CANADA – Powerful Indigenous women made history in Canada this month, with the first ever Indigenous Governor General being appointed and the first woman being voted in as the Assembly of First Nations National Chief.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Mary Simon is Canada’s new Governor General, and that the Queen had approved the appointment.
“Today, after 154 years, our country takes a historic step,” Trudeau said during the announcement. “I cannot think of a better person to meet the moment.”
Simon is an Officer of the Order of Canada, Governor General’s Northern Medal recipient, recipient of the National Order of Québec, the Gold Order of Greenland, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Gold Order of the Canadian Geographical Society and the Symons Medal.
She was inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame and she is a Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America and of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Simon is an advocate for Inuit rights and culture in Canada.
She has represented the Inuit to the Canadian government and the United Nations, including work that led to the Inuit people’s inclusion in the Constitution in 1982.
She has worked with the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Arctic Council.
She was also Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and Canadian Ambassador to Denmark.
Simon was born in Kangisualuujjuaq, Nunavik (Quebec), and she moved to Kuujjuaq, where she attended a federal day school.
Her father was a fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company and an Englishman, her mother was an Inuk.
After Simon completed Grade 6, she was homeschooled by her father, according to her biography on the Speak Truth to Power Canada website
RoseAnne Archibald made history in July becoming the first woman to head the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), replacing Perry Bellegarde, who stepped down this year after two terms.
The position of National Chief has traditionally been held by a man, so breaking the glass ceiling, a term being used in this situation, is a major development for Indigenous people everywhere, who honour and respect their women as matriarchs and clan mothers.
Indigenous women represent and maintain cultures rich in knowledge, history, skills, and environmental stewardship, the Native Women’s Association said in a report called Aboriginal Women and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, written in 2010.
Editor’s note: The term Aboriginal was the politically correct term in 2010.
“Aboriginals’ close relationships and dependence on the land comes from their understanding that their life and livelihood is dependent upon the nurturing and caring of the land and the environment.
“In many communities, Aboriginal women are entrusted with knowledge to care for the environment and their families and communities, but their responsibilities for the knowledge are often neglected or forgotten.
“This includes when Aboriginal women are discussing natural resources associated with traditional medicines, and Aboriginal livelihoods, health and well-being.
“For this reason, the lack of recognition for Aboriginal women’s roles in the transmission of knowledge to care for the environment, their families and communities must be examined and then reconsidered and transformed accordingly.”
Archibald, of Taykwa Tagamou Nation, is a strength-based and heart-centered leader, with 31 years of experiences in First Nations politics. She is a third generation Chief whose leadership has been ground-breaking, historical for women and youth.
The role of the National Chief and the AFN is to advocate on behalf of First Nations as directed by Chiefs-in-Assembly, according the AFN website.
This includes facilitation and coordination of national and regional discussions and dialogue, advocacy efforts and campaigns, legal and policy analysis, communicating with governments, including facilitating relationship building between First Nations and the Crown as well as public and private sectors and general public.
“We are hitting the ground running, with our first 100 days plan. Further, as each region begins to open, I’ll be making travel plans to visit First Nations from coast-to-coast-to coast,” Archibald said in a press conference on July 10.
“Let’s take a collective deep breath and recognize that we have experienced a monumental shift in energy and consciousness. It’s not politics as usual. It’s a new day. The colonial and patriarchal systems are crumbling and it can’t be stopped or reversed. We have all been awoken by this pandemic. Stay awake everyone for the evolutionary and positive changes to come! For my part, I commit to a strength-based and heart-centred approach to leadership.”
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times