June 21st is marked on the calendar as National Indigenous Peoples Day, but for those of us who are Indigenous, we celebrate everyday. We celebrate the culture, the language, this history, and the beauty of our people.
As an Indigenous woman, I have had quite the personal journey coming to be who I am, but instead of dwelling on the details of that, I want to take this time to share with you some Indigenous women (who are alive and one who has passed on) who are/were greatly influential.
Autumn Peltier (born September 27, 2004) is Anishinaabe-kwe and a member of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation. She is best known as an internationally recognized advocate for clean water. She is a water protector and has been called a “water warrior”. In 2018, at the age of thirteen, Peltier addressed world leaders at the UN General Assembly on the issue of water protection.
Jean Cuthand Goodwill (1928-1997)
Jean Cuthand Goodwill, a Cree woman from the Little Pine First Nation, was the first Indigenous person in Saskatchewan and one of the first in Canada to become a registered nurse. When Goodwill was young she contracted tuberculosis and spent a lot of time in and around hospitals and medical workers, which influenced her to become a nurse. In the earlier part of her career, Goodwill worked in rural Saskatchewan and also Bermuda, focusing on helping people in need.
Goodwill’s interest in political and community issues grew when she returned to Canada. She helped found the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada and served as its president from 1983 to 1990. She was the first Indigenous women to serve as a special advisor to the minister of National Health and Welfare in the federal government and also worked with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. She taught at the University of Regina, was a Canadian Public Health Association board member and was served a term as president of the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health.
Alanis Obomsawin, CC, GOQ, filmmaker, singer, artist, storyteller (born 31 August 1932 near Lebanon, New Hampshire). Alanis Obomsawin is one of Canada’s most distinguished documentary filmmakers. She began her career as a professional singer and storyteller before joining the National Film Board (NFB) in 1967. Her award-winning films address the struggles of Indigenous peoples in Canada from their perspective, giving prominence to voices that have long fallen on deaf ears. A Companion of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, she has received the Prix Albert-Tessier and the Canadian Screen Awards’ Humanitarian Award, as well as multiple Governor General’s Awards, lifetime achievement awards and honorary degrees.
Indigenous women are talented, intelligent, beautiful, caring, hard working and resilient. We will continue to grow and learn and with women like the ones I have demonstrated above, we are most definitely coming at the world, full speed ahead.