Heritage Matters

Heritage Matters – Spring 2018

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/988313

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Page 17 of 43

Heritage Matters 16 "Chief Elsie Knott fulfilled her role as a strong Anishinabe que … our women have such an important role in nurturing and guiding our people. Her passion for our youth, her promotion of sports and recreation but ultimately her breaking the trail for female leadership on the political landscape had far- reaching positive outcome. I had the good fortune to have had her as a mentor and role model from 1975 until her passing. She was at the forefront of all our political gains, not just for her First Nation but our Anishinaabek Nation, all of Ontario and nationally." Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee, Anishinabek Nation Canada's first elected woman chief By Rita Rose Elsie Knott was born at her Curve Lake home on September 20, 1922 to George and Esther Taylor, the fifth of six siblings. Because of muscle weakness in her legs, she couldn't start her schooling until she was nine years old. Elsie finished her Grade 8 education in her 14th year. The Canadian government didn't sponsor native students to further their education, so most girls were married at an early age for family/ economic reasons. Elsie was married at age 15 and became the mother of three before she was 20. Her husband, Cecil, was injured while hunting and developed tuberculosis on his injury. Elsie was devastated because the family support fell on her shoulders. They received $15 a month on welfare, which caused tremendous hardship as they struggled in their two-room log home. Education was always important to her and, as soon as her children started to attend school, she began searching for work. She vowed to give her family a better lifestyle than depending on social assistance. She found work at summer resorts and berry farms, and caught minnows to sell to tourists. She also worked as a caretaker at the church, town hall and school and received $25 every three months. Elsie became a Sunday school teacher, helped to organize regattas, baseball teams, scouts and girl guides. She planned socials and concerts to help with the cost of equipment and uniforms. Her husband worked as a guide and she worked as a cook for a millionaire's family, which enabled them to buy an "A" model Ford car. In 1952, the government allowed native woman to vote and run for office. At election time, some men asked Elsie to run for chief, a request somewhat amusing to her. She won by a landslide and became the first elected woman chief in Canada. Elsie now had a heavier workload on her shoulders. She didn't collect a salary for eight years because she knew the band funds were almost non-existent. She believed that her community

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