As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s important to recognize and amplify the voices of Native American women whose stories and contributions have enriched the history and heritage of Northern Michigan. By doing so, we honor not only their individual achievements but also the collective strength and resilience of the Indigenous communities in our region. Part 2 continues recognizing Women’s History Month with 3 more Native American women who made an impact in Northern Michigan.

Waunetta McClellan DominicWaunetta McClellan Dominic

Waunetta McClellan Dominic (23 July 1921 – 21 December 1981), an Odawa rights activist, dedicated her life to advocating for the United States government’s fulfillment of treaty obligations to Native Americans. Born in Petoskey, Michigan, she co-founded the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association (NMOA) and gained prominence after winning a 1971 claim against the government under 19th-century treaties. A staunch defender of Native American fishing rights, she earned recognition as “Michiganian of the Year” in 1979 and a posthumous induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

Waunetta, born to Elizabeth and Levi P. McClellan, descended from the Grand River Band of Ottawas. After marrying Robert Dominic in 1940, the couple settled in Michigan, becoming pivotal figures in challenging the Indian termination policy’s impact on the Odawa. In 1948, they founded the NMOA, filing a claim in 1949 that eventually led to a $12.1 million settlement in 1971. Despite bureaucratic challenges, Dominic ensured fair distribution, particularly for non-reservation tribes.

Waunetta, serving as NMOA president after her husband’s death in 1976. She played a crucial role in preserving fishing rights, testifying in the 1975 United States v. Michigan case. She continued assisting Odawa with genealogical records and fought for the equitable allocation of funds, earning her the title of “Michiganian of the Year” in 1979.

Dominic’s legacy endured, as the NOMA bands gained recognition, and in 1998, the federal government distributed the awarded funds, amounting to close to $74 million. In 2014, the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame acknowledged her pivotal role in the civil rights struggle during a dedicated exhibit.

Margaret Chandler

Margaret Bailey ChandlerMargaret Bailey Chandler, a woman of hard work, perseverance, honesty, and integrity, instilled these values in her nine children: Bonnie, Sandra, Thomas, Robert, Mary, Dale, Timothy, Jeffrey, and Janette. Beyond her immediate family, Margaret’s enduring legacy extends to her advocacy for the Ottawa Tribe.

Growing up in Indian Village outside Brethren, Margaret rode in a horse-drawn sled to Brethren School in her childhood. In the 1930s, her family participated in an “Indian Village” for the Manistee Forest Festival, an experience Margaret described as being “on display” for tourists.

Margaret’s mother, Elizabeth Bailey, faced abuse at an Indian boarding school, leading her to withhold traditions from her children to protect them. Margaret, however, embraced Native American beadwork and her son, Thomas, learned traditional basketmaking, passing on skills to his niece, Valerie.

At 21, Margaret was elected secretary of Unit 7 of the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association (NMOA) in 1950, the same year she married Dale G. Chandler. Over two decades, she documented NMOA meetings, events, and notes, playing a vital role in advocating for the Ottawa Tribe’s rights.

Bill 1357

Despite personal sacrifices, such as long hours away from her family, Margaret sought reaffirmation for her people. She worked tirelessly to address member hardships and build consensus. Her leadership culminated in President Clinton signing Bill 1357 into law in 1994, reaffirming the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians as a sovereign nation. Margaret served on the Tribal Council and played a key role in preserving land around Indian Village.

In 1996, the land was returned to the Ottawa, and Margaret received an eagle feather for her dedication. She was posthumously inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009. Margaret’s leadership paved the way for the Ottawa Tribe’s resurgence, reclaiming land, addressing environmental concerns, and preserving their cultural heritage. Her persevering spirit remains a cornerstone of the tribe’s success.

Linda WoodsLinda M. Woods

Born in Detroit in 1943, Linda Woods, of Native American and Alaskan descent, grew up in an Ottawa Indian village. Enlisting in the Air Force in 1962, she served at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Linda was honorably discharged in 1966. Linda earned her Associate’s degree from San Jose Community College in 1979. Her Master’s degree in Social Work from San Jose State University was earned in 1994. As an Odawa tribal member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Linda dedicates herself to aiding Native Americans in addiction recovery and promoting healthy lifestyles. Linda retired her social work career in 2008.

For two decades, Linda has collaborated with the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, actively promoting Native American culture. She made history as the first female veteran to create and carry the revered “Eagle Staff,” symbolizing Native American culture. Recognizing her impactful contributions, Linda Woods was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015.  Additionally, she participated in the Native American Veterans Delegation to Normandy, that commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Operation Overlord. She is in the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor.

It is evident that Indigenous Women’s contributions form an integral part of the region’s rich cultural tapestry. These women showed resilience, wisdom, and commitment. They navigated the complexities of their own communities and left an enduring impact on the broader historical narrative. We honor and appreciate the legacy of Native American women in this region. We recognize their profound influence on shaping a heritage that remains vibrant and resilient today.

Come back for more history of Northern Michigan Women. In our third article we highlight 3 women who were trailblazers in politics and courtrooms.

Interested in more about Northern Michigan Women in History? As we publish articles this month we will add links to published articles.


Image Attributions:
Waunetta McClellan Dominic – By unknown – Original publication: Lansing, Michigan, 1996, Michigan Women's Hall of FameImmediate source: http://www.michiganwomenshalloffame.org/Images/Dominic,%20Waunetta%20McClellan.pdf, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54762248
Margaret Chandler – By Sheehan, P. G. Misty; Stinson, Pat (2021-03-11). “Women’s History Month: The Enduring Legacy of Margaret Chandler”. Freshwater Reporter. Archived from the original on 2021-08-05. Retrieved 2021-08-04., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68404853
Linda M. Woods – Photo courtesy of Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor.