Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Zoe A. Barley

Second Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Third Advisor

Dr. Donald L. Fixico


This study of Native American women leaders in education had a twofold purpose. The first was the primary objective of the study: to develop a greater understanding of leadership as experienced by contemporary Native American women. The second was to add to the literature on experiences of Native American women leaders. The method selected for this study was a qualitative approach involving ethnographic studies of 12 selected Native American women in the field of education. Data were collected through interviews and journal recordings. Native American women interviewed were representative of various tribes across the United States. The study explored questions regarding the lives of these women leaders.

Findings of this study included factors these Native American women perceived as contributing to their success and factors they perceived as barriers. The following categories emerged as contributing to the success of these women: leadership characteristics, support systems, education, and beliefs. The research found that the distortion of Native American women’s roles, as a result of European beliefs about the role of women and Native Americans, led to racial and sexual discrimination. These were identified as barriers to success. Data also supported the finding that these women refused to allow barriers to impede their success.

The study concludes that there has been misunderstanding about the traditional roles of Native American women, and this misunderstanding continues into the 1990s. Misperceptions have been introduced by non-Indian ethnographic and historical writers. Women governed in some tribes. In other tribes, current leadership positions are new roles for women. Little has been written about Native American women as leaders, past or present.This study adds to the understanding of these women’s lived experiences. Barriers still exist, but many are overcoming those barriers. Continuing to ascribe to traditional ways, Native American women are obtaining leadership positions in areas such as education, which may or may not have been the norm in their tribal societies.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access