November is Native American Indian Heritage Month! Throughout the month, we celebrate Native Americans’ diverse cultures and traditions and highlight the many contributions they’ve made throughout history—and at Girl Scouts, we of course especially focus on the Native American heroines. All month long, join Girl Scouts as we honor the amazing G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ spirit of Native American culture.
During the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Sacagawea served as a guide and interpreter whose mission was to find a water route through North America and explore the uncharted West. During this journey of more than two years, she interpreted the Mandan and Shoshone languages, found edible wild foods, cooked, and even saved valuable instruments and records from being lost overboard during a storm.
Sacagawea was particularly key in collaborating with the Lemhi Shoshone tribe, because her brother was the chief. The Shoshone provided the travelers with guidance, horses, and the necessary assistance to get to the navigable waters of the Clearwater and Columbia rivers. Sacagawea received no payment for her contributions to the expedition, despite William Clark’s demands that her husband give her a greater portion of the reward. However, in 2003, Sacagawea was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to American exploration and history.
Alberta Daisy Schenck Adams
Alberta was a teenage civil rights activist in the struggle for equality by the indigenous peoples in the United States Territory of Alaska. In 1944 she challenged segregation practices which helped lead to the passage of Alaska’s 1945 anti-discrimination law, a decade before the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregation in public schools.
Alberta was born in Nome, Alaska on June 1, 1928 to white father and an Inupiat mother.
When in high school, she had a part-time job ushering at the Alaska Dream Theater where part of her job was to make sure non-white patrons sat in the designated segregated area. She registered a complaint about the policy and was fired. She returned later with a white date, and the two of them sat in the “Whites Only” section. She and her Army sergeant date refused to move when the manager demanded she move to the non-white section. The theater manager contacted the local police who arrested Schenck and placed her in jail for one night. Schenck’s arrest rallied the local Inupiat community who staged a protest at the theater until her release from jail the next day.
Indignant and determined not to be deterred, she wrote a letter to Alaska Governor Ernest Gruening and related the incident to him. The prior year, the Governor had seen his anti-discrimination bill be defeated in the Territorial Legislature. Her letter inspired the Governor to have the bill re-introduced in the Territorial Legislature, during which her experience was cited on the floor of the legislature. He answered her letter vowing that no one would again receive that kind of treatment in Alaska. The re-introduced bill, Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act passed both houses of the legislature and was signed into law on February 16, 1945.
She later married and moved to California where she died in 2009. In 2011, she was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.