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The Spirit of Indian Women
editor: Judith Fitzgerald and Michael O. Fitzgerald
introduction by: Janine Pease
Subject(s): Grade Level / Lexile measure

American Indian

high school / Lexile measure: 1070L

Format: Size / page count:


6" × 7.25" / 176 pages

ISBN: Date available:


Available now




What was the role of women in the world of Plains Indian before the move to the reservations?  The Spirit of Indian Women provides a unique glimpse into a bygone world, that is almost inaccessible in our time.  Through the combination of traditional legends; observations from Indian writers who were brought up in the traditional way; and the words of the very women themselves, readers are provided with an valuable tool to discover the role of women and the realities of their daily lives in the “Buffalo Days”.

Featuring an inspired and compelling Introduction by Jeane Pease, founding President of the Little Big Horn College, and National Indian Educator of the Year, the discussion of the traditional role of women is brought into focus for the modern day.

Through the combined power of rare photographs, many published here for the first time, and the wisdom of their words, readers can come to feel something of the timeless spirit of Indian women.


  • Winner of the Gold Midwest Book Award for “Multicultural”
  • Winner of the Gold Midwest Book Award for “Religion/Philosophy

Reviews (hide/show)

The Spirit of Indian Women… is an act of reclamation as much as of spirituality: it reproduces precious and seldom-seen photographs of Native American women, most of them from the later 19th century. Their images are interwoven with oral accounts, songs, and other documents that offer priceless glimpses into the little-understood lives and experiences of America’s foremothers; Janine Pease’s brilliant introduction sets the Fitzgeralds’ anthology in a whole historical context. [World Wisdom’s] entries in the ‘Sacred Worlds’ series are delights to the eye and the mind, and The Spirit of Indian Women is a special treasure. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal
“One of the great callings of art is to excavate a lost part of our culture, and the Fitzgeralds answer this summons handsomely here in a compact exploration of Native American women’s spirituality. Focusing on the nomadic Plains tribes, the book pairs writings and oratory alongside stunning photographs, most of which have never been published before. The editors hold fast to those individuals who received their (oral) training from the ‘old timers,’ people who knew the pre-reservation way of life that honored women as the complementary, spiritual equals of their husbands. A section on the role of Indian women offers mostly male voices on that topic, while ‘Celestial Femininity’ preserves tribal tales that delve into divine femininity, and ‘Intercessors with the Sacred’ highlights traditional tribal stories that champion the sacred roles of women. In ‘Women’s Voices,’ happily encompassing half of the book, we read the exquisite thoughts and feelings of bygone women from a lost time in American history. In portrait after portrait, the souls of the women haunt the frontiers of the human spirit with a staunch beauty that is both refined and raw. The wisdom in these faces is alone well worth the price of the book.”
Publishers Weekly
The Spirit of Indian Women is a profoundly important book, because the voices of the life givers have always been too muted, in American Indian lore as in the rest of the world. Modern women should be inspired by these strong, quiet voices to regain control of the quality of life, which is now too much in the hands of vain glorious male fools.”
James Alexander Thom , author of Follow the River, The Long Knife, and The Red Heart
“Travel across time and cultures to listen to and observe beautiful mothers, grandmothers and matriarchs.…This book… beautifully explores the spirituality of Native American women.”
Green Bay Press-Gazette
The Spirit of Indian Women is a companion book to the best-selling Indian Spirit, a compilation of rare photographs accompanied by the eloquent and moving words of some of the wisest leaders ever to have lived on this continent. Judith and Michael Fitzgerald have been researching and writing about this culture for over thirty years. Their latest book offers readers the thoughts and words of extraordinary Indian women along with their intensely beautiful images and provides a glimpse into the sacred world of the nomadic American Indian women of the nineteenth century. It is an elegy for the women of this irreplaceable world, who were the perfect complement to the great chiefs and warriors.

“This book opens us to a world of honesty; generosity, self-mastery, courage in the face of adversity, nobility of soul, and of constant living awareness of the creator in creation. The photos and words are from a wide variety of tribes from the Great Plains, but the single message they express is clear: the olden-day Indians and their way of life were imbued with the presence of the Great Spirit. These photos and words combine to communicate that presence to us, but with immense grace and internal contradiction, and the dignity.”
The Monthly Aspectarian
“Packed with rare photos, this tiny tome celebrates 19th-century Indian women.”
UTNE (Understanding the next evolution) Magazine
“[In] this striking book…the Fitzgeralds combine vintage sepia photographs of Indian women with traditional stories, legends, and songs, ranging from the Cheyenne to the Kiowa to the Inuit.”
Chronogram Magazine
“Dr. Janine Pease appreciates what a gift The Spirit of Indian Women is to her own daughter and granddaughter, as well as all other American Indian women. The book, written by Judith Fitzgerald and Michael Fitzgerald and recently released by World Wisdom Publishing, is also a gift to non-Indians, presenting a unique and ignored perspective on the thoughts, hopes and roles of American Indian women from tribal nations across the United States.

“Dr. Pease, Rocky Mountain College vice president for American Indian Affairs, wrote the introduction. ‘This gift of voice and image allows us to travel across time and cultures, to listen to, and to observe these beautiful mothers, grandmothers, and matriarchs, all of them Indian women,’ she writes.

“The 156-page book is rich in the stories and lessons Indian women wanted to pass on to future generations. An example of the oral tradition, transmitted via songs and stories, is recorded from Otter Woman, of the Blackfeet, who tells the story of how Indians once harvested a bountiful crop of tobacco. The story is told, relating it to trapping beaver. When an Indian trapper’s wife runs off with a beaver, the trapper fears he has lost not only his wife, but the source of making a living.

“Instead, a group of beavers return with his wife, bestow tobacco seeds as a gift, present him a medicine bundle and instruct him about planting. The relationship between humans and wildlife, between wildlife and sustaining agriculture are interwoven, making it memorable.

“There are dozens of these kinds of stories. Susan Bordeaux Bettyloun, a Lakota, tells of the origin of the peace pipe. Buffalo Woman, a Hidatsa, explains how women were awarded beautiful broad beaded shawls. Pretty Shield, an Absaroke, describes how men and women courted, and how marriages were never allowed within the same clan, fending off the intermarriages that would have produced weak offspring.

“The stories are not limited to the Plains Indians. Stories and songs are culled from Indian women across the United States, including Hopi, Mandan, Zuni, Navajo, Pawnee and myriad others.

“The book is also rich is photographs of Indian women, many secured from a private collection and rarely seen before. Many have never been published.

“As Dr. Pease notes, despite the critical role they played in Indian society, Indian women are virtually ignored in history, even Indian history where the ‘invisible, silent status’ typically conveyed in history and literature ignores the significant role Indian women had.

‘American Indian women are virtually ignored by the historians,’ Dr. Pease writes. Instead the focus is on the men’s leadership, their warrior exploits, and their leadership.

The Spirit of Indian Women goes a long way to correcting that mistaken and degrading viewpoint.”
—Review from The Billings Outpost

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