Resistance and Resiliency: The Silenced Leadership Narratives of Indigenous Women in Canada

By Cartwright, Mikayla; Proctor, Jodi | Canadian Dimension, September-October 2012 | Go to article overview

Resistance and Resiliency: The Silenced Leadership Narratives of Indigenous Women in Canada


Cartwright, Mikayla, Proctor, Jodi, Canadian Dimension


THE FOLLOWING INCIDENTS may sound familiar: The brutal murder of 15 Indigenous women by a white male in British Columbia, which came to light in 2004. The murders of Mary Jane Serloin, Shelley Napope, Eva Taysup and Calinda Waterhen, four Indigenous women killed by a white male in Saskatchewan in the 19905. Pamela George, an Ojibway mother of two who was murdered in Regina by two young white male college students in 1995. The disappearance of at least eight Indigenous women on the Yeltowhead highway, also known as Highway 16 or the Highway of Tears. The recent case of a white male accused of killing Tanya Jane Nepinak, Carolyn Marie Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith, three Indigenous women in Winnipeg, in spring 2012.

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Less familiar are the stories of resistance in the face of the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. As stated by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), "There are many community organizations and networks of family members of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls who are politically active and working tirelessly to raise awareness to these issues by holding vigils, marches and teach-ins to raise awareness of the violence." The organizing, lobbying and advocacy of these groups is relentless and has ensured media attention on an otherwise marginalized issue, yet the portrayal of the violence in the media continues to dehumanize the women who have lost their lives, and deem-phasizes the resistance efforts of those calling for action.

Similarly, there has been a lack of coverage on the funding cuts to Indigenous-specific programming, which has directly and indirectly supported antiviolence initiatives. Under the current Conservative government, the NWAC Sisters in Spirit program, the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the First Nations Statistical Institute have all lost their funding.

In contrast to the inaction (regression even) of the federal government, resistance efforts have accelerated in the past decade and have now gone international.

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