Famous Native American Women

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13142

Meet the first Native American doctor, prima ballerina, and the first to be proclaimed a saint. And meet two other women whose names you may know but whose stories may surprise you!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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See if you can match the names of these famous Native American women with their accomplishments.

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Pocahontas, Sacajawea, Kateri Tekakwitha, Susan La Flesche Picotte, and Maria Tallchief are all well-known names in Native American history. Though they are known for vastly different accomplishments, each had the courage to do things that no one before them had done!

In this lesson, you'll watch several videos to learn about these famous Native American women. As you watch, take notes on the following to use later in the Got? It section:

  • the tribe into which they were born
  • their birth and death dates
  • details about their family
  • their accomplishments
  • their legacies (what they're remembered for, honors they received, things that were named after them, etc.)

Ready? Let's meet these amazing ladies!


Pocahontas and John Rolfe portrait, early 1850s

Image by J.W. Glass, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

You may already be familiar with Pocahontas, but you may not know how truly important her role was in helping Native Americans and Europeans understand each other.

As you watch the following videos, think about these questions:

  • How did Pocahontas influence her father?
  • How did her kidnapping, marriage, and conversion help the colonists?

Pocahontas The Peacemaker | Biography from Biography:

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How Pocahontas Redefined How Europeans Saw Native Americans from Smithsonian Channel:

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Detail of Lewis and Clark at Three Forks

Image by Edgar Samuel Paxson, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Like Pocahontas, Sacajawea (sometimes spelled Sacagawea) was also kidnapped (by an enemy tribe) and ended up marrying a European man (though it was not her choice).

What happened next shows how strong and courageous she was. Watch The true story of Sacajawea - Karen Mensing from TED-Ed:

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  • Do you think that Lewis and Clark could have completed their journey, or even survived it, without Sacajawea?
  • Can you believe she did all that while still caring for her infant son?

Kateri Tekakwitha

portrait of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, circa 1696

Image by Father Claude Chauchetière, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Kateri lost her family at a young age, but she always remembered what her mother had taught her and tried to stay faithful to God, even when pressured to give up her faith.

Watch a portion of WMF: St, Kateri Tekakwitha - Mohawk Mystic of North America, from Salt and Light Media, to hear her story:

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  • How did Kateri show courage when persecuted for her beliefs?

Susan La Flesche Picotte

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte

Image courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society Photograph Collections at The National Library of Medicine, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

You've probably noticed that Susan La Flesche Picotte didn't have an Indian name. Her father, Chief Joseph La Flesche (who was also called Iron Eye) wanted it that way. He said that his children were growing up in a white world and had to learn to live in white society. Though they were taught the traditional Omaha language and customs, he sent them to white schools.

Susan knew what she wanted to be from the time she was a little girl when she saw an Omaha woman die because a white doctor refused to come and treat her. She decided right then and there that she would become a doctor.

Learn about her amazing life as you watch a segment of Drums of Change | Nebraska Stories from NETNebraska:

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  • What were some of the challenges Susan faced throughout her life?
  • Why did she choose to go back to the reservation instead of staying in the East after finishing college?

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief pictured on the February 1954 front cover of Dance Magazine

Image from Dance Magazine, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Maria Tallchief's mother made her take piano lessons and wanted her to become a great pianist. But when Maria met a famous ballerina, she started to make other plans for her life.

Watch the next two videos to learn more and hear from Maria herself!

Women's History Minute: "Maria Tallchief" from National Women's History Museum:

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Maria Tallchief Tribute from Indian Country Today:

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  • According to Maria, how did her Native American heritage help her with her dancing?
  • How did she want to be remembered?

You've learned a lot about these Native American women!

  • Did you take notes?

Good! Now head over to the Got It? section. There you're going to organize the facts you gathered before creating a news story about one of these women's amazing lives!

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