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Mashantucket woman Michele Scott redefines the meaning of Indigenous representation

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council member Michele Scott
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Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council member Michele Scott

As an Indigenous woman, Michele Scott wants to showcase the different ways that representation can look.

Scott is a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council. She also chairs the Tribe's Economic Development and Health & Human Services Committees. She said her years of work training healthcare professionals and community advocates were made possible by the support and inspiration from her tribe.

“It’s just always been instilled in me that we all have strength and we’re going to be leaders regardless. Everyone is going to be a leader. It just depends on what field you end up in, what area of interest,” Scott said.

Scott earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, American Studies, and Political Science from Columbia University and a Master of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University. She served as the Executive Director of the Health Education Center, Inc. (HEC) of Connecticut.

Scott has worked to secure resources to address mental health service gaps and substance abuse in southern New England tribal communities. In 2009, Scott founded the Mashantucket Pequot Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, which runs annually.

Scott said within the tribal culture the belief is that everyone has strengths and can lead in different ways. She learned early on that in her culture, women in leadership were the norm. She believes seeing that type of representation leaves an impact on the next generation.

"I really want to make sure that our young women, especially young Indigenous women remember: You can be unapologetically you, you can be soft, you can be motherly and feminine and also so strong," Scott said. "Those aren't mutually exclusive in our traditions and our culture. Actually they are valued."

Scott said when children grow up and see others like them in their community, it normalizes their existence and they don't feel ostracized. This can be especially true when it comes to the lack of representation of Afro-Indigenous identities.

"Our many shades of melanin sometimes get overlooked in the stereotypical representation in mainstream media," Scott said.

Scott is equally proud of her Eastern Pequot, Narragansett, Shinnecock, and Black ancestry. Scott wants people to understand that Native people can look differently.

"So having myself as a brown skinned, Indigenous woman, representing the nation and representing Indigenous communities," Scott added, "it helps normalize that Native people don't look a certain way, they're not built a certain way."

This is one of a series of stories on Indigenous women reported by Jeniece Roman during Women's History Month.

Jeniece Roman is a reporter with WSHU, who is interested in writing about Indigenous communities in southern New England and Long Island, New York.