Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!
What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

The Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council would like to highlight notable Native American women who have contributed greatly to our society and history. Read more about them below.
  • To participate in our Council's Own "Our Culture, Our Community" patch program to recognize this month, click here.
  • To access our comprehensive reading list dedicated to this month, click here.

Naomi Lang
(1978 – Present)


Ice dancing champion Naomi Lang has toured the world entertaining audiences and earned numerous awards for her skill. Born in Arcata, California, Naomi is a member of the Karuk Tribe and the first Native American woman to participate in the Winter Olympics. At just 3 years old, Naomi was dancing. Her parents soon enrolled her in ballet lessons and Naomi demonstrated such talent that she was admitted to the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy. There, at age 12, she earned the “Outstanding Achievement in Ballet” award. After a trip to the Ice Capades when she was eight, Naomi began ice skating.

She merged her two interests at age 15, and won U.S. ice dancing awards in 1995 and 1996. When professional ice dancer Peter Tchernyshev saw Naomi perform, he was so impressed that he penned a letter requesting the opportunity to audition as her ice dancing partner. Soon, they were training together and won in four consecutive U.S. Championships beginning in 1999. Their unique style earned them critical as well as popular acclaim, and they went on to win the Four Continents Championship in 2000 and 2002.

Naomi and Peter became U.S. Olympians when they qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. After the Olympics, Naomi and Peter appeared in U.S. ice shows, including performances televised on NBC and the Hallmark Channel. They toured Europe, performing for packed audiences, and partnered with other skaters to create truly spectacular shows. Naomi currently lives in Arizona.


Wilma Mankiller
(1945 – 2010)

The first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller was born November 18, 1945 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Wilma grew up with four sisters and six brothers. Her family struggled financially, and when Wilma was still a child, the family relocated to San Francisco in search of greater opportunity.

After finishing high school, Wilma accepted employment as a clerk. She married, had two daughters and settled into family life. However, her continuing involvement with the San Francisco Indian Center motivated her to pursue higher education. She returned to school and there learned more about history and community development. She graduated from San Francisco State University in 1976 and returned to Oklahoma. There, she found work with Cherokee Tribal headquarters as a Community Coordinator where she developed  strategy and programs to benefit the tribe. She achieved success in this role and in 1983 was asked to run for election as Deputy Chief of the Cherokee Nation alongside Principal Chief, David Ross. During the election, Wilma was the focus of severe criticism – not because of her politics, but because she was a woman. Nevertheless, David and Wilma prevailed and took office.

When David left his office for a position with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., Wilma was sworn in as Principal Chief, becoming the first woman to ever hold the position. She gained the trust and admiration of the Cherokee Nation and was re-elected twice in landslide victories. During her tenure as Chief, Wilma worked hard to develop community-based projects where women and men could hold equal positions of leadership. She also encouraged the establishment of tribally-owned businesses, oversaw the construction of a hydroelectric plant, and led numerous infrastructure improvement projects.  Wilma’s administration was responsible for the establishment of the Cherokee National Community Development Department and the revival of the Tribal High School, Sequoyah. After three terms as Tribal Chief, Wilma left to teach at prestigious Dartmouth College.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Wilma Mankiller died in 2010.




Vee F. Browne
(1956 – Present)


A journalist for the Navajo-Hopi Observer in Flagstaff, Arizona, Vee Browne is also an accomplished author of children’s books. Vee was born in Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. She belongs to both the Water Flows Together and Bitter Water clans. In 1990, Vee achieved her Master’s Degree from Western New Mexico University and went on to earn critical acclaim for her writing. She has authored several books for children based on traditional Navajo folktales, as well as a biography of Native American ballerina, Maria Tallchief. Vee has been the recipient of several awards, including the Western Heritage Award and the Western Books Award of Merit. She continues to live and write in Arizona.