Canada – Indigenous Women’s Statement for International Women’s Day
Date: March 12, 2020
By Cora McGuire Cyrette
March 5, 2020 – On International Women’s Day this year we as Indigenous women in Canada honour more than ever how interconnected we are to each other, to our families, to our communities, to our environment and our ancestors.
This is why we measure the safety and well-being of a community based on the safety and well-being of the women and children in that community.
Our connection to our community cannot be at the expense of our individual well-being. Our nations cannot be rebuilt on the backs of women and children as this would be from an oppressive and a colonized approach.
In order to rebuild, we must begin with healing to ensure we don’t duplicate colonization as we have all experienced some form of this trauma, whether it be generational trauma from residential schools, racism and sexism to internalized oppression that results in high levels of violence.
Healing must begin with the women in our communities to address the root causes of the crisis we are facing, she is not the end point of healing but the beginning.
Someone once said that “focusing on everyone focuses no one.” We are all born by our mothers and if she’s supported to take up her responsibility our communities will become a safer place for future generations. Indigenous knowledge holder Mona Hardy reminds us that “Motherhood is the first profession.”
On the path forward we are reminded by activist Ingrid Bengis that words are a form of action capable of influencing change. We have been educated on the traumas we have faced as a result of government’s assimilation policies from the Indian Act to the dehumanizing of our sacred grandmothers, aunties, mothers, daughters and nieces.
Focusing only on the government’s actions or inactions doesn’t allow us to focus on our individual and collective responsibilities. We need a comprehensive strategy that includes us in the actions, we need to reclaim our power, our sacredness and our leadership.
In reclaiming our story we must be mindful of the fact that trauma is not our fault, healing is possible. Colonization has taught us to “other” ourselves and people. This othering technique has targeted our core values to dismantle relationships with ourselves, our community, our environment and also our responsibilities.
You can see this tactic in lateral violence, which is internalized hatred of ourselves. When you speak unkindly of yourself and other Indigenous women you are contributing toward a root cause of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
I’ve heard someone say other people’s opinions of you is none of your business. This is easier said than done, unless you have a wellness plan for yourself to support you in the work you need to do.
Don Miquel Ruiz’ book the “Four Agreements” is a good starting basis in learning to not take things personally, the first of the four agreements. People’s actions are a reflection of their reality, not ours.
In doing community healing work we must remember hurt people hurt people. It is our responsibility to tell the truth and hold people accountable in a kind way. This may seem like an oxymoron but if we don’t have difficult conversations and refuse to accept any form of violence how can we effect change in our communities.
There are consequences of actions and inaction, both positive and negative.
Fear holds us back: fear of making mistakes, fear of unworthiness, fear of being unacceptable, fear of achievement. We need to check our fear, we need to acknowledge it and move through it.
Growth happens because of mistakes and lessons learned; dream big, start small. On this International Women’s Day we must take a chance toward making positive change in our communities.
In the wise words of elder and knowledge keeper Mariea Linklater remember, “every day is ceremony.”