Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald emphasized how this is a momentous time for women during a video presentation at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Women’s Gathering, held in Thunder Bay.
“This is a momentous time we live in as women — our voices are more united than ever,” Archibald says on the second day of the gathering, held at the Best Western Plus Nor'Wester Hotel and Conference Centre. “We are creating our own paths for our sisters, our daughters and our grandchildren and are no longer accepting a colonial perspective as an acceptable frame of mind from which to live from. Where we once couldn’t vote, we now influence the outcome of elections. Where we once only dreamed of leading our people, we now have more First Nations women councillors, chiefs and regional chiefs than ever before.”
Archibald says there are currently 37 women elected as chiefs in Ontario, which is close to 35 per cent of all the chiefs in the province.
“And there are more to come into those positions of power and influence,” Archibald says. “First Nations women are becoming increasingly represented in all sectors of society, from health to law to politics to art and in all areas of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, also known as STEM. We are getting stronger and more skilled, which is a powerful current moving our nations forward.”
Archibald says that she supports the NAN Women’s Declaration of Rights, which affirms and acknowledges the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“And I stand strong with you on your declaration that demands Canada ensure that First Nations women receive the same standards of services as all other Canadian women,” Archibald says. “And to ensure that First Nations women experience equality, equity, safety and access to programs and services that will contribute to your health and wellbeing.”
Archibald adds that she is working with the Assembly of First Nations Women’s Council to create a concrete plan on how all levels of government can make fundamental changes to ensure the safety and security of First Nations women and girls.
The NAN Women’s Gathering also featured a range of other presentations and breakout sessions, including a breakout session by Courtney Skye on Creating Change and a presentation by Jenn Harper on Building an Indigenous brand and company.
“I’m working on a sexual violence strategy for NAN,” says Skye, a researcher with NAN. “I’ve done is a lot of research around what Indigenous scholars, what different First Nations people are doing around sexual violence and collected that information and presented it here to the women. So it gave them a chance to review the information and make sure it resonates with them because I know sometimes research doesn’t reflect communities.”
Harper, founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc., says her presentation was about how important it is for people to discover their “why and purpose” and how that can bring true happiness into a person’s life and their businesses.
“I talk about getting laser focused on the reason you are doing what you do or the reason why you do what you do,” Harper says. “So whether you are working for an organization or a business or you have your own business or a family or a community, if you get laser focused on the reason why you are doing it, it is a lot easier to do the work. Human beings are driven by purpose, and when you have a drive and a passion and a purpose it just is a more fulfilling life.”