Coast Salish Weaving. Image Source: Museum of Anthropology

The Role of Women in Indigenous Governance, Leadership and Well-Being

November 15, 2019

I invite all readers to resist the urge to compare or validate any Indigenous knowledge systems with Western or Colonial knowledge systems. I invite readers who may be less familiar with any Indigenous peoples, cultures or teachings, to utilize the cultural agility required to look beyond your frame of reference and mental models and worldviews.  Where appropriate, we are here to honour their distinctness and acknowledge the areas where they may have confluence or alignment. A new perspective of knowledge in the area of Economic Reconciliation.

This paradigm shift is not without its challenges; Indigenous people are faced with the polarity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews every day of their lives and for many generations, the inequity and lack of acceptance of Indigenous knowledge systems as valid or true within the dominant society, and the complexity faced by Indigenous people to decolonize themselves, their own families, organizations, communities and Nations after generations of forced federalism, colonialism, and cultural genocide.

The ongoing oppression to realize Indigenous knowledge systems are equal or potentially more valuable than the current systems is a tragedy and opportunity lost. I wondering if it is because they are entrenched in values, spirituality, place and holistic in nature? Misunderstood for these reasons? Because one cannot qualify or quantify these things? Because it is seen as inferior, less than or not real?

Many questions arise as Indigenous people journey toward self-determination: Why do Indigenous people continue to perpetuate colonial systems and structures within our families and communities? If women were traditionally revered as leaders, why are Indigenous people not honouring this teaching? Is it possible to take ancestral philosophies and principles and apply them into a modern context? How can Indigenous people honour ancestral laws in contemporary governance systems? Can Indigenous people incorporate cultural teachings into policy and practice?

My work is inspired by the belief in the possibility of Economic Reconciliation through honouring ancestral teachings and bringing well-being to our children and families by raising our women back up to their full strength.

Systems change requires capacity development, thus understanding the eco-system, and developing a framework for both Indigenous Nations and Non-Indigenous entities to find their footing in a new system of thinking of Economics through Reconciliation.

The renewal and regeneration of original ancestral teachings of Indigenous peoples, Nations and Communities in leadership and governance are critical for achieving wellness, self-determination, and sustainable futures for their children and families.

Women were the leaders in Communities and influenced Nation building. They are the mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts. As life-bringers to humanity, there sacredness was not lost to our people.  Their greatness comes from this creation and a place of leadership from the space of being the life giver of each generation born into the Communities and Nations.  Women lead from a space of from their very breathe, which encapsulates compassion, forgiveness, awareness, empathy, strength, resilience, pain, sacrifice, tears, joy, love, giving, and so much more.

They influenced so many things in our Families and Communities: governance, leadership, decision making, child rearing, language, balance, well-being, sustenance, teaching, etc. They didn’t do it alone, they had their male counterparts alongside them throughout the generations, to hunt, fish, gather, create, make, protect, and provide the other half of the foundation of their lives, alongside the multi-generations in each family. A Community is not a Community without Women nor Men, nor Children or Elders. It is the whole of it that makes it so, through their connection to land through language, spirituality, and culture.

Values were the basis of stories, songs, dances, teachings, etc. The core of our people is from these values and the women embodied these values every day.  Thus, Economic Reconciliation is in the heart of these women, rebuilding our Families, Communities and Nations for a new way of being. I can only pray that their vision is derived from the young and their knowing of what they want their future to be.