren’t for good everyday people! Would I still be with my captors? Would I even be alive? How could I survive so long if I were still with them? All terrifying thoughts that I will be so eternally grateful that I never had to find out… My life is absolutely different than I ever imagined it to be, even from the day after I got home when this photo was taken my life is still drastically different than I imagined it to be. However I also know I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything that happened and so for that too I am grateful! During this season of holidays and giving I wish you all the joy, peace, and happiness each one of us deserves! God bless you all!!”
Smart’s kidnapper Brian David Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence. His wife Wanda Barzee was released from a Utah prison in 2018.
Good deeds make for a good world. We all know there’s some sort of truth in that, but these days there’s so much in the world to shadow goodness and kindness in the world. Fortunately, people have been quick to share their memories of acts of kindness and good deeds.
And on Reddit no less!
Users on Reddit are sharing the most humbling acts of kindness they’ve ever experiencexd.
Check them out below!
“This is a few humbling kind experiences all wrapped into one: My mom got suddenly diagnosed with cancer and deteriorated unbelievably quickly. She seemed totally healthy when she was diagnosed, yet died 6 weeks later. She had me when she was older (45) so it was always her dream to live long enough to see me get married. When my boyfriend of 8 years found out she was sick, he immediately asked me to marry him. Humbling experience #1.
We then tried to find a justice of the peace ASAP to officiate the wedding at my parents’ home. There was only one in the small town my parents lived in. She was all booked up but when she heard why we needed to book ASAP she reworked her whole schedule so that she could be there for us (humbling experience #2)
Our family and friends then went out of their way to plan the wedding for us so that I could be with my mom in pallative care. My aunt and uncle drove 5 hours to us, got flowers, candles, a cake, champagne and set up the house for the wedding. Our neighbours took care of our dogs and planned a catered reception for us. My best friend (the only person I really wanted as a brides maid) nearly got fired from her new job in order to get the time off to be there, and she and her boyfriend drove for 6 hours to be there. Everyone was so wonderful, well beyond what I could’ve ever expected or asked for. It was so amazing and heartwarming. (Humbling experience #3)
My mother was able to attend the wedding and it was a very joyous occasion, despite the circumstances. She passed away 3 days later. Even though it wasn’t a traditional wedding, it was perfect because so many people that we loved dropped everything to help fulfill our dreams.” –awkwardmumbles
“In a thread asking what things my children don’t know, I shared that we were struggling financially, that I often lied to them and said I’d already eaten, but I knew the situation was temporary. Reddit users suggested I create an Amazon wish list and sent us food, gifts for the kids, and even a pair of shoes for me to replace the pair I’d been wearing for years. The words of encouragement got me through a very tough time. I’m working now, and while I’m still digging out of lots of student loan and medical debt, last Christmas I was able to pay it forward, by sponsoring a family for Christmas. I’ll never forget the kindness of the people here.” –surpassing_disasters
“I’m not the richest guy in the world. I was in grade 11 and at that point I had been playing the same cheap $150 guitar for 10 years. One day during the year, it was my birthday. My girlfriend at the time had already told me that she couldn’t make it on that day because she had a family thing. I didn’t expect much. Two of my friends finally convinced me to grab dinner with them so we did. We then headed back to one of my friends houses. When I got there, about 20 friends (including my girlfriend) were there. They had thrown me a surprise party. They then pulled out a guitar case. They all put their money together and bought me a $2000 brand new American Fender Telecaster. I don’t think I have ever been so humbled by the kindness of my friends and I will never forget what they did for me.” – Krebsy92
“I was living in another state with my family,my husband and son (I was also pregnant). we hit some hard time. Money was very low and that week we only had 30 dollars for food for the next 4 days. I went to the grocery store and picked out some food (rice, beans, smoked sausage, eggs, etc..). I went to the self service register to check out and it came to 25 dollars. I went to my pocket for my money and it wasn’t there. I turned red in the face with embarrassment and I told the cashier maning the self checkout lanes I must of dropped it so please cancel the order. He didn’t. He paid for it out of his own pocket. I thanked him up and down. I went to my car and cried.” –thepurplefrog
“My uncle gave me $500 when I left for college (he usually gave money to me and my cousins). He was murdered months after, the day one of my older cousins was getting married. She gave EVERYTHING from her wedding that could be useful at the funeral (food, alcohol, sodas). My cousin is poor, by the way.” – mrcolon96
“I was arrested for possession of marijuana in Texas and before I even made a phone call out, a random lady bailed me out and drove me to my car, paid to get my car out of the impound, and let me pay her back like 5 weeks later.” – echo_astral
“In 2004 my father died somewhat suddenly after fighting very aggressive cancer for a month. My family and I witnessed an overwhelming outpouring of kindness and love from our community. The local businesses adopted us for Christmas(dad died in early December), people brought us meals for weeks, and the local funeral director made sure that the services honored dad’s life while making it affordable for an already struggling family. The biggest thing, though, would have to be the hospital bills that my mom never saw. After a month in and out of the ICU and multiple surgeries the bills must have been huge, but someone picked up 90% of them without ever telling our family. We always assumed it was my dad’s boss, but we will possibly never know. There are countless more instances from that first few years, but I cannot begin to name all of them. It is truly amazing to see a small community pull together for a family in their time of need.” –perrydise_livin
“one winter, i spent a saturday with my mom. that evening, she’d bought tickets to a college production of jesus christ, superstar, and invited me to go with her. i wasn’t terribly excited about it, but i know it’s one of her favorite musicals and it would mean a lot to her if i went, so i just sucked it up. we would up having a lovely day together. we were walking back to the car after the show, and were in the middle of talking about something that had happened to her at work. an elderly woman walking in front of us slipped on some ice, fell, and started to kind of cry/moan/wail.
the elderly lady had two people with her (her kids, i found out later). one rushed off to get help, and the other (a man) stayed with his mother. as soon as the woman went down, my mother stopped talking mid-sentence (a difficulty for an italian-american woman who grew up in NJ) and rushed over to help. the man was kind of panicked. he kept kind of loudly asking his mother if anything hurt, what hurts, can you move your arms, your legs, etc. I’m sure he meant well but in his panic he was somewhat aggressive and it was scaring his mother even more.
my mom told the guy sternly but softly to calm down and bent down, in the snow/mush/ice, to talk to the woman. she cracked a few jokes about how she was clumsy and fell all of the time, it could happen to anyone, and how unfortunately her clumsiness seems to have passed on to her daughter (me). in between jokes, she took off her coat and put it over the woman and gently told her to keep still until help arrived. by the time some workers from the theater and security folks came over, the woman was smiling and talking about holiday recipes with my mother. she was laughing and saying how she felt embarrassed everyone made such a fuss over her. an ambulance arrived and after consulting with the EMTs, the woman was standing up and seemed okay. she agreed to go get checked out, and gave my mom back her jacket and thanked her profusely “for keeping her head” better than her own kids. her son tried to give my mother some money for “dry cleaning” (her clothes were wet and muddy from sitting next to the woman) and she told him it wasn’t necessary.
we started to walk away, and she continued our conversation from earlier – like, word for word, picked up with the sentence she’d left off with. it occurred to me that helping someone like that was just second nature to my mom. she didn’t think twice, and it would never have occurred to her to keep walking and let someone else handle it. and not only that, she handled it like a champ, calmed everyone down, and had folks laughing by the time she was through.
not a huge thing in the grand scheme of things, but it really struck me in that moment just how selfless she is. she is constantly doing things both big and small for others without ever expecting anything in return.”-MsSusieDerkins
“My dad took my brother, sister and I out for lunch at a local diner/ice cream shop. About three tables away was a very bedraggled mother with twin infants in carriers and two other small children, and it looked like today was the day for all of them to act up. After I was done eating I went to look at the pinball machine ( a lifelong obsession) and on his way over to collect me, my dad stopped at the counter, paid our bill, and the lady’s as well. He never mentioned it later, and did it in a way that no one other than the cashier would have even known, but I managed to catch it. I know its a very simple act, and it probably wasn’t very expensive, but the fact that he did it without much thought, and not even to use as a kindness lesson to us kids, always stuck with me.” – CigaretteCigarCigar
“I was in the hospital for passing out in class at college. I was 4 hours away from my parents and they couldn’t come to take care of me and I didn’t have a roommate in my dorm. I was pretty much by myself. A nurse drove me all the way back to my dorm. She then went to walmart, bought me soup, crackers, gateraid and a bunch of other things for when you’re sick. She said for me to call her if I needed anything. I didn’t know this woman at all. I almost cried. She saw I had no food or anything and was so kind to me. I will always be thankful for her kindness. She didn’t have to do that at all. She is an angel.” – ThatRedHairedGirl
“I was homeless and walking from Huntsville Alabama to Nashville Tennessee. I had no money, hadn’t eaten or bathed since the previous morning, and I was pretty much exhausted from walking all night. Stopped at a gas station to ask directions and a Jamaican guy who worked there was kind enough to give me a free sandwich. I remember sitting on the curb trying not to cry while eating what remains the best goddamn sandwich I’ve ever eaten.” –blkhatRaven
“When I was 19 and rapidly deteriorating on the waiting list for a liver, and the doctors decided we’d try the last ditch option of living donation. We called my only blood match, my paternal aunt. She agreed to be tested and was a perfect match. She came to my house in late August and told me that she was a match, and she’d set the date for September 30th.
On that day we rolled into surgery together, and 14 hours later I came out. She was in surgery for about 8 hours. I woke up 3 days later in a ton of pain. But I was alive and the liver was working. My aunt was doing great. She went home on day 4. I had another 2 weeks in the hospital and a hotel near the hospital.
That was 5 years ago. I’m doing great, never had a bout of rejection (which is rare and pretty awesome) my aunt says it’s like she never had surgery. I’m now 24, 25 in July. I wouldn’t have seen 20 without my aunt. I wouldn’t have gotten to travel, or have met my soulmate, or adopted 2 cats together. I moved across the country to live with my bf, and we’ve been together for 3 years. Life is very good.” –greffedufois