Tokata Iron Eyes of Pine Ridge is being honored Wednesday as one of the Ms. Foundation’s 2020 Women of Vision.
The 2020 Women of Vision awards recognize six feminist leaders who have made an indelible impact on the gender justice movement at the local, state, and national level.
“We’re at a stage in this world where we need everyone’s voices and stories listened to. We need to really start recognizing each other on a very human basis … if we’re going to create real change together,” Iron Eyes said.
Iron Eyes, 16, will receive the Peggy C. Charren Free to Be You and Me Award during a digital celebration, the Ms. Foundation’s #RoarForWomen: A Feminist Block Party! In lieu of its standard in-person awards ceremony, Ms. Foundation is hosting this live-streamed event starting at 5 p.m. MDT on Wednesday. To watch, RSVP at live.forwomen.org.
The awards presentations will be followed by a digital dance party with performances by Spinderella and Madame Gandhi. The Ms. Foundation’s Feminist Block Party also is a fundraiser to benefit nonprofits and community organizations run by women of color.
A member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Iron Eyes’ activism started when at age 9 she testified against a uranium mine in the Black Hills, according to the Ms. Foundation.
Iron Eyes was 12 when she spoke in a video, advocating for action in Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s battle against the proposed route of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The video helped start the “Rezpect Our Water” social media campaign, which played a role in attracting thousands of national and international visitors to Standing Rock to fight the pipeline.
In October, Iron Eyes invited Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to western South Dakota. The teens appeared together at a climate rally and march in Rapid City, at Standing Rock High School in North Dakota and on the Pine Ridge Reservation, speaking about climate change and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
“For me, public speaking was an accessible way … to stand up for myself and our people and our rights,” Iron Eyes said. “In general, I would consider myself a representative of indigenous youth. I feel like our perspective needs to be included in conversations. For a really long time, we didn’t have any say.”
In January, when the first season of Marvel's Hero Project premiered, Iron Eyes was featured as one of its superheroes “Thrilling Tokata.” The series, which is streaming on Disney+, highlights 20 youths ages 11 to 16 who are making a positive impact.
“Indigenous people and young people’s stories are so important and they need to be told. They are so instrumental to building a world everybody would want to live in,” Iron Eyes said.
Iron Eyes also is a singer-songwriter who recently began attending college in January, according to the Ms. Foundation. She continues to hold rallies, host letter-writing campaigns, and make videos to raise awareness.
Iron Eyes is the daughter of Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American activist, attorney, politician and a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, an Oglala Lakota pediatrician at Standing Rock, and an environmental activist.
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