SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Gender and Linguistic Fieldwork Abstract

Indian Status, Idle no More, and Indigenous Language Revitalization: The Renaissance of Indigenous Female Leadership in Ontario
Lindsay Morcom, Queen’s University

A Nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.  Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong their weapons.
- Cheyenne Proverb

From the earliest days of European settlement through the Colonial era and into the present, government policies aimed at aggressive assimilation have consistently been directed toward Indigenous women as a means to control Indigenous populations.  The attitudes from which these policies developed and their devastating results have led to the current state of affairs in Canada today, where Indigenous women are one of the country’s most vulnerable populations.  The results of Canada’s historical and current marginalization of Indigenous women have been particularly damaging in societies that are traditionally matrilineal or in which women have traditionally had a significant leadership role.  This includes the First Nations of modern-day Ontario: the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Oji-Cree, and Cree. In spite of this, Indigenous women in Canada today are returning to their roles as leaders within their communities and on a provincial and national stage.  They are working against unjust historical and current policies and their after-effects, and taking the helm on movements, projects, and organizations aimed at fighting their own marginalization and reigniting the cultural and linguistic heritage of their communities.
This workshop will walk participants through the history and current realities of Indigenous women in Canada.  It will then examine the impact of female leadership on the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP) at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, which is almost entirely run by and attended by Indigenous women.  This examination will include a description of ATEP’s partner organizations, including Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) in Northwestern Ontario, and Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) on Manitoulin Island, which also houses the Mnidoo Mnising Anishinaabek Kinoomage-gaming (MMAK) Anishinaabemowin immersion school; all of these organizations benefit significantly from the contributions of strong Indigenous female leaders.  Furthermore, it will describe the Four Directions Aboriginal Students’ Centre at Queen’s University, which serves ATEP and other Indigenous and non-Indigenous students on-campus, and the Kingston Aboriginal Language Nest, which serves ATEP staff, faculty, and alumni and their families.  For researchers interested in Indigenous Canadian languages and carrying out fieldwork in Indigenous communities in Ontario, particularly non-Indigenous researchers who may be unfamiliar with the historical and current realities of Indigenous womanhood in Canada, this presents an opportunity to gain greater awareness.  It also aims to show attendees that in spite of centuries of disempowerment and marginalization, the hearts of many Indigenous women today are fixed firmly within their communities, and are set on building of better educational and linguistic opportunities for generations yet to come.  An understanding and respect for this will allow researchers to not only work more effectively in Indigenous communities, but also to become stronger allies for the empowerment of Indigenous women and their families and beneficiaries of the beauty and strength of Indigenous female leadership.