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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Government professor studies political role of Native American women

For almost 10 years Diane-Michele Prindeville, assistant professor of government at New Mexico State University, has studied grassroots activists and elected or appointed Latina and Native American women leaders in New Mexico, but now she is taking her research in a different direction.

atina and a political scientist, I have a special interest in studying Latinas and indigenous women leaders. Now I'm expanding my research on Native American women to study their roles and influence in public policymaking and tribal governance," she said.

In 2001, Prindeville received a grant from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University to conduct interviews with officials from 21 tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. She used those interviews to write "Feminist Nations? A Study of Native American Women in Tribal Politics," for which she recently received the 2003 Charles Redd Award for the Best Paper on the Politics of the American West from the Western Political Science Association.

There is much variation in the politics and governance of the more than 550 federally recognized Native American tribes. Women are barred from participating in tribal politics in most Pueblo nations, yet in other Southwestern tribes, they are political leaders.

"Feminist Nations" examines variations in the politics and governance of different tribal governments, as well as differences and similarities in the paths to leadership, policy priorities and political goals of women in appointed and elected positions within their tribes. The paper also studies the role women play in tribal politics, why they participate in government, their positions, constraints, political goals, policy priorities, strategies and the institutional and social conditions that enable women to serve in their tribe's political leadership.

"These women are awesome -- strong, kind, visionary and committed to making a difference in their communities," Prindeville said. "We have a lot to learn from them, such as how they practice politics, their concepts of leadership and their understanding of 'community.'"