Warrior women survive and lead
- Louise Bernice Halfe | April 14, 2021
The March edition of Eagle Feather News was dedicated to Indigenous women. We asked several Indigenous women to write about Indigenous women. This is one of those stories.
I’ve been thinking of the inexhaustible list of accomplished young Aboriginal women and the kehteayak or Elders who’ve been outstanding warriors. Some of them are well known while others are still gathering their medicine bundles and moving forward. Many have overcome great adversity and many are single mothers.
These are my heroines: Maria Campbell, Marie Linklater, Lillian Dyck, Candace Wasecase-Lafferty, Valerie Arnault-Pelltier, Holly Graham, Lorna Arcand, Verna St. Denis, Lee Maracle, Judy Pelly, Peggy Vermette, Leah Dorian, Kateri Damm, Katherena Vermette, Carol Rose GoldenEagle, Cherie Dimaline, Renae Watchman, the late Janice Acoose and numerous sixty-scoop survivors. I’m often blown away by the bits and pieces of their survival stories they have shared with me.
Survival is not an easy task. Frankly, we as Indigenous people are all survivors and that in itself is a great accomplishment. The questions that need to be addressed are how have I done it? Where were my glimpses of hope, encouragement and kindness? How do I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made, the people I’ve hurt and who’ve hurt me? How do I gather the trust and the courage to move forward?
The seven Grandmothers and the concept of wahkohtowin are great cultural teachings, but difficult to carry out. At the very least, one can use cautious respect. One has to live with oneself and be satisfied that they have worked at living and honoring their life. These teachings have carried us for many generations.
I haven’t met any saints and certainly I don’t fit that category. We all carry mixed bundles. It is these very gifts that call us to pay attention, to move forward, to live and to heal ourselves. We have many resources within reach if we accept responsibility and have the will to move beyond fear and mistrust. We must search for the appropriate help. No one can do it for us. As Old JP used to say, “It’s up to you.”
At times it may feel like one is going through a maze, and with some steps forward there will be a few back. Progress is slow but worth it. Our children, grandchildren, our land, the winds, waters are dependent on us. We must rekindle the fire, the spirit within. awasis yearns to live.
There is a host of other Indigenous women, younger women, answering the call. Women like Rachel Fiddler, Josha Rafael, Hannah St. Denis, Omeasoo Wahpasiw and many, many more. There are also many silent warriors. The list is less important. What is, is that they are walking, celebrating and opening the way. They are all my heroines and I am proud to be a nehiyaw iskwew.