Text and photos by Patrick Kane
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Meet the North’s established and emerging women leaders from the first-ever Indigenous Circumpolar Women’s Gathering.
This past November, indigenous women from across Northern Canada and Alaska met in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to attend the first-ever Indigenous Circumpolar Women’s Gathering (ICWG).
The three-day gathering was partly a conference, partly a mentorship program and entirely a celebration of indigenous women created by Dene Nahjo, a group of young leaders and community builders whose vision, “Land, Language and Culture Forever,” helps develop indigenous leadership and strengthening relationships in the North. Speakers included Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Mary Simon, past president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the National Inuit Organization, among many other panellists.
“This Gathering was instrumental in opening a dialogue on issues facing indigenous women in the Northern territories,” says Nina Larsson, project lead of the ICWG Steering Committee. “There was much discussion on commonalities facing indigenous women in theNorth, including discourse on the meaning of leadership and empowerment in cultural revitalization, governance, economic development, land and resource conservation, education and the arts.”
Looking to the future and empowering a new generation of women involved in all facets of Northern life, was an important theme of the Gathering. We met with respected elders and emerging leaders and asked them each, “What are your hopes for Northern indigenous women in the next 50 years?” Here are their responses.
Aboriginal Youth Internship coordinator
“My hope is that indigenous women can find a collective voice and use it to reclaim our identity,
for our children and our children’s children.”
“My hope for the future is that we become fully emerged in culture and accept
new leadership roles. I want my granddaughters to embrace the responsibilities of being
traditional Dene women in a healthy and pure land
Angela Hovak Johnston
“My hope is that our women become and remain confident
and proud of who we are.”
“In my lifetime, I would like to see our women honoured,
respected and uplifted in our
Journalist, Inuit Rights Activist
“I hope indigenous women gain respect and equal status
as other humans in the world.”
“I would like more of our young women to take on leadership roles in
our communities and politics, and to learn our rich culture and heritage.”
Tania Larsson and Nina Larsson
Dene Nahjo members, Activists
“We need better education for Northerners, especially On The Land and cultural experiences.
If we had a cultural centre in the North, elders could pass on knowledge to the next generation
and set the standard for indigenous artists. It is also important for our young women
to become involved in politics, technology and innovation.”