By Isadore Day, CEO Bimaadzwin
(March 7, 2020) On Thursday in Kahnawake, warrior women stood by a pink Mohawk flag to announce that the railroad blockade was being dismantled. This was a powerful image that reinforces the increasing leadership role that Indigenous women are asserting in this country. Indigenous women are not only water protectors and land defenders, they are leaders for revitalizing our Nations.
This Sunday is International Women’s Day, the one day per year set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of women. More specifically, the day marks efforts at ending discrimination against women and highlights the need for full participation as equals to men. At Bimaadzwin, we believe that women have — and will — become the driving force to rebuilding our Nations.
Before contact with European settlers, our Peoples respected and heeded the counsel and guidance of matriarchal leaders. The Indian Act ushered in male-dominated colonial band systems, which not only undermined the traditional authority of women, but created a dysfunctional societal relationship which has led to discrimination, domestic violence, and Missing and Murdered Women and Girls.
It will take at least another generation before all our Peoples, and our Nations, will be equal in sovereign and economic power with colonial governments and settler society. In the meantime, we must continue to encourage Indigenous women – and girls – to reclaim their rightful place as true leaders. We need warrior women to lead the way to full sovereignty for our Peoples.
Below are quotes from our Bimaadzwin female staff:
“This year, more than ever, we’ve seen Indigenous Women in the frontlines protecting, protesting and standing up for Indigenous Rights across what we call Turtle Island (AKA North America). The women and our young women are standing up to protect our lands, water, nations, languages, our governing structures and inherent rights for future generations and for the faces unborn. Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, for the most part, are matrilineal and matriarchal societies and have always had a voice in our traditional longhouses. It is our women through their clans who govern the actions of the Land Defenders in terms of internal and external affairs. It has always been this way.
Still, for the first time in a very long-time indigenous people including indigenous urban communities, band councils, local traditional police enforcements, and longhouse people, united as one voice to support our brothers and sisters the Wet’suwetén peoples who faced an unlawful invasion into their territory.
“I am proud of our Kanien’keha:ka Nation women and men who acted as one to this infringement of our inherent land rights, and our rights to a good quality of life. This was a true demonstration of #eachforequal. A practice used from time and memorial in indigenous democratic confederacies—that’s what I call decolonized action for all. We are not war like peoples we are righteous, peaceful, true democratic peoples in which women play an equal and very important role in our governance structures. The Land Defenders demonstrated equality and justice for all very clearly over the past month. I am proud of our Hereditary Chiefs and Clan Mothers, who play an equal role in our governing structures, they have protected and served our peoples well—Peace, power and righteousness, through equality!”
“Today on International Women’s Day we celebrate women everywhere. As mothers, we have the great honour and obligation to help our daughters to become the best that they can be and to do the best that they can to use their strength as women, to contribute strength back into our Indigenous communities and our respective Nations. A very strong message coming from so many of our women knowledge keepers and matriarchs, is to always lift our daughters up, helping them to reach their goals and to celebrate with them. Our nations become stronger when we lift them up; their voice is our voice, their strength makes the world a better place.”
“Women’s equality in our economy and parity in government all over the world will send a strong message that our women are moving forward to make a difference for our children today, tomorrow and the future. Our society needs to be more supportive and champion our women. Let’s take care of Mother Earth and be one voice in making a difference.”
“As a non-Indigenous woman living on the land that is now called Canada, I like to uphold ‘IWD’ more as an Indigenous Women’s Day. As I watch the Indigenous women from coast to coast to coast assert their inherent rights, I am struck by how much they do to protect what is good for the climate, the land, the water, the community, the traditions, the languages and, most of all, the families. They are often the ones in the frontlines shouldering struggles on behalf of all of us. On this day, let us commit to support them and their work EVERY day.”