NARRATOR: From the corridors of power... RUTH BUFFALO: Indigenous women know what's at stake.
(camera shutter clicking) NARRATOR: ...to the front lines of fashion... JAMIE OKUMA: These pieces are so culturally Native.
NARRATOR: ...and from superheroes in comic books... ARIGON STARR: Indian ladies have superpowers, and they look like us.
NARRATOR: ...to real-life champions protecting the planet... BETTY OSCEOLA: We have that responsibility to take care of the environment, especially if you're a woman.
NARRATOR: ...Native women are carrying forward our traditional roles as leaders to make a better future for all.
This is "Native America."
STARR: ♪ They put a White guy in tan makeup ♪ ♪ They put a black wig on his head ♪ ♪ It's no wonder we ain't on TV ♪ ♪ They all think we're dead ♪ ♪ They write songs ♪ ♪ They make movies ♪ ♪ 'Bout Indians long ago ♪ ♪ All those pictures ♪ ♪ Never look like ♪ ♪ Indian folks I know ♪ ♪ Please do not ♪ BAND: Please do not.
STARR: ♪ Touch the Indians ♪ ♪ It's my world ♪ ♪ My only home ♪ ♪ Please do not ♪ BAND: Please do not.
STARR: ♪ Touch the Indians ♪ ♪ Waya heya waya heyo ♪ (song continues) STARR: Being an artist is, of course, having talent, but also having a good business head on your shoulders.
I think of myself not only as a artist, but as a entrepreneur, a businesswoman.
(fiddle playing solo) NARRATOR: Arigon Starr is a woman of many talents.
She's a singer-songwriter who's produced award-winning albums, a stage and radio playwright, and the creator of the cult comic book "Super Indian," which she also illustrated.
STARR: I have always loved comic books.
And what I noticed, a lot of the comics are drawn by men for men with a male gaze.
Every time they would have a Native hero, they reinforced all of the Hollywood stereotypes that you can think of.
Scantily dressed, overly sexualized woman, usually wearing leather fringe, feather on the head.
I mean, think about the old Land O'Lakes girl.
And I hated that.
♪ Don't expect to ♪ ♪ Do much learnin' ♪ ♪ From movies or TV ♪ ♪ They'll put tipis in Seattle ♪ I thought, why can't we have something that's, like, written by us, drawn by us, that really reflects who we are?
In my world, the Indian ladies are smart, they're funny.
They have goals and dreams.
They have superpowers, and they look like us.
Those are the kind of women that I want to show, and I want to show those loud, brassy women that we have in our community, too.
(laughing) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: "Super Indian" is fictional, but Native women have been real heroes for hundreds of generations.
Our powers vary across tribes: controlling wealth, building homes.
We're healers, spiritual authorities, warriors.
We can even appoint and dismiss chiefs.
And our power continues to shape the world today.
STARR: What I have witnessed in my life with Native women and their power is that energy that they bring to their projects, and that power just radiates through the work that they do.
NARRATOR: Right now, Native women are leading in government, in the world of art and fashion, and on the front lines fighting to protect Mother Earth.
OSCEOLA: I was out in my airboat in the Everglades one day.
And I stopped the boat, and I just sit, and I listen.
(motor stops) And I remember hearing this voice in the wind.
(birds singing, insects buzzing, frogs croaking) And that voice said, "I am you, and you are me."
(engine running) Indigenous women are the two-legged manifestation of Mother Earth.
That's where we get our strength and our healing from and our nurturing from.
(birds chirping) NARRATOR: Betty Osceola was born and raised in the Florida Everglades.
OSCEOLA: My family, particularly my mother, was very strong and adamant about keeping our culture and traditions.
I am of the last generation that knew some form of subsistence living, 'cause mainly what we ate came from what my brothers hunted for, what we went fishing for, what my mother grew.
And that was our life.
NARRATOR: The Miccosukee have lived in what is today Southern Florida for hundreds of generations, thriving alongside neighbors of all kinds.
But many native species are in danger of extinction.
In just 50 years, Betty has seen a massive decrease of life in these wetlands.
OSCEOLA (speaking Mikisúkî): (bear grunts) (animal grunts) Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
(wings flapping slowly) But, as time went on, that loud, thunderous "whoosh, whoosh" wasn't as loud.
And the panther didn't come through the yard anymore.
Raccoons didn't come into the yard.
No possums into the yard.
The Everglades is a skeleton of its former self.
I want to help heal Mother Earth and put it back to where it's alive and abundant with its wildlife, its plant life.
(birds calling) We have that responsibility to take care of the environment, especially if you're a woman, because you're the life giver.
(bird wings flapping) NARRATOR: Betty draws on generations of Miccosukee teachings about respecting all living things and protecting the world in which we live.
She leads prayer walks to raise awareness of threats to the environment and to organize people to save the Everglades.
OSCEOLA: I am descended from warriors, and I am a warrior, a peaceful warrior, a prayer warrior.
I've used that to educate and share how we're taught to coexist with nature.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (crowd talking in background) NARRATOR: Sharing teachings and traditions can take many forms.
So it's just one extra pass.
Because when we tried it the first time, we were at four minutes.
NARRATOR: Here, it's expressed in art and fashion at one of the largest Native art showcases in the world, SWAIA: the Southwestern Association of American Indian Art's Santa Fe Indian Market.
JAMIE OKUMA: Walk for me.
Yeah, that looks great.
I pulled this out, and I just, I knew I forgot to do something, so this is what... Yeah?
NARRATOR: Jamie Okuma and her mother, Sandra, put the final details on a beaded dress.
So you got to go just along the edge of the thing.
NARRATOR: This year, SWAIA celebrates its hundredth anniversary, and Jamie is a headliner of the fashion show just hours away.
See, like this, right here?
SANDRA OKUMA: Sure, mm-hmm.
JAMIE OKUMA: Yeah.
JAMIE OKUMA: Right before a runway show, there's just so many moving parts.
And you're dealing with hundreds of models, I don't know how many makeup and hair people, making sure everybody's right, making sure they look perfect before they go out there.
Watching details on every person.
Hey, where's that bodysuit?
Are you kidding me?
Oh, you have it.
Yeah, it's a lot-- it's chaos.
Doesn't really ever feel like anything's ever done.
JAMIE OKUMA: Turn it to where it's darker, yeah.
CHRISTIAN ALLAIRE: Jamie's eye and how she applies it into her designs is unlike anything I've ever seen before, and I think that's what pulls people in.
Too fast, Keira-- a little bit slow down.
There you go.
(camera shutter clicking) ALLAIRE: It's just very modern in approach and really refreshing to look at.
♪ ♪ One of Jamie's signature pieces is her hand-beaded Christian Louboutin shoes.
I think that's the piece people fangirl over the most.
And I think it was really genius because she's taking a Western thing and making it Native.
It's kind of flipping the script.
NARRATOR: Using glass beads and materials like porcupine quills, brass sequins, and chicken feathers, Jamie transforms a pair of shoes into wearable art.
♪ ♪ Her boots and clothing can be found in the pages of fashion magazines, in major museums, and on the red carpet.
Jamie's work is both high fashion and fine art.
I'm not doing anything different that our people didn't do.
It's just adapted to what I love, and that I can turn into something different.
NARRATOR: Native Americans have always decorated our clothing and items made to be worn, from shoes to weapons to baby cradles.
It's an aesthetic tradition that spans all of Indian country and reaches back hundreds of generations.
AMBER-DAWN BEAR ROBE: Jamie Okuma really is a leader.
She's been making dresses and beading since she was very young.
She also has a really, almost like a punk rock edge to her work, as well.
For example, her beaded backpack with the spikes.
NARRATOR: Amber-Dawn Bear Robe is a guest curator at SWAIA.
She and her team put together the exhibition "Art of Indigenous Fashion," with pieces from over 20 leading contemporary designers, including Jamie Okuma.
(guests talking in background) JAMIE OKUMA: Yes, we... We're big fans.
Oh, thank you, thank you very much.
It was really nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you, too.
BEAR ROBE: Indigenous design is the original design language of America, connected to this land and place of what we call Canada and the United States.
JAMIE OKUMA: As a younger person, I moved away from that word "Indigenous."
I felt that I don't want to be boxed in.
I want to be seen as a designer.
But now I embrace that, because it's who I am.
And, so, yeah, I'm proud to say that I am a Native designer, a Native artist.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: By embracing her Native identity, Jamie is breaking down the barriers between Indigenous and mainstream art.
♪ ♪ For Ruth Buffalo, embracing her values as a Native woman is guiding her down a different path.
BUFFALO: I never thought that I would be involved in politics.
All I had in me was my heart and seeing firsthand things that needed to be changed.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Ruth was raised to care about her community's most vulnerable people.
And then a personal tragedy led her on a path to politics.
Her younger sister died in a car accident on a dangerous bend in the highway.
BUFFALO: The first summer after she had passed, I would commute every day, but I had to pass the crash site.
We lost so many different community members on that particular curve, and so I wanted to help prevent other lives from being lost.
I remember calling the North Dakota Department of Transportation and learned how to do a elevator speech.
That road today is wider.
It has a extra lane on it.
So from seeing that progress being made, it kind of gave me more willpower to try to find ways to change policies and laws to help people live longer.
Next thing I knew, I was running in a statewide race for insurance commissioner.
I came in second, but that really inspired me to stay in this type of work.
NARRATOR: In 2018, Ruth launched a grassroots campaign to represent her district in state government.
She won, and became the first Democratic Native American woman in North Dakota's state legislature.
NEWS ANNOUNCER: This is a WDAY, WDAZ Special Report.
REPORTER: We're here at the last known location of... NARRATOR: Ruth immediately took up the cause of honoring someone whose loss was still being felt deeply in her community.
Good afternoon, we have breaking news at this hour in connection with a missing pregnant woman.
ANCHOR 2: Police have surrounded... NARRATOR: An Indigenous woman from Fargo, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, went missing.
She was eight months pregnant at the time.
Her family, along with police, tell us they heard from her last Saturday afternoon... BUFFALO: As the week went on, we just couldn't believe that she was still missing.
And then, once the family put a call to action on social media, a lot of us answered the call.
NARRATOR: A week later, Savanna was found, murdered, her body dumped in a river.
The abduction and death of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind is part of a disturbing national trend.
(demonstrators singing) NARRATOR: In some counties, the murder rate of Native women is over ten times the national average.
84% of Native women will experience violence within their lifetime.
And as a mom, a sister, a big sister, and a daughter, that's really striking, and it's what pushes a lot of us to make sure that we are fighting for protections for everybody.
We wanted to be prepared, we wanted to be organized, and we didn't want to waste time having to convince law enforcement to have rapid response to look for a missing relative.
NARRATOR: As a state legislator, Ruth is now in a position to take action.
Native women like her are fighting to address this national crisis.
STARR: The thing about Native women leaders is that they have that toughness, that backbone, that is really unexpected, 'cause I think sometimes that the world thinks they can just roll over us, and that's not true.
(playing "Junior Frybread") ♪ He was the biggest Indian guy ♪ ♪ In the history of the tribe ♪ ♪ Custom overall ♪ ♪ Was a four-X shirt, whoo ♪ ♪ He thought he had been to every stall ♪ ♪ He would be the judge ♪ ♪ Of them all ♪ ♪ There goes Junior Frybread ♪ ♪ He been looking everywhere ♪ ♪ Hey, now, Junior Frybread ♪ ♪ The best bread's over there ♪ STARR: Humor is my throughline through all of the work that I do, because humor is very subversive.
On the surface, you go... (imitates light chuckling) But then you start thinking about what was said, and you go... (sucks teeth): "Ooh."
I really think that you can clear up a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes with humor, and that's so important for all of the stuff that I'm doing.
(in deep, dopey voice): I am the king of frybread!
(laughing) NARRATOR: Humor is right up front in all of Arigon Starr's work.
Today, she's at the historic Church Studio, founded by rock legend Leon Russell and birthplace of the Tulsa sound, a laid-back style of blues, country, and rock.
STARR: ♪ Over there ♪ Hey-yaw!
NARRATOR: Arigon's here to record some of her favorite songs in front of a live audience.
STARR: The key thing about the art that Native women are doing today is just telling stories.
People don't know these things.
I mean, our community, we know.
But to put them out there and, and really put them in a good way, I need to lift people up, 'cause I need to be lifted up.
♪ Hey, now, Junior Frybread ♪ ♪ The bean bread is over there ♪ ♪ ♪ He-haw!
(song ends, audience cheers and applauds) OSCEOLA: I've been called an activist, a protester, an environmental advocate.
But I'm just being who I was taught to be as a woman of the Panther clan.
NARRATOR: Betty Osceola is fighting to protect the waters in her Florida homeland.
She's consulting on two restoration projects she believes have real promise.
One is a pilot project to help clean up Lake Okeechobee.
She's joined by water conservationist Mike Elfenbein.
(engine stops) OSCEOLA: All right, thank you.
ELFENBEIN: Welcome back.
OSCEOLA: All right!
NICK SZABO: Why don't you guys come on over here?
Watch your step.
ELFENBEIN: Go ahead, Betty, after you.
NARRATOR: This barge is home to GreenMach One... SZABO: Fire this beast up.
NARRATOR: ...a prototype machine that collects and processes invasive plants.
I always say, when you have clean water, your options of what to do with that water expand.
OSCEOLA: I live further south, so everything north of me eventually comes to me.
So that's why I'm always curious to see projects that are gonna help the area above me.
NARRATOR: Lake Okeechobee is the northern tip of a larger aquatic ecosystem that flows down into Betty's homeland.
In 1930, the U.S. government built a levee system to prevent seasonal flooding and redirect waters for commercial agriculture.
But the levees stopped the natural flow of water, and now one plant has taken over.
It's blocking light in the lake, killing native aquatic life and disrupting the entire ecosystem of Lake Okeechobee.
GreenMach One not only removes the invasive species, it also produces a slurry that can be used as fertilizer.
OSCEOLA: I see this as a good thing, because you're not using any chemicals killing anything.
You're actually taking these invasive plants out and reusing it to put it over the landscape.
Kind of like helping nature do what it used to do.
To me, I see this as not hindering nature, but helping.
SZABO: We work with Mother Nature 'cause Mother Nature knows best, right?
She's a woman, that's why.
Yeah, yeah, we're putting back... (laughs) (Elfenbein laughs) Right, we're, we're putting back the natural process.
SZABO: In projects like this, everybody has to win.
So you have to look at, is this helping the Miccosukee tribe, is it helping the local ranchers, is it helping hunters, conservation, wildlife, right?
If everybody wins, the project wins.
ELFENBEIN: Lake Okeechobee is kind of the canary in the coal mine.
If we can't fix the problems that this lake is enduring, the rest of the system can't be fixed, either.
NARRATOR: From Lake Okeechobee, Betty heads south to tackle another threat to the Southern Florida ecosystem.
In just 40 years, global warming has killed 90% of Florida's coral reef.
OSCEOLA: I'm looking forward to going to visit Dr. David Vaughan with Plant a Million Coral Reefs Foundation, and also try to find out how I can help him.
Come on in and see the corals.
NARRATOR: Dr. David Vaughan is harnessing the power of nature to accelerate the restoration of coral.
OSCEOLA: This process that you're doing, how did you discover that?
I accidentally broke a coral into tiny pieces, and I thought it was going to die.
And instead, it grew 25 to 40 times faster.
So I did it again with another one, and another one, and all the species it works for.
Corals of the same strain, when they are near each other and touch each other, they actually grow and fuse back together as one coral.
GARRETT STUART: We could take a giant dead coral and regrow it in two years.
This would take nature 1,200 years to be able to accomplish the same amount of growth.
NARRATOR: Coral are living organisms.
The reefs they form are home to more than 6,000 species of plants and animals.
In Southern Florida, the reefs also create a 360-mile barrier that protects the land and people from violent storms.
(thunder rumbling) OSCEOLA: I feel like we should be planting these corals now, not waiting around, 'cause do we have that time to wait?
STUART: Betty's leadership as a Miccosukee woman is gonna help this project.
Sometimes people aren't drawn to just science.
But sometimes people are drawn to, to spirituality.
You know, so Betty helps kind of bring spirit into the science.
(saw whirring) OSCEOLA: There's a reason why there's so many different colors of people.
If we were all meant to be the same, that's how it would be, but, for whatever reason, the Creator wanted a colorful picture.
We have our Indigenous knowledge, but how can we help incorporate that with today's technology?
We have to be open to listening to other ideas and see how we can all work together.
NARRATOR: While Betty's voice is making a difference across Florida, Ruth Buffalo's work is bringing her to the nation's capital.
She's testifying at the first congressional hearing on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
RUBEN GALLEGO: Thank you, Professor.
Next, we have the Honorable Ruth Buffalo, state representative from North Dakota, House of Representatives, 27th District.
Thank you, it's an honor to be here in front of you to share about this important topic.
There cannot be, there must not be, any more stolen sisters.
BUFFALO: It's such a huge responsibility just to make sure that the words that I spoke came from the heart, and that they were doing justice for the families and the communities that have been directly impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous peoples.
I would like to personally thank each and every one of our witnesses here today.
Thank you, Representative Ruth Buffalo for running and winning your seat.
(voice breaking): You were meant to serve, and I'm inspired by the vast amount of work that you've already done since you've been in your seat, so thank you so much for that.
NARRATOR: Deb Haaland is a powerful presence at the hearing.
♪ ♪ As a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, she is one of four Indigenous women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in recent years.
(crowd cheers and applauds) ♪ ♪ In 2021, Deb Haaland left the House to make history.
She became secretary of the Interior, and the first Native American woman to serve in a president's cabinet.
This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the Interior once proclaimed his goal to, quote, "civilize or exterminate" us.
I'm a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.
It's so important to have our Indigenous women represent all of us in these political systems in every level of government, because we know what's at stake.
NARRATOR: The moving testimony at the MMIW hearing will plant the seed for historic bipartisan legislation.
But while Ruth's work is having an impact nationally, she still has to fight to get re-elected back home.
BUFFALO: I grew up in a large household-- three older brothers, three younger sisters, and two older first cousins.
This is where I had kindergarten.
I got my lower tooth chipped in, 'cause we were running in from outside, like, racing, and I won, but the... (woman laughs) BUFFALO: The individual that came in second got mad and pushed me, and I chipped my tooth on the doorknob.
Yeah, this is my mom's house.
Oh, geez, hi!
(laughing): Hi, Mom.
BUFFALO: My mom has this informal title, basically, I think, a matriarch.
You know, being a pillar within the community.
She's 70 now, but just a very hard worker.
I mean, could outwork the next person.
MARY: Your mom's right there.
BUFFALO: Right there, she's the baby.
You kind of look like her, Colin.
MAYA: Yeah, you do.
BUFFALO: Growing up, I think I got a lot of informal training on how to work well under pressure, and a lot of it comes from my mom.
(laughs) MAYA: That one, she's sticking her tongue out.
Look at your mom, she's sticking her tongue out, Colin!
(all laugh) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Fortified from her family visit, Ruth heads back to Fargo to hit the campaign trail.
♪ ♪ BUFFALO: For a state legislative district race, for sure, having a strong ground game is so important, which means canvassing, or going door to door, going to where the people are at.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: She runs a grassroots campaign with a small team, the smallest being her eight-year-old son Robert.
Okay, Robert, you ready?
Thank you for coming with us.
We can start on this side.
NARRATOR: In her first campaign, she and her team knocked on almost every door in her district, increasing voter turnout 105% in some areas.
JAKE KRIEG: Hi.
BUFFALO: Hi, my name is Ruth, and I'm a State House rep for District 27.
And I'm running for reelection... NARRATOR: But since her first election, Ruth's district has been redrawn to include newly built suburbs.
Just moved here?
Right, I know that's... KRIEG (laughing): So...
Like everybody else, we're pretty fresh to the neighborhood, so... NARRATOR: And issues that got her elected the first time, like representation and voters' rights, may not have the same appeal to her new constituents.
Thank you, thanks, have a good day.
See you guys.
♪ ♪ WOMAN: Maybe just put it on the door handle.
Can I give you a card?
♪ ♪ BUFFALO: The top two most wealthiest towns in North Dakota were added to my district.
Are there any issues that matter most to you right now locally?
You know, lower taxes.
Small business, I guess, that... BUFFALO: Walking up to some of the homes, it felt very intimidating at times.
Can I leave a card with you?
Can I leave a card with you?
I would love to continue serving the people of North Dakota in District 27.
We should put some sunscreen on you.
Good job, Robert!
I hope that we can, you know, earn your trust, your support, and your vote by November.
Yeah, well, just being here, it says a lot in general.
Oh, thank you.
So I'll definitely do some research and some reading.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Ruth is running on her record of protecting the underserved people in her community.
But in a redrawn district that makes her old constituents a minority, that may not be enough to win a second term.
♪ ♪ For Jamie Okuma, even though her designs are featured in the fashion capitals of the world... (keys jingling) ...she continues to work from home on the La Jolla Indian Reservation... (exhales) NARRATOR: ...in the way she's always worked.
JAMIE OKUMA: It's all hand-done, one-of-a-kind.
Draped, pattern, sewn, all by me.
(sewing machine whirring) I start with ideas, and then I totally scrap them.
(laughing): Like, right before I start working.
And then I'll start working and scrap those.
I always have ideas, and they always change.
♪ ♪ This is my first beaded piece.
After attending my first powwow, I needed beadwork.
And so, my mom got some commercial hide and some beads, and, she didn't sit down and say, "This is what you need to do, this is how you do it."
I really wanted to figure it out myself.
And so, I did.
I can't even remember why I started doing this, but you'll see this design in a lot of my clothing.
And this piece, I was making it to be for sale until my youngest wanted to learn how to bead.
And so, he started and did this right here, so I'm, like, "Well, I have to keep that now."
(laughs): So I just haven't finished it.
This obviously doesn't look Native, but these pieces that I do are so culturally Native because every tribe has their horror stories.
My grandma was...
I mean, she told me she'd seen werewolves when she was little, and she wasn't to go into Pocatello because there's cannibals there.
Hearing these things as a little kid teaches you to be safe.
Not only is it culturally significant to me, but to find beauty in just the most horrible scenes is something that I feel my grandmother taught me.
It's just how you perceive things, how you choose to look at things.
NARRATOR: Jamie's mom, Sandra, is also an artist.
They've worked together since the start.
JAMIE OKUMA: I prefer having just family involved with pretty much every aspect.
I mean, family's the best.
And we all work very well with each other.
And don't take anything personally when... (laughing): Not that anything happens, but just that, that you can have that with family that you can't with other people.
Do you know who is wearing this one?
Yes, that should be for Keira.
Grab this one.
You can grab that one.
Hold it up, don't let it drag.
JAMIE OKUMA: I try to be how she was for me to my kids.
Really having strong boundaries of what you can and can't do as a kid.
♪ ♪ Our culture has always been important.
My kids, they're really exposed to it.
They live in it, you know, on a daily basis.
It's just their life.
♪ ♪ (engine humming) (choir singing "Amazing Grace" in Native languages) (hymn continues) (hymn continues) STARR: My mother, her church was music.
You know, when she wasn't singing, she was playing, she was listening to music.
I mean, that's who she was.
My mother gave me that love of music of all different kinds.
(softly): We loved her.
STARR: One day, I tried to make a guitar out of a cereal box.
(laughing): And they saw what I was doing, and they were, like, "You wanna learn how to play guitar?"
And I said, "Yeah!"
And then Christmastime came... (smacks lips): There was a guitar.
Oh, that's a good picture.
Oh, that's a nice picture.
Yeah, that was at spring training.
(laughing) We were at Peoria, in Arizona.
Going around, watching baseball, like we do.
(singing "Amazing Grace" in Native languages) STARR: Having the Native Praise Choir here was just really spectacular, because Mom was so proud to be in their group.
(voice breaking): Her story was in these songs.
(hymn continues) We call ourselves choir sisters, we've been together so long.
Whether Arigon asked us to sing or not, we would be here.
The very first song we sang was "Amazing Grace."
It had three languages in it.
The first verse was the Cherokee language, then the Muskogee language, and then the Choctaw language.
(hymn continues) STARR: She gave me that power to express my creativity however I wanted to.
(hymn continues) She was my biggest cheerleader and champion.
(hymn continues) (hymn ends) ♪ ♪ BUFFALO: Don't forget to vote.
Today is Election Day, November 8, 2022.
♪ ♪ BUFFALO: The polls close at 7:00, so it's 4:11 right now.
What we're doing is just circling back through to follow up with voters to make sure that they do vote.
Is it today?
Yeah, it's today.
BUFFALO: This is the end of a large list of 186 doors.
♪ ♪ As far as, like, polling goes, we don't know if we're doing well or not, and so I feel super-nervous.
♪ ♪ I've just been putting all my attention to the new areas of the district, and so I hope that was a smart move.
But we'll see, we'll find out.
(laughs) Can we take the walker?
Yeah, yep, I can move it.
You've got a job to get... NARRATOR: While canvassing, Ruth comes across one of her constituents who can't get to the polls, so she gives her a ride.
This is so crazy, I was just had seen her commercial yesterday.
Not thinking I was gonna actually meet you.
I'm amazed at how many people are here.
Look at this line.
There's other polling locations, too, that we can take you to, if you don't mind.
(sighs): I hope it's...
I hope it's all good votes, good votes.
(chuckling nervously) Don't be nervous.
Yeah, for sure.
You're living your purpose.
This is what you was created for.
You got me teary-eyed.
Did you wanna sit and have her push you, or... Oh, no!
(laughs) NARRATOR: As the polls begin to close, Ruth makes her way to the Election Night party.
PATRICK HART: Hello, Fargo!
(crowd responds) (applauding, whistling) HART: One person that I'm gonna bring up on stage right away, 'cause I got a lot of energy for her, is my good friend Ruth Buffalo.
Ruth, can you come on up?
(applauding) It's an honor to be here with you today.
I have a great deal of anxiety, as I'm sure everybody in this room does.
But one of the text messages I received this morning from my uncle-- I'll read it real quick.
"History of Native American voting rights.
"On the day the Constitution was ratified, "Native Americans were explicitly denied citizenship, "and now we have a Native American woman "who has the potential to be elected into the state legislature in North Dakota."
So I think, regardless of the results tonight, please stay involved.
Please be good to one another.
Please lift each other up.
So, maacagíraac-- thank you.
(applauding) I just announced Ruth upstairs at our watch party as having knocked the most doors in our entire party.
I believe it was 6,000 doors.
Ruth really goes for it.
And when she's got her eye on the prize, there's nothing gonna stop her.
(people talking in background) Yeah, I think ours is gonna be close.
TWYLA BAKER: Having known her since we were kids, we've been doing this forever, you know?
And we will continue to do this.
Regardless of what the outcome of the election is, she's going to be advocating, she's going to be doing good work on behalf of marginalized people.
So, I'm not really worried that way.
Although, I do want her to win.
(laughs) All right, you kicked up.
BUFFALO: The first numbers that were on the website, those were mail-in ballots, and I had a pretty good lead, and I was, like, "Oh, no, here we go again."
NARRATOR: Ruth knows it's going to be close.
She faces a nerve-racking rollercoaster of a night as she waits for the final results.
After working on projects to protect the environment across Southern Florida, Betty always returns to the Everglades, her spiritual center.
She often visits this sacred tree island.
It's the site of painful loss-- the place where the Seminole and Miccosukee people hid when the U.S. Cavalry tried to exterminate them in the 1850s.
♪ ♪ OSCEOLA: During the last Seminole War, the cavalry were on horses trying to hunt us down with guns.
♪ ♪ (speaking Mikisúkî) (horse neighs) ♪ ♪ They lost infants, elderly, children, and other people who drowned.
So lives were lost so we could be here today.
But now the Everglades needs our help.
It's her time of need.
And that's why I do this.
Because we owe her our life.
Most Indigenous people are really spiritual people, and I pray a lot.
And I listen to the messages.
And one of the messages that I get is, "Make them understand that nature is not our enemy."
"We are the enemy hurting nature."
(crackling and popping softly) When the fire pops like that, we say that the fire is saying "mahto," which means thank you-- mvto.
(wildlife chittering) Nature needs to be what it needs to be, not what mankind thinks nature needs to be.
Somehow, we need to get more people thinking that way.
(people talking in background) Oh!
Does it fit?
It, like, fits like a glove.
(gasps) JAMIE OKUMA: To see your work on another person... With the boots, too, you look great.
JAMIE OKUMA: It makes it very real.
(house music playing) ANNOUNCER: Let's hear it for SWAIA!
(cheering and applauding) (announcer singing) (music and singing continue) JAMIE OKUMA: This year's SWAIA show is its hundredth.
There will be more eyes on it.
There's just more pressure to get things right.
(house music pounding) NARRATOR: This year, 15 designers are hitting the runway at SWAIA to show off the latest in Indigenous fashion.
(house music playing) And Jamie Okuma is a headliner.
ANNOUNCER: It's Jamie Okuma!
(audience cheers and applauds) (house music continues) You gotta go underneath, you gotta go underneath.
There is no seam right there.
(house music continues) (applauding) JUANITA TOLEDO: You always see who Jamie is through her work.
The beauty, the stunning, the elegance.
The strength, the poise, the grace.
(applauding) (house music continues) (applauding) (house music continues) (cheering and applauding) JAMIE OKUMA: The second the last model gets off, it's a sense of relief.
Oh, my God!
JAMIE OKUMA: 'Cause it's done, and it sounds like it went okay out there.
(people talking in background) (shutter clicking) ALLAIRE: It took a long time for people to notice Indigenous work, and now that they have, there's really no going back.
I just foresee the future being brighter than ever.
(audience applauding) NARRATOR: Jamie's bold designs will continue to rock the fashion world from New York to Paris.
Oh, look, over here.
See those pods?
NARRATOR: But the source of her inspiration comes from home.
(all laughing) Oh, no!
(laughing) JAMIE OKUMA: I like going to those places, but I couldn't live there.
I want my kids to know our land like I have, like my parents have, and my grandparents, and the only way you can do that is if you're there.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: In North Dakota, Ruth Buffalo will continue her work fighting for the rights of underserved people.
♪ ♪ But that work will not be done as a state legislator.
Despite her early lead in the polls, Ruth lost her seat by 370 votes.
BUFFALO: With redistricting, we knew it was going to be an uphill climb.
♪ ♪ It was disheartening, and... (sighs) I was hoping to continue down this path, but there's always work that needs to be done.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: While serving as state representative, Ruth sponsored key pieces of MMIW legislation that became law.
North Dakota created a statewide missing persons database, and a program to train law enforcement on how to investigate missing or murdered Indigenous people.
♪ ♪ Ruth's legislation inspired national action to combat the crisis of MMIW.
Savanna's Act addresses these discrepancies to find... NARRATOR: In 2020, Deb Haaland helped pass a federal law named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind.
BUFFALO: You don't crawl into a hole and disappear.
You have to continue moving forward, and I will continue to fight for our most vulnerable people, because I truly believe that the success of a community, of a nation, is determined by how well the most vulnerable are treated.
(band playing slowly and softly) (song continues) ♪ She never walked ♪ ♪ On the Trail of Tears ♪ ♪ Her heart knows where you are ♪ ♪ Her love for him will last ♪ ♪ Longer than the stars ♪ STARR: Native women are transforming the world through their unfiltered, uncensored lens.
I mean, finally, it's our gaze.
NARRATOR: Native women are having our moment.
But in fact, for centuries, we have held power as decision makers in our families, communities, and nations.
JAMIE OKUMA: I started creating when I was five years old and it wasn't for anybody but myself.
And then, it just progressed to where we are now.
I'd be making art regardless if anybody saw it or not.
I mean, this, to me, is as important as breathing is.
♪ ♪ BUFFALO: What makes Indigenous tribal leadership different?
It's that we think not just for today or for ourselves, we think seven generations ahead and for the entire community.
It's all of us.
♪ ♪ OSCEOLA: We were always taught that we don't own anything.
We're only caretakers of this creation.
As a woman of my clan, it's a part of my responsibility to make sure that my future generations have that opportunity to experience Creator's creation.
♪ ♪ ANNOUNCER: Stream more from "Native America" with the PBS app.
♪ ♪ To order "Native America" on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.