Friday, November 8, 2013

The Inspiring Life of Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley

This month Alaffia acknowledges and honors the contributions, achievements, and sacrifices made by Native Americans, specifically women, and celebrates their heritage with the rest of the Nation.

Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley

Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley (1869-1946) was born a member of the Wyandotte Nation in Kansas. She was one of three sisters, all raised to pursue an education at a time when women were not encouraged to do so. She was the first woman admitted to the Kansas State Bar, as well as the first Native American Woman allowed to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Her case was instrumental in the protection of the Huron Cemetery, a Wyandotte burial ground, one of the last pieces of tribal land not incorporated into the Kansas City sprawl.

Students in Togo enjoying new school benches
Lyda was a forerunner for empowerment through her insistence on respect for repressed Native cultures, as well as her strides made for women by refusing to adhere to the accepted gender roles of the times.  The Huron Cemetery, now known as the Wyandotte National Burying Ground, stands today as a testament to the dedication of Eliza Conley, as well as a federally protected parcel of Wyandotte legacy. Lyda embodies the same spirit and tenacity exhibited by the women at our co-ops in Togo.  In Togo we view each woman we empower as the beginning of a cycle that is passed from one generation to the next. Women who, without our support, might drop out of school are emboldened to change Togo and the world for the better. Through Alaffia fair trade and community projects we are helping the next generation who will have the ability to fight for the respect of all people. The power of education has the ability to change not just an individual’s life, but also the community they reside as well as the world. What will the woman empowered with a bicycle accomplish now that she can complete her education?  What will the child safely brought into the world grow up to become? At Alaffia we are inspired by the potential we see in future generations.  Stories like Eliza Burton’s remind us of our purpose, and inspire us to continue our mission.


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