because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Muriel Wright

Muriel Wright was born in 1889 to a Choctaw physician and a Presbyterian missionary who came to the reservation as a teacher. Rather than being a source of limitation and shame, however, her bi-racial heritage was a source of great pride for her. On one hand, a couple of her ancestors arriving on the Mayflower got her a membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. On the other hand, she was deeply committed to nurturing her Choctaw roots.

Her grandfather (who named Oklahoma) was Chief of the Choctaw from 1866 to 1870 and her father was so respected that he was made the Choctaw delegate to Washington when Oklahoma was made a state in 1907. So Wright was not only comfortable on the reservation, she was fully capable in young adulthood of functioning equally comfortably among the most elite of the elite in political circles.

Like her mother and grandmother before her, Wright entered the field of education, where she was a jill of all trades: teacher of Latin and English, school principal, basketball coach, and even director of the senior play. But that was never enough for her, as she resolutely pressed in multiple ways and multiple settings for just recompense for Native American nations as the U.S. government increased their power over them. One doesn't necessarily have to shout to be very in-your-face.

Wright's continual vigilance and unswerving commitment to protecting and revering Native American heritage in the U.S. -- in such ways as helping to form the Choctaw Advisory Council in 1934 as a bargaining unit and spearheading the effort to place more than five hundred historical markers across the state of Oklahoma --  resulted in the North American Indian Women's Association naming her the Outstanding Indian Woman of the 20th Century. And "outstanding," as we know, can be just another word for "in-your-face."

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