From the UCLA campus to her tribal homelands in South Dakota, Natalie Stites Means has turned her passion for indigenous people’s rights into social action. While an undergraduate, Means was distinguished not only for service to the Native students and issues but also to the campus and other students of color through the Campus Retention Committee and the Community Programs Office. Her tireless work was recognized when she received the Chancellor’s Service Award for her dedication to the campus community. Means was also honored as the first American Indian to take part in the California State Assembly Fellowship, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious legislative training programs. While a law student, Means was an appointee to the Chancellor’s Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) and an officer of the National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) and UCLA NALSA. After earning her law degree at UCLA, Means served her tribal communities, focusing on juvenile justice and violence against women. In 2010, she played a vital role in the emergency response to the ice storm that caused energy and water systems of the Cheyenne River reservation to fail; she gained national media attention for the emergency and helped raise over a million dollars to help the reservation residents. Means protested at the Cannonball River against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and she continues to stand for indigenous people today. This year she was appointed to the South Dakota Advisory Committee of the US Civil Rights Commission for a four-year term.
“I have become an advocate for women and children in different ways, without an organization but rather a strong network of warrior women willing to defend motherhood and children.”