Heritage Matters

Heritage Matters – Spring 2018

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

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Page 27 of 43

Heritage Matters 26 Suffrage and Indigenous women in Canada By Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux What has it been like to grow up in a society only now beginning to take note and respect the contributions of Indigenous women? When asked, far too many of us are taken back to being the direct recipients of our mothers' (and fathers') Indian Residential School experiences before we knew that such things even existed. What was just was, and illumination of the rocky road that I and many of us have travelled to academic or business success did not get revealed, much less healed, until we were ourselves parents and grandparents. In some cases, we made our own children walk the same pathway to hell. We had to swallow the invisibility of self, choke on the neverness of our lives, cloak our hurts in silence and surrender our minds and, far too often, our bodies to defeat. Navigating our way through troubling conversations, too-early sexualization and confusing forms of neglect, we absorbed a multitude of teachable moments along the way. But what were we learning? And what did this all mean for ourselves, our daughters and the burgeoning missing and murdered phenomenon we are faced with now? These questions and unanswerable "knowings" cannot be changed or erased with time. We, as Indigenous women, whose hearts have long hovered just over the ground, Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux (left) with Elizabeth Penashue, who was born into an Innu hunting and trapping family that lived at Kanekuanikat, between Esker and Churchill Falls, Labrador. Penashue moved to Sheshatshiu in the 1960s when her family and her people were encouraged to relocate in order to integrate them into Canadian society through education and a more settled lifestyle. Photo courtesy of the author.

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