A report presented to a Saskatoon committee Monday recommends that the city appoint a representative matriarch that would work to support Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (IWG2S).
"It's an opportunity to provide Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit [people], a voice, authority and a place at the table," said Melissa Cote, the city's director of Indigenous initiatives.
The representative matriarch, or "auntie," would assist IWG2S in the city, offering advice and guidance to those who are in trouble, and making sure people in need are connected to resources.
"She would act as aunties do," Cote said in a news release.
"They will advocate for them within the systems and challenge the system itself."
The report was submitted as information to the city's governance and priorities committee and recommends the creation of an Independent Office of the Representative Matriarchs in the city.
"Based on an initial review, administration will then bring forward options for operational and capital funding in the 2022-23 Business Plan and Budget to implement the recommendation and actions," the release said.
The report was inspired by the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, which outlined 231 calls for justice in 2019. At the time, Saskatoon city council asked administration to identify how the city could respond.
Last year, the city created a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S) advisory group that consists of an Elder and several organizations. That group selected Hope Restored Canada, a charitable organization that aims to empower women, to prepare the new report.
The new report is called IWG2S Coming Home. It recommends a new Independent Office of the Representative Matriarchs work with other matriarchs to create a centre to support IWG2S. The centre would work with non-profit organizations, and the federal and provincial governments, to coordinate services for IWG2S.
The city would work with the advisory group in order to determine what the selection process of the matriarch will look like.
The term "matriarch" was used to acknowledge the role Indigenous women have played in the past, and their experiences and knowledge. In Indigenous families, aunties often serve as an extra parent, offering emotional support and advice to relatives.
"We still have maintained a big part of who we are as Indigenous women, our rites of passage, our role as women, and all the responsibility and accountability that comes with it," said Darlene R. Okemaysim-Sicotte, the co-chair of Iskwewuk Ewichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), an organization that is part of the advisory group that helped create the report.
Okemaysim-Sicotte said that the role of an "auntie" encompasses many types of relationships, not just with women but with the entire community. She said having a matriarch entity within the city will empower it. She also said she hopes the City will adopt the report and implement it's recommendations.
"This report stresses we need to listen to the Aunties," Cote said in the news release.
"At a very basic level, every Indigenous woman, girl and two-spirited person needs safe spaces: a place to sleep; a bathroom to use in privacy; a kitchen in which to feed themselves and family. These are basic needs; a human right and an action people can get behind."