Excerpt from an oral history interview with Ramona Bennett, activist and former chairwoman of the Puyallup Tribe.
Ramona Bennett is a leader from the Puyallup tribe. A pioneering activist on behalf of Indian fishing rights, she co-founded the Survival of American Indians Association in 1964, an organization that helped bring local “fish-ins” to national prominence. Bennett was elected to the Puyallup Tribal Council in 1968, and elected as Tribal Chairwoman in 1971, a position she held until 1978. In addition to her fishing rights advocacy, she participated in the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Building in Washington, DC in 1972 and helped take over Tacoma’s Cushman Hospital in 1976. She also opened doors for women activists by actively fighting attempts during the 1970s to exclude her from National Tribal Chairmen’s Conferences. Much of Bennett’s leadership has focused on issues of social welfare including child welfare, education, and services for women.