Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership


The purpose of this qualitative interview study was to discover leadership patterns in the paths of Native female leaders and their experiences. The study explores the path that current Native female leaders walked on that lead them to their positions of leadership. The study speaks to the challenges, conflicts and obstacles faced by Native women working toward professional goals that demand a balance of traditional and contemporary leadership strengths and roles and focuses on the experience, perceptions, beliefs and meaning of the women interviewed. The study gives a voice to five of today’s Native female leaders—five Brave-Hearted Women.

The participants’ individual experiences were recorded during the in-depth interviews. Their own voices have indicated their path to leadership.

Qualitative research methods were used in the study including interviews with follow up phone calls and e-mails. The study allowed five Native female leaders to tell their stories about experiences on their path to leadership.

The six themes that emerged from the study were: Theme One: The Native females in the study experienced early poverty. Theme Two: The Native females in the study had strong survival skills which contributed to successful academic and career experience: a. The Native female leaders were academically strong b. The Native female leaders exhibited self-esteem and resiliency c. The Native female leaders in this study overcame experiences of racism d. Native female leaders in this study were able to reject alcohol as a problem in their personal lives Theme Three: The Native female leaders described a support network of family and other mentors. Theme Four: The Native female leaders expressed that tribal culture and spirituality were important. Theme Five: The Native female leaders experienced both male gender bias and female sabotaging, some of which occurred in tribal political contexts. Theme Six: The Native females in this study had off reservation education and career experience.

The study fulfills a need for a qualitative perspective on what contributes to the success of Native female leaders.