Idle No More: Women’s Townhall

Alright, now that I’ve set it up and publicised it a little, I wanted to explain a little bit about what we’re trying to do.


Idle No More has very much been a women-led movement. That was not picked up on by mainstream media for quite some time, and settler feminists also did not seem aware of this until recently. It has been a very interesting dynamic, and one that may not be well understood.

Indian Act governance systems were deliberately set up to circumvent traditional forms of governance, That much should be obvious. What this also meant, is that women were deprived of much of the social and political power they traditionally held in their societies.

The impact on our women during this whole process of colonisation has not been well understood, I think. I am not just speaking about the many traumas, but also of the fact that because women were not seen by the colonial state as important enough to co-opt, there was little incentive for women to adopt colonial forms of governance.

One of the pitfalls of indigenous resistance and political organisation, is the fact that colonial powers desire a centralised and unified political body to ‘deal with’. To encourage this, colonial governments assign political ‘legitimacy’ to groups that are ‘co-operative’ or ‘non-antagonisitc’. Right now, that political body is the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), who rely in great part on funding from the Canadian government (though that funding was recently slashed by 40%). Funding is directly linked to colonially defined ‘legitimacy’, which is also linked directly to colonially mandated Indian Act governance structures.

And while there are female Chiefs and female Band Councillors, the AFN and Indian Act governance in general is very much a male-dominated thing. This was of course, a deliberate strategy.

So the fact that indigenous women have not been given much political voice within Indian Act governance systems, means also that women have not been given much incentive to buy into those systems. So while many of our men are attempting to ‘make change from within’, many of our women are pushing for change based on traditional forms of governance. In particular, indigenous women are acting within their traditional roles as the protectors of the land and the waters, according to their own particular nation’s understanding of what that means.

Right now, that message is not well understood on a wider scale, and in fact is becoming obscured by political messages aimed at,and answered by indigenous men within Indian Act governance systems. This is not the complete picture of what is ACTUALLY happening within the movement, of course, but it is certainly the case that these dialogues are the ones getting much more airtime.

My hope is that with this Women’s Townhall, we can discuss how what the role of women has been in Idle No More, and how that role will continue to evolve into the future. It is not my intention to exclude men from the Townhall, but rather to make it clear that the focus for this particular meeting is on the role of women. I say this with no disrespect intended, because I have been taught that balance between men and women is absolutely necessary.

Right now we have a few scheduled and tentative speakers: Christi Belcourt, Leanne Simpson, Koren Lightning-Earle and Tania Cameron.

I’m hoping you can make it!

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