We are celebrating Vanessa Roanhorse as our #StrongWoman of the month. Vanessa is a managing member of the upcoming Native Women’s Business Summit in Albuquerque, NM, this April. The Native Women’s Business Summit is a 1.5-day workshop that will bring together 200+ Native American women in business to share their collective experiences, grow their social capital and create a network that is reflective of their own cultures and communities.
Her firm, Roanhorse Consulting, LLC, is dedicated to working with unheralded communities, businesses, organizations, and individuals to achieve self-determination through forging communities of practice, creating equity through entrepreneurship, and encouraging economic empowerment from within.
"The Diné wedding basket is a map of how we chart our lives," says Vanessa. "It shows our emergence into this world, birth, learning, darkness, understanding, enlightenment, light, death, and the knowledge that no matter what happens in life, there is always a pathway to finding your harmony." (Photo courtesy Emily Joanne Photography)
Vanessa is a member of the Navajo Nation and is Tó’áhání (Near the Water Clan), born for Tódích’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan). Her grandfather on her mother’s side is Tábąąhá (Water’s Edge Clan), and her grandfather on her father’s side is Táchii’nii (Red Running Into the Water Clan). She is a business owner and a champion of indigenous women’s rights who is not afraid to speak first and speak her truth in any setting.
“My three year-old says that ‘mom’s the boss at work,’ and I like that,” she reflects. “He sees that I am in charge of my life, and he is comfortable with my strength. Being a mother has made me feel vulnerable, but has also revealed my physical strength, resilience, and deep will to care for my son.”
Vanessa is even-keeled and calm. She knows that she “can inspire quick confidence – or quick competition – in people” because of her capacity to act, innovate, and problem-solve. For her, “strength means being flexible and not holding anything so tight that [she] cannot be malleable.”
Vanessa admires and draws strength from other Native women who inspire her to aspire to more, to work harder, and to also appreciate how much she has.
“Native women have provided me with the path forward on what I need to do,” she says. “I come from strong women. My mom is a trailblazer. She gets sh*t done, and she sacrifices. She is resilience. My twin sister maintains a guiding light on who she is, how she will be and contribute in the world. She is fully evolved and multi-layered. I look to her to make sure I am being honest with myself and that I am doing the work I should do in the world.”
It is also the Navajo philosophy of Ho'zho' that guides Vanessa forward and strengthens her sense of purpose. Ho'zho is the Navajo idea for balance, harmony, order, and beauty in this world, according to Vanessa.
“We as individuals and a people must work every day to find this balance,” shares Vanessa. “It is the same for remembering that we are not separate from the world around us, but that we are one in the same and must respect our place on this Earth.”
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