Siouxland Women’s Leadership Recap

Feb 18, 2016


Molly Altorfer

Molly Altorfer is the co-director of communications and marketing for IWLC. She has previously worked as a freelance writer and served as Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing at Mount Mercy University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies and political science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master of Arts in Communications and Journalism from Kent State University. Molly is an avid golfer and self-confessed news junkie. She and her husband have two daughters; Molly views her work with IWLC as making the world a better place for them.

Renown Native American activist and environmental advocate Winona LaDuke charged the 400 attendees of the second annual Siouxland Women's Leadership conference on February 16 in South Sioux City, Nebraska to "hold your ground and your spiritual practice" when faced with people who oppose their work.

The two-time candidate for Vice President of the United States (1996 and 2000) served as the conference's closing keynote, dispensing words of wisdom gleaned from a life and career dedicated to opposing mining and oil pipelines in Native American lands. LaDuke also read passages from her recently released book All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. "My experience as a writer in telling stories has been formative in building my courage as a human being," noted LaDuke.

At the age of 18, LaDuke spoke in front of the United Nations regarding Native American rights and since has become one of the most prominent voices for American Indian economic and environmental concerns throughout the United States and internationally. She is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg, who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations. LaDuke is the Executive Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental groups.

In her conference keynote, LaDuke recounted situations when she had been "little lady'ed" by powerful individuals and her resolve to "think in a paradigm in which I am responsible to my ancestors and my descendants." "The question becomes: 'what do we do with our privilege? How do we act ethically and with our humanity.'"

"One of the highlights of this year's conference was the opportunity to hear Winona LaDuke give the afternoon keynote address," says Sarah Wheelock, attorney and Meskwaki Nation tribal member. "Winona LaDuke has long been a personal hero of mine because of her activism on behalf of the environment and indigenous peoples and her wisdom as a mother and intellectual being. I was delighted with her address because, true to form, she was unapologetically herself. Although she stated her focus would be on how she became who she is and her love of writing, she also sent a message to each attendee regarding their responsibility as individuals and leaders to choose a good path for our families, our communities, and our world."

The conference also featured additional keynote and breakout session speakers, including: negotiations expert and Harvard Law lecturer Sheila Heen, communications guru Stacey Hanke, Millennial specialist Hannah Ubl and gender intelligence authority Robin Lee Kennedy.

"The conference educates, encourages, and creates opportunities to find the best of yourself while making a positive impact on the community we all call home," says Kari Kellan, Executive Director, Sioux City Public Schools Foundation. "The nationally recognized speakers bring a message to the Siouxland area that so many of our friends and neighbors need to be reminded. Making stronger female leaders aware of their power truly changes the vision for our future."

The Student Track portion of the conference also drew more than 125 undergraduate college students for a morning of keynote speakers and networking. The conference also kicked off with an invitation-only CEO Forum for local top executives, featuring remarks by Marty Palmer of Palmer Candy Company, Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Dr. Marysz Rames, president of Wayne State College.

The Siouxland Women's Leadership conference was planned by a local steering committee with IWLC assistance. "I love being involved with the IWLC as it is a wonderful experience that brings absolutely fabulous speakers to Siouxland who challenge us as women leaders to implement positive changes while educating and motivating us," said Annette Hamilton, Chief Operations Officer, Ho-Chunk, Inc. and a Siouxland Steering Committee member. "I always leave the day with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation."

IWLC plans to host a third conference on February 16, 2017.


Category: News