I’m excited to welcome new guest blogger Starleigh. Starleigh Grass is a teacher, blogger, and mother from the Tsilhqot’in Nation who currently works in St’at’imc territory. Her blog, Twinkle’s Happy Place, supports educators who wish to integrate Indigenous content and pedagogy into their classrooms.
The other day the St’at’imc Runner put out a call for nominations for the 100 most influential St’at’imc individuals in the past 100 years. The call for nominations coincides with the upcoming centennial of the St’at’imc Declaration.
I was having lunch at a table full of people who were discussing who they would nominate and I was surprised that they list they came up with was mostly men. I have lived in St’at’imc territory for a year and a half now, and the top five people on my list were women. In no particular order, here are my nominations:
Nora Greenway – A retired educator, Nora teaches an Aboriginal literature course through Thompson Rivers University. She was on the curriculum development team of the BC course English First Peoples 12 and wrote the BCTF manual Beyond Words: Creating Racism Free Schools for Aboriginal Learners.
Lemya7 – Lemya7 is the St’at’imc Language Coordinator for School District #74. In addition to creating curriculum and teaching language to high school students she helps other teachers integrate Indigenous knowledge into their classrooms. In the community Lemya7 shares her knowledge of St’at’imc traditions generously through stories and songs.
Laura John – Currently wrapping up her Masters Degree, Laura teaches a number of courses, including language and culture, in Lillooet through the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. She is a talented writer and as an academic advocates for decolonization in schools and communities. As leader of St’at’imc Sisters, a drum group, she builds capacity in the community to retain existing songs and create new songs which reflect St’at’imc values in contemporary society.
Lorna Williams – Lorna Williams, PhD, has been a leader in creating policies that support rather than oppress Aboriginal students in BC for decades and is currently the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning. As a speaker she helps her audience see things through Indigenous eyes but also challenges them to change negative assumptions that they hold about Indigenous communities and learners and transform their practice accordingly.
Jackie Andrew – Soon to enter a Masters program, Jackie currently is a volunteer who is preparing for the 3rd Annual International Indigenous Leadership Gathering, a week long event which brings together Indigenous leaders from around the world to discuss strategies to safeguard Indigenous Knowledge and ways of being. Jackie also creates beautiful buckskin clothing. She carries a hand drum with her everywhere that she goes so that she is always ready to share a song or learn the songs of the nation which she is visiting.
So there you have it: five amazing females from the St’at’imc Nation.
I am inspired by their work to create a world which honours Indigenous knowledge and culture, and their ability to organize in the struggle towards a decolonized future. Their leadership is defined by their strength, perseverance, and generosity.
First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women as a population are rapidly increasing their educational attainment and creating change in the world, however, their achievements and contributions to society are often overlooked and taken for granted.
Patriarchy has been imposed on Indigenous communities and done terrible damage to Indigenous women through sexualized and racialized violence, the attack on motherhood through residential schools and the child welfare system, and the systematic dismantling of social structures which once protected women such as collectivism and extended families. A key element in decolonization is restoring balance in communities, so let’s acknowledge and celebrate women who are working towards the a more fair and just society by obtaining an education and indigenizing institutions or through grassroots activities which nurture Indigenous culture, language, and leadership.
If you were to name five influential women from the Indigenous territory upon which you reside, who would they be?