Learning Lodge: Honouring Indigenous Women


Dr. Jane L. McMillan’s Anthropology class and sponsors welcome Indigenous leaders

People gathered in Immaculata auditorium on March 6, 2019 to attend a learning lodge from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring five panelists who honoured Indigenous women. Outfitted with red dresses and ties, the auditorium was dressed to represent the absent women and men who are missing and murdered.

The evening began with a land acknowledgement and honour dance performed by Shiloh Pictou featuring the Kiju Boys on drum. The drum group from Paqtn’kek includes David Morris, Francis Julian, Cory Julian, Thomas Julian, Dustin Pictou, and Ozzy Clair. Pictou wore a radiant red regalia symbolic of healing and carried an eagle’s feather to honour and keep the creator close according to Terena Francis, coordinator of Indigenous Student Affairs at StFX.

Panelists Shane Bernard, Karen Bernard, Jennifer Cox, Devann Sylvester, and Kasha Young then recognized women who empowered them. The resiliency of speakers was inspirational as they shared their realities of coping with trauma and inter-generational trauma.

Photo: Yanik Gallie

Photo: Yanik Gallie

The photo above shows Sylvester holding a photograph of her grandmother who was murdered when her mother was a young child. Sylvester honoured both women in her life. Sylvester said, “As an Indigenous woman, mother, and student, it is an important duty for me to honour the Indigenous women in my life that supported me and became my role models. For whatever reason, society has devalued Indigenous women throughout history which has major consequences for us to thrive and be successful in today's world. I am aware that I am 3 times more likely to be a victim of violence or killed which makes me aware of my surroundings every day of my life. My grandmother Marie Ninnian Marshall was a victim of homicide shortly after my mothers birth, which robbed us of ever knowing her. My way of being resilient is to become successful in my education and future teaching career, to teach my 4 year old son to be a good man and respect all women in his life, to tell my grandmothers story, and to participate in events like these that focus on honouring Indigenous women. In Mi'kmaq history, our societies were matriarchal and based around respect for women because women are the creators of life. This needs to come back and be acknowledged, and the learning lodge did an amazing job acknowledging that respect. I am very proud to be a Mi'kmaq woman.”

Common threads of discussion among speakers were the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry and Moose Hide Campaign. In light of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry final report scheduled for publication this April, Cox questioned the briefness of the inquiry leading her to doubt that it accounts for all missing women and children.

Panelists mentioned a shared concern for their own and their children’s wellbeing during everyday-life situations in Nova Scotia. Pauses during the speeches were most powerful as they personified the silenced voices of local missing and murdered Indigenous women and men.

Dr. Jane L. McMillan was host of the event sponsored by the department of Anthropology, Anthropology 234, Kerry Prosper, Indigenous Student Society and Indigenous Student Affairs. 

The question and answer period with panelists included some prepared questions from the Anthropology 234 students and spontaneous questions from the audience. A Guatemalan advocate and ally in the audience raised concern for the issue of missing and murdered Guatemalan children at this time. The woman referred to a recent case from Guatemala where a state-run home for women minors recently went up in flames claiming 41 of 56 lives. 

A takeaway from the event is the pervasiveness of the issue regarding missing and murdered women nationally and internationally. Listening to the first-hand struggles of colleagues and community members who are directly impacted by this issue was poignantly discomforting.

The Moose Hide Campaign is a movement of people standing up to end violence against women from coast to coast. Moose Hide Campaign adverts including leather or non-leather pins are available on the table outside The Xaverian Weekly newsroom by the StFX Store in Bloomfield Centre Room 111D for those interested in                     supporting the campaign.


This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

Looking back on International Women’s Week

Women’s week at StFX has come to end after a week of laughter, tears and solidarity and what a beautiful week it’s been to say in the least. 

I wish that I could have attended every single event that was put off this week, but alas it’s paper season in my fourth year and it’s not being too kind to me.

I started off the week by attending the screening of Dolores. Dolores centers on Dolores Huerta’s committed work to organize California farmworkers to form the UFW, in alliance with the Chicano Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Gay liberation and US-based LGBTQ+ social movements, and the late 20th century women’s rights movement.

I have to say I am ashamed that I did not know who Huerta was before I watched this documentary. Huerta is a powerhouse of a woman and I can easily see that I have fallen in love with this woman. She stood up to sexist remarks that were snarled at her and found her way in a male dominated society. She changed the future for many Chicano farmworkers, improving their work conditions, and making them know that their concerns and voices are valid and heard. 

If you ever come across this documentary and have the chance to watch it, I encourage you to do so, you’ll also find yourself blinded by Huerta’s brilliance.

Then on Wednesday, March 6, I attended the Learning Lodge: Honouring Indigenous Women, which was a very powerful night. The panel consisted of Shane Bernard, Karen Bernard, Jennifer Cox, Devann Sylvester and Kaysha Young. Each of the panelists shared their own personal stories of what it means to them when it comes to honouring indigenous women and how we can continue to honour these women. Everyone brought something so unique and special, the audience held onto every word that was spoken. It was a privilege to be able to hear these their powerful voices.

Friday, March 8, marked international women’s day around the world and one of the celebrations that took place on this campus was a women’s march. It started off on the steps outside of the Coady International Institute, the honour song was sung out in the cold air by two Mi’kmaq women but their voices warmed the souls of everyone there. 

Rebecca Mesay and Naima Chowdhury also offered words of solidary before the rally began. The group took the streets of Antigonish cheering and chanting about women’s rights and the need for improvement. It was hopeful and encouraging when people in their cars  would honk their horns and smile at us.

Yet, something strange happened. When were out in the community of Antigonish I felt free, and a sense of safety and support from the rest of the community. The minute we stepped back onto campus I felt myself being scared, scared to cheer and I could feel the eyes of students passing us burning into my back.

And, it made me angry. I’m proud to be a feminist, I’m proud of my loud voice and I’m proud of standing up to injustices when I see them. And somehow, I find myself being afraid to be who I am on this campus.

Being a feminist on this campus is like walking around with a huge target on your back and it’s hard to ignore the stares, the judgment and the whispers.

But I won’t let the judgement of others hold me back, rather I’ll let it fuel me to keep on fighting the good fight. This was the last women’s week I’ll get to    experience at StFX and it          exceeded all my expectations.

International Women’s Week Events For March


Standing together: women organizing for justice

Once again this year, events are being planned to mark International Women’s Week in the Antigonish area.

This year’s theme is Standing Together: Women Organizing for Justice. Events will highlight examples of collaboration and solidarity that have advanced justice and equality. There will be educational events to promote understanding of Indigenous peoples’ relationship with Canada and Canadians; a public presentation and discussion about women’s activism; and a film about the first female farm workers union organizer in the United States. Celebratory events include the annual Feminist Cabaret; Women’s Breakfast and Silent Auction; and an International Fashion Show. Participating restaurants will serve free coffee to women on International Women’s Day (March 8). Youth-focused events include an IWW-themed Family Singalong, and activist girls and young women gathering to tackle “period stigma.”

The week will begin with a KAIROS Blanket Exercise on Monday, March 4 at 6:30 pm in the St. James United Church Hall. Deb Eisan and Denise John of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre will guide participants through a unique and powerful learning experience that will deepen their understanding of the experiences of Indigenous peoples within the colonial context, and their present-day relationship with non-Indigenous people and the Government of Canada.

An evening of information sharing for local women is also planned for Monday, March 4 at 6:30 pm at the Canso Library Resource Centre. Representatives from community organizations will talk about the services available to women of all ages as they navigate life transitions and address problems.

On Tuesday, March 5 at 7:00 pm, a film will be shown about the life and achievements of Dolores Huerta, a Central American union organizer. Her struggle to form the first farm workers union in the United States became a struggle for gender equality within that same union.

On Wednesday, March 6 at 6:30 pm in Immaculata Hall, the StFX Anthropology Department will host Learning Lodge: Honouring Indigenous Women. A panel will speak about traditions of honouring women, and about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Also on Wednesday, March 6, girls, young women, and allies are invited to participate in Girls Taking Action to End Period Stigma at the People’s Place Library. This fun and interactive workshop to take action in debunking myths and stigma around menstruation will start at 6:30 pm and will be hosted by Faye Fraser and her team of Girls Take Action members.

Joy Worth Fighting For, a public presentation by Karen B.K. Chan followed by discussion is planned for Thursday, March 7, at 7:00 pm at the Coady Institute’s Dennis Hall. Karen B.K. Chan, an award-winning sex and emotional literacy educator, will speak about making women’s struggle for gender equality joyful. Chan quotes Emma Goldman, an anarchist political writer and activist (1869-1940): “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.” Chan asks, “As we fight the good fight, what kind of time, energy, and value to we give to joy, love, pleasure, play, and rest? How might they be part of the revolution, and not just the reward?” Chan uses humour, kindness, and art to teach new approaches to emotional health and inclusive human relationships.

Friday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. The Women’s Breakfast and Silent Auction is planned for 7:30-9:00 am at the Maritime Inn. For tickets, contact the Women’s Centre at 902-863-6221.

Also on Friday, participating restaurants and coffee shops will be offering a free cup of coffee to women.

A major highlight of International Women’s Day is the annual IWD March, which will begin with a rally in front of the Coady Institute at noon and move through town. Following the march, Mayra Jimenez will speak at the People’s Place Library about the collective, 8 Tijax. Mayra is raising awareness about the quest for justice and reform following a preventable tragedy that killed 41 girls in a dormitory in Guatemala.

At 7:00 pm on Friday, an International Fashion Show will be held in the MacKay Room. A dazzling variety of fashions will be showcased from different cultures and perspectives.

No International Women’s Week would be complete without the annual Feminist Cabaret. Once again, Piper’s Pub will be the venue for this uproariously entertaining and celebratory variety show on Saturday, March 9 from 8:00 to 11 pm. Doors open at 7:00 pm. The show will be hosted by Jenn Priddle and CJ MacIntyre. There will be a 50-50 draw, door prizes, and a special drink, Feminist Fatale that has been designed for the occasion.

For more details, find us on Facebook @internationalwomensweekantigonish or contact the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association.

The idea of IWD originated in working class women’s struggles for good jobs, a living wage, and political rights. The tradition of celebrating IWD in Nova Scotia goes back to the pre-WWII years when women in Cape Breton and other parts of the province organized events.

Each year on March 8 since the 1980s, Antigonish area women have marked the successes and goals of local and international women’s movements. In 2013, what had been a one-day affair on March 8 grew into a week of women organizing, learning, honouring, and celebrating.