Women are the unsung heroes of their communities, often using minimal resources to challenge oppressive structures and create powerful alternatives in the arts, education, and the workplace.
The stories included here are by women with vision, who inspire and lead those who have lived in their midst. Stories are a means of transmitting vital information from within community as well as to outside communities.
Relations are something fundamental to Indigenous communities the world over. Besides human relationships, there is a bigger set of relationships that keeps some people marginalized and others in positions of power. This book tells the stories of both sets of relationships. Some women tell powerful personal stories and others describe institutional relationships that keep Indigenous women in Canada – along with women generally, people of colour, indigenous peoples and youth around the world – in the margins. In both cases, the clarity of vision that comes from the margins is astounding and compelling.
About the author
Priscilla Settee is a Saskatchewan educator, intellectual, activist and writer. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Native Studies, University of Saskatchewan, and has been a trailblazer in developing global solidarity within and among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. She received a 2008 Saskatchewan Global Citizens Award.
Reviewed By: Christine Smith
Reviewed On: June 26th, 2013
“The Strength of Women” celebrates women’s spirit as the backbone of Native communities, and the stories within are about 15 incredible Native women who show vision, inspiration and leadership despite the challenges facing them throughout their lives.
Author Priscilla Settee says “Colonization has been particularly devastating for Native women. There are multiple ways women have disproportionately suffered from the affects of colonization, from sexual violence and forced sterilization to the undermining of women’s central role as community organizers, planners and leaders.”
Settee documents stories that show a range of life experiences that involve injustice, racism, genocide and sexism and of hope, awakening and fierce struggles. She uses the Cree word ‘ahkameyimowak’ to describe a strength that has helped women to survive, flourish and work for change.
“The Strength of Women” is divided into five sections: Beginnings, Work, Art, Spirit and Community. In the section, Beginnings, Aleyna May Stene writes an intriguing poem
“Did you ever worry about me
When I was running in the streets
You never asked
“Where were you?”
You never cared where I was or what I did
Still to this day
I love you…”
The poem is especially moving because it is indicative of how story or poetry can contribute to a way of healing. After all, “in the Indigenous world, stories are a means of transmitting vital information from within our community as well as outside our communities.”
Settee explains “Women are the unsung heroes of their communities, often using minimal resources to challenge oppressive structures and create powerful alternatives in the arts, education and workplace.”
This is especially indicative of the women that are in this book, including Freda Ahenakew, a pioneer of First Nations women’s writing in the province of Saskatchewan, Rita Bouvier, a Saskatchewan educator, poet and writer, Judy Da Silva, who has been working in her community of Grassy Narrows to bring attention to the terrible legacy of environmental destruction caused by major pulp mills in her territory, Lindsey Knight, aka Eekwoll, a widely recognized youth model and rapper, Sally McKenzie, a community leader in health and community healing, Aleyna Mae Stene, a young urban Métis woman involved in the work organizing inner city youth, and Patricia Margaret Ningewance, an Anishnaabe-kwe linguist and artist.
This book is important in part because it features Native women as playing a central role in our culture. It speaks of an unwavering spirit and tenacity that often no one hears about, because women’s achievements and economic contributions are often not counted. The stories told within this collection are both inspiring and thought-provoking, and the reader becomes privy to some very strong women who fought against adversity to become leaders in their communities and beyond.
Aboriginal Multi-Media Society