As a commemoration to the hard-working and impactful women in our society, Canada has reserved the month of October as Women’s History Month. This is a time to reflect on and appreciate the contributions that women and girls have made, all of which continue to pave the way to a better and more inclusive Canada.
This year’s theme is Women Making History Now, and it focuses on Women making a difference to our community despite the obstacles that COVID-19 has posed, as well as Canada’s efforts to advance reconciliation. Raven Reads would like to take this moment to intentionally highlight and share the stories of Indigenous women that are making powerful and impactful moves today.
1) Shayla Stonechild
Shayla Stonechild is a Mètis and Nehiyaw Iskwew (Plains Cree Woman) from Muscowpetung First Nations. The center and focus of her work ties back to her overarching mission: to bring challenging Indigenous topics into mainstream conversations to ultimately advocate for Indigenous youth and help them to unlock their potential. Shayla has done this through many accomplishments, most notably: founding the non-profit organization “Matriarch Movement,” which creates wellness workshops for BIPOC women, hosting the TV show “Red Earth Uncovered,” being the first Indigenous woman on the cover of the “Yoga Journal” magazine, becoming a trauma informed yoga instructor, and much more!
2) Dr.Pam Palmater
Dr. Pam is a Mi’kmaw citizen and a member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. Being a practicing lawyer for 22 years and currently a Professor and Chair of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, Dr.Pam has made a significant contribution to the community. Most recently, Dr. Pam has been recognized and awarded for her work concerning the ongoing tragedy of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Dr.Pam is also a published author on a series of books concerning genocide, racism, and oppression of Indigenous peoples. During the pandemic, Dr.Pam has been advocating for the need of a tailored Covid-19 response plan for the 2SLGBTQQIA people, Indigenous women, and girls, given the racialized and sexualized violence against these minorities caused by the genocide.
3) Autumn Peltier
Growing up with a strong understanding of the importance of water protection, Autumn became an Indigenous clean water advocate from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation in Ontario, Canada. She is also the Chief Water Protector for the Aniishnabek Nation and is known as the “water warrior.” At the young age of 13, Autumn made her mark at the UN General Assembly and addressed world leaders on the issue of water protection. Representing Justin Trudeau at the Assembly of First Nations, Autumn gained international attention for confronting the Prime Minister on his continuous support for pipelines and record on water protection. Today Autumn continues her water advocacy, and has recently been speaking up on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means for clean water in First Nations communities.
4) Dr. Suzanne Stewart
As a member of the Yellowknife Dene First Nation and the current Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Homelessness and Life Transitions, Dr. Stewart’s work focuses on uniting the Indigenous community by making policy changes in areas such as jobs, grants, and more resources that have been marginalizing Indigenous peoples for over 150 years. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Stewart has been working alongside Dr. Smylie to create an Urban Indigenous response plan to the pandemic. The goal of the response plan is to address misinformation in the Indigenous community while consulting Elders/Healers to create a culturally appropriate response.
5) Nicole McLaren
Finally, our very own Nicole McLaren Founder and CEO (shameless plug) Nicole took the plunge in 2017 from what started out as a book club to help others learn about Indigenous history and culture; turned into a subscription box that offers books on Indigenous culture for both adults and children. Raven Reads mission is rooted in Nicole’s desire to educate others about the residential schools that had a destructive impact on Indigenous people in Canada. Nicole is also the Founder and Chair of a non-profit network called the Indigenous Women’s Business Network. It is currently expanding and aims to provide support to other Indigenous women wanting to start or grow their business.