Search for "Indigenous women"

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Shaaw Tláa (Kate Carmack)

Shaaw Tláa (a.k.a Kate Carmack), (born c. 1857-1867 near present-day Bennett Lake, YT; died 29 March 1920 in Carcross, YT). A Tagish woman, Shaaw Tláa (pronounced Shaw Claw) was part of the group that discovered gold near the Klondike River in 1896, sparking the Klondike Gold Rush. She and her husband George Carmack, a white American, had spent a decade in search of gold in the Yukon. They made $1 million from their gold claim; however, George later abandoned her and she was unsuccessful in suing for her half of the fortune.

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Lillian Dyck

Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, OC, scholar, feminist, senator, advocate for Indigenous rights (born 24 August 1945 in North Battleford, SK). Lillian Dyck was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a PhD in science. She was also the first Indigenous female senator and the first Chinese Canadian senator. During her time in the Senate, she was part of several actions to improve life for Indigenous people in Canada. This includes work on criminal justice and Indigenous education reform, and bills to reinstate Indian Status to women who had lost it based on sexist laws. Dyck was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2021.

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Bertha Skye

Bertha Skye, cook, entrepreneur, Indigenous Elder (born 1932 on Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, SK). From a young age, Skye learned to cook and used her talent to feed those in her community. She was chosen to participate in the 1992 Culinary Olympics, where she and her teammates won several medals, including a gold for Skye’s corn, bean, and squash soup (also know as Three Sisters soup). Among other advisory positions, Skye has served as an Elder in Residence at various post-secondary institutions in Ontario.

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Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Louise Jamieson, OC, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) lawyer, ombudsman, Six Nations chief, policy advisor, senior mediator, businesswoman (born in 1953 at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory near Brantford, ON). Jamieson was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree (1976); first non-Parliamentarian appointed to a House of Commons committee (1982); first woman appointed ombudsman in Ontario (1989); and first woman elected as Six Nations chief (2001).

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Indigenous Women's Issues in Canada

First Nations, Métis and Inuit women (collectively referred to as Indigenous women) face many socio-economic issues today because of the effects of colonization. Europeans forced a male-controlled system of government and society (known as patriarchy) on Indigenous societies. The 1876 Indian Act disadvantaged certain Indigenous women by excluding them from band council government and enforcing discriminatory measures that took away Indian Status rights. Many Indigenous women today are leading the way in the area of healing the wounds of colonization, as they grapple with the issues of residential schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, abuse and violence, and drug, alcohol and other addictions. (See also Indigenous Feminisms in Canada.)

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McIvor Case

The McIvor v. Canada case was about gender discrimination in section 6 of the 1985 Indian Act, which deals with Indian status. Sharon McIvor — a woman who regained status rights after the passing of Bill C-31 in 1985 — was not able to pass on those rights to her descendants in the same way that a man with status could. In her case against the federal government, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that section 6 did, in fact, deny McIvor’s equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response to this case, the federal government introduced new legislation (Bill C-3) in 2011 to counter gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

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Edith Monture

Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (often known simply as Edith Monture), Mohawk First World War veteran, registered nurse, (born 10 April 1890 on Six Nations reserve near Brantford, ON; died 3 April 1996 in Ohsweken, ON). Edith was the first Indigenous woman to become a registered nurse in Canada and to gain the right to vote in a Canadian federal election. She was also the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military. Edith broke barriers for Indigenous women in the armed forces and with regards to federal voting rights. A street (Edith Monture Avenue) and park (Edith Monture Park) are named after her in Brantford, Ontario.

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Enfranchisement (Plain-Language Summary)

Throughout much of Canadian history, a First Nations person would lose their Indian status if they were enfranchised. An enfranchised person is someone who has the right to vote in elections. A First Nations person who is deemed a Status Indian has certain rights and benefits granted to them through the Indian Act.

(This article is a plain-language summary of Enfranchisement. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Enfranchisement).

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Inquiry Calls Murders and Disappearances of Indigenous Women a “Genocide”

After two and a half years and 24 hearings attended by approximately 2,400 people, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concluded that the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous women and girls in Canada represents a “genocide.” The 1,200-page report cost $92 million and contains 231 recommendations.

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Tina Fontaine

Tina Michelle Fontaine (born 1 January 1999 in Winnipeg, MB; died between 9 and 17 August 2014 in Winnipeg). Tina Fontaine’s murder highlighted systemic problems in Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women and girls and galvanized calls for government reforms in Manitoba’s care of youth. Combined with the acquittal of Fontaine’s accused killer, Raymond Cormier, her death led to demands for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This resulted in the formation of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) on 1 September 2016.

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Report into Death of Tina Fontaine Released

Daphne Penrose, Manitoba’s Advocate for Children and Youth, released an extensive report into the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River on 17 August 2014. The report laid out in detail how systemic failures in the child welfare system failed not only Fontaine but her mother as well. Fontaine’s murder, which brought national attention to the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, remains unsolved.

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Joyce Echaquan Livestreams Hospital Staff’s Refusal to Treat Her before She Dies

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At a hospital in Joliette, Quebec, Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman and a mother of seven, died shortly after she livestreamed a nurse and an orderly refusing to tend to her as they made racist, derogatory comments about her. On 5 October, coroner Gehane Kamel reported that hospital staff failed to properly assess the heart palpitations Echaquan was experiencing and instead assumed she was suffering from opioid withdrawal. When Echaquan became distressed and agitated, hospital staff called her “theatrical” and strapped her to a bed. Kamel called the incident an “undeniable” example of systemic racism. A lawyer for Echaquan’s family planned to file a human rights complaint and a civil suit against the hospital.

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Resources for BC Killers’ Manhunt Should be Available for MMIWG Cases, Advocates Say

As the hunt for two teens suspected of murdering three tourists in BC intensified, Indigenous rights advocates openly questioned why such extensive resources are not utilized in cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. In response to the killing of three tourists in Northern BC, which drew international attention, the RCMP coordinated a search that involved different police forces and the Canadian Armed Forces. Armoured vehicles, drones, K9 units, all-terrain vehicles, boats and military and civilian aircraft were utilized. “It is a little bit eyebrow-raising because of the different response,” said Sheila North, a former grand chief. “Families that do their own searches are feeling a little bit let down and not respected in the same way as these other families are.”  

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Women's Memorial March

The Women’s Memorial March (WMM) is held every year on 14 February, Valentine’s Day, in cities across Canada and the United States. The WMM started in 1992 in Vancouver, BC, following the murder of Indigenous woman Cheryl Ann Joe. The first Women’s Memorial March began as a small memorial for Joe, but grew to become an annual march to honour all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The Vancouver march draws thousands of people, while women’s memorial marches have spread to more than 20 cities across Canada and the United States.