Navajo Nation's Female Would-Be President Confronts "Buckskin Ceiling"


Lynda Lovejoy is running for president of the Navajo Nation on a platform of job creation and promotion of renewable energy. But some are making her gender an issue.

If elected Tuesday, Lovejoy promises to “tackle the issue of maintaining existing jobs, creating a business friendly environment, and expanding permanent job opportunities.” According to the Times, her running mate Earl Tulley is the first environmentalist ever on a Navajo Nation presidential ticket, and together they hope to reduce the Nation’s dependence on coal mining. But Lovejoy is one of the first women to be a serious contender for the presidency — though women ran in 1990 and 1998 — and some are questioning her ability to lead. According to the AP, one traditional Navajo story describes a female leader who “created chaos,” and some members of the Nation believe this means women shouldn’t hold power. Apparently a few even blame Lovejoy for a recent tornado.

Native American studies professor Lloyd Lee says these detractors are misinterpreting the story: “The interpretation is that women can’t lead, that it creates confusion and mess. When in fact it’s not meant that way at all.” And her opponent Ben Shelly says gender shouldn’t be a campaign issue: “Is she or he qualified to be a leader? This is not a question of gender, it’s a question of leadership.” Still, sexism remains an issue for women seeking tribal offices (as it does for women running for office in general). Says Cecilia Fire Thunder, the first female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, “White women face a glass ceiling. Indian women face a buckskin ceiling.”

Woman Poised To Lead Navajo Nation [USA Today]
Navajos Hope To Shift From Coal To Wind And Sun [NYT]
Lovejoy’s Gender An Issue In Navajo Prez Race [New Mexico Independent]
More Navajo Trailblazers [Indian Country Today]
Lynda Lovejoy/Earl Tulley [Official Site]

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