On December 4, Ruth Anna Buffalo was sworn into office becoming North Dakota first Native American lawmaker, serving District 27 House of Representatives. The moment was historic on it’s own, however, Buffalo wanted to capture it in a way that wouldn’t just be memorable but that would also be symbolic.
Buffalo —who’s part of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation — stood alongside other newly elected lawmakers while wearing a traditional Native dress. She explained to HuffPost that she asked for permission to wear the dress beforehand, and explained the meaning behind it: “Eagle feathers in our culture are very significant. Oftentimes they’re gifted to people when they’ve accomplished a great achievement. It’s part of my identity and who I am. It was to honor my ancestors, those that have gone before me, and the future generation.”
Buffalo, whom was raised by a single mother, comes from a long line of veterans who’ve served the country along with a community that has cultivated the land of western North Dakota. As a mother of four kids, Buffalo has also earned three master’s degrees: one in management, another in business administration and one in public health. Last month, in the midterm elections, Buffalo unseated Republican state Rep. Randy Boehning.
In a New York Times interview, Buffalo explained why she won in a state that is mostly conservative: “I would say meeting people where they’re at. Literally on their doorsteps. Most people were surprised to see a candidate at their doorstep. They were pretty receptive and open to having a conversation with me on what matters most to them.”
As one of several Native American women that will be serving in Washington, Buffalo says that she’s elated that the House will be more diverse.
“It’s exciting, but it’s an indicator that people want more of that. More representation that looks like them ― that they can relate to,” Buffalo told the Huffpost.