To highlight women’s heritage and recognize strong women leaders, the Iowa Department of Human Rights through the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) recently announced their 2020 inductees into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Meskwaki Nation is proud to announce that Mary Young Bear has been selected as one of the four recipients who will be inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame later this year.
According to ICSW’s press release, “Mary Elizabeth Young Bear (Tama, Iowa): Born with the Meskawki name of Bo na bi go, her contributions as an artist and art conservator, educator, cultural historian, civic leader and political activist, humanitarian, community leader and mentor inspire, empower, and motivate all those around her, especially young women and girls. Her pride is as a mother and grandmother with a family heritage of Iowa ancestry since the 1840s.”
Mary has worked at the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum as Art Conservator and Curator of textiles, beadwork, art, and a variety of regalia and artifacts since 2012. She has helped curate the largest collection of Meskwaki cultural objects in the world. Besides exhibit preparation and maintenance, Mary leads workshops to revitalize tribal arts, hosts academic symposiums, and teaches visitors from around the world or Iowans in local communities about tribal history.
Her artwork has been recognized by the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Denver Art Museum, Dubuque Museum of Art, Art Educators of Iowa, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Arts Council, Meskwaki Nation, and others – placing her among leading American artists.
Mary is a well-respected leader in many facets of community life. People of all ages, but especially young people, seek her wise counsel and look to her as a mentor. She sets the highest standards for herself and those around her, inspiring others to become resourceful achievers and creative problem solvers who contribute to the betterment of their community.
Mary’s accomplishments as humanitarian, artist, art conservator, curator, cultural historian, educator, school board member, civic leader, political activist, role model, traditional cook, homemaker, mother, and grandmother will garner long-term significance in preserving a lasting historical narrative for her. She is a leader deserving of this award for carrying on the cultural traditions of the Meskwaki people.
Each year, the ceremony is held near the date that women won the right to vote in the United States. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inductees will be digitally awarded in lieu of an in person award presentation.
The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1975. 184 women have been given the prestigious award. Mary is the second Meskwaki woman to be inducted, with the first being Adeline Wanatee in 1993.