Native Women Rising 2019

Cowichan Th'wulhalem
Posted May 19, 2019 from Canada
Native women gathering wood for a fire....
Coast Salish Women worked hard; the Government of Canada pushed very racist, sexist and discriminatory policies on Coast Salish Women Today, we try very hard to over-come those policies to embrace our culture, to place Coast Salish Women in their Rightful Place within their Society and Give Voice to Social and Economic Strategies to remove racism.
Chief Seattle eldest daughter, Princess Angeline,
Chief Seattle eldest daughter, Princess Angeline,: The eldest daughter of Chief Seattle refused to leave her land. The daughter of Chief Sealth for whom the city of Seattle is named was a life long supporter of the white settlers. She was converted to Christianity and named by Mrs D. S. Maynard.- 1811 Princess Angeline befriended the pioneers during the Indian attack upon Seattle on January 26, 1856. At her request she was laid to rest near her protector and friend, Henry L. Yesler. Seattle Historical Society (1/6)

We seek to gain a strong foundation of cultural protocols of Indigenous Women of the Longhouse of Coast Salish Territory for advancement and acknowledgement.

Over-view of what I do: 

Enhance the well-being of individuals & collective agreements under Sovereignty of Coast Salish Territory for the purpose of a national voice.  Increase individual and collective governance and Indigenous management.  Advancement of Indigenous women across all levels of government, public and private sector, and gain self-governance and management.  Building capacity and initiatives in all areas of programming and services for Indigenous women & children designed to meet their needs in Canadian Society in cooperation with Indigenous organisations for future advancement and agreements. We promote participation of Indigenous women for all stages and levels of personal development.  We place the interest of Indigenous women and children above self-interest.  Utilising traditional and cultural protocols valuing women and children’s rights. Charter of Rights and Freedoms of religion and acting with honesty and integrity, and strive to enhance equality within a foreign belief systems.  To apply Indigenous traditional justice initiatives within existing national justice system for appropriate treatment using Indigenous traditional and cultural value system.  We offer wisdom, technology and intelligence.

The transition from child to womanhood is of significant important to Coast Salish Women, because of changing body into giving life becomes a spiritual and powerful force the girl is put into confinement and teachings from a Clan Mother/Medicine Women from diet to self-care, and spiritual teachings for her, regarding her inner self and the world around her. When a woman gets her menstrual time (moon time) she cannot touch cedar or anything a man has made with cedar like a canoe, even cedar tree's. She must refrain herself from touching wood or any kind during moon time.  It is believed that she carries this spiritual power and she can destroy anything she touches.

There are 3 differentiating class structures of longhouse women; a hierarchy within Coast Salish Peoples. An upper; Chieftain families, middle, is the extended families, and lower is considered the workers. Social construct differ's when puberty arises between those different groups of classes; a Chieftain family usually has a huge ceremony for their female child, upon entering her community again after isolation and teachings from the Clan Mother/Medicine Women.

A girl/women's relationship with the lands, air, wild life, sea's, living and non-living world, especially the spiritual is then evolving and changing; her interaction and knowledge of the world and spirituality becomes important. She is the knowledge keeper, and her experience and connection with the spiritual and world, is her's alone during Moon Time. It is a belief that our spirituality never dies, and lives on forever; we come back as a rock, a bird, or a whale. It truly depends on how you relate to the world around you, or your deeds during your life time; you come back as something in which you gravitated toward in your life. That gravitation or life time of work could have been good, and you come back and soar like an eagle. If your life work was violent you could come back as a small creature to be gobbled up by a bigger one. When a woman lives, becomes knowledgeable of that area, whether is is a beach or a mountain or region; the land is usually named after her - because she brought forth life in that area. That is why "today" regardless of colonial rule, the Indian Reserves are named after Woman in Coast Salish Territory. Because she is knowledgeable of her family, culture, language, spiritual, and historical word of law, to bring forth to the next generation; this knowledge is not carried by the middle or lower classes within the longhouse. Which brings us into a serious crisis with "elections" under the Indian Act, because anyone can become "elected" today, who have no history or knowledge of the spiritual or lands, seas, and history or culture of the peoples. Women are significant in the role of present and future generations and journey into their womanhood in isolation (menstrual time - moon time) and their community celebrates upon coming home. It is believed, once a woman moves beyond childhood, and has her moon time; she becomes a powerful spiritual force; and must learn how to control her spiritual self. Women give life and she can take it away upon her "breath' if she is trained well enough, from a medicine woman. Do we have any medicine woman today? Not many.....cultural identity and practise has died with enforcing policies under colonisation. 

Only few actually follow the old ways, because of the medical field today. 

“An Indigenous paradigm comes from the fundamental belief that knowledge is relational, is shared with all creation, and therefore cannot be owned or discovered.”

“Among upper-class families, as children approached adolescence...Both sexes were expected to seek visions, both before and after puberty.”94 Hill-Tout speaks of the various gifts awarded to a girl by her parents upon the end of her seclusion, which included a comb and a pair of fire tongs, stones for heating water, and other household utensils.95 Her family might also celebrate her first menses and announce her eligibility to marry with a feast and a public display of gifts, only achievable to a wealthy family.96

Although all Coast Salish girls went through rites related to their first menstruation, there is direct link between ‘social stratification and puberty ceremonies.’98 Not all women’s families were able or permitted to celebrate in the above method nor were they privy to specific aspects of ritual. Yvonne Joe spoke if this when discussing shelkem; she mentioned that, “not all women would go there for that” and “one girl from the family would be chosen to construct a Moon 94 Suttles, Handbook of the North American Indian, vol 7: 496 95 Hill-Tout. Charles (1904)

The Salish People. vol 4: 33 96 Markstrom, Carol A. (2008)

Empowerment of North American Indian Girls: Ritual Expressions at Puberty: 148 97 Barnett, Homer (1955) The Salish of British Columbia: 174 98 Markstrom, Carol A. (2008)

Empowerment of North American Indian Girls: Ritual Expressions at Puberty: 148 51 Circle”99, suggesting the creation of a Moon Circle was limited to select individuals within upper-class families. Therefore, a deep connection to this Place and knowledge about the features and of the mountain would have been reserved for a select group of women. Since being a knowledge keeper was directly linked to status, these women would have been the matriarchs of their communities who would be relied on to aid their people when necessary. In examining the roles of shelkem in the following section, it is clear that the knowledge these women learned was important to the wellbeing of shíshálh women and the community at large. A Woman’s Mountain in Every Sense Although site boundaries exist for DjSa-10, the important place created by and for shíshálh women is not limited to the summit of shelkem.

Thus far, this chapter has spoken of the importance of shelkem in shíshálh girl’s transition to womanhood. Yet the significance of this mountain to women extends beyond these land works and beyond puberty, as it continued to shape and enforce their identities as shíshálh women throughout their lives. Once welcomed back into shíshálh society, these ‘new’ women were considered ready to marry. Although the choice of spouse was often a whole family’s affair, deeply connected to political alliances and extravagantly celebrated, local partnerships were treated differently. According to shíshálh elder Dan Paull in The Story of the Sechelt Nation, the shíshálh did not have formal local marriage ceremonies. Instead, when two people wished to formally partner with one another, they would travel up the slopes of shelkem. There, they would stay for a number of days 99 Yvonne Joe; interview with Leah Iselmoe, October 18, 2017 52 and upon their return were considered ‘married.’100

Therefore, this mountain was not only the site where girls became women, but it is also the place where they transform their social and ontological identities once more, into wife. There are no accounts or details pertaining to what passes during the couples’ time spent on the mountain, but the shíshálh word for this ceremony, yak’-sohw-ahm, contains -ahm, denotes “there was a spiritual aspect to any Sechelt marriage.”101 By Leah Iselmoe

The information is well written by Leah Iselmoe, but parts and pieces of the spiritual aspects of "women" are not mentioned. Women of Coast Salish Territory carry the word of law, and the Clan Mother teaches her everything, from spiritual rites to lands, and sea's. Life is forever evolving; and the teachings can be "how to respect" the world around you, and how to maintain balance for the next generation. Never take more than needed' teachings. Women give life, therefore are honoured, to the highest mountains. Life is to be honoured. 

Coast Salish health care values are not acknowledged by Canada, or First Nations Health care system. They appear to be a health care conglomerate without any aspects, intelligence, nor reflect the Coast Salish health methods. Today, we seek cultural acknowledgement for Native Women of Coast Salish Territory for reconciliation. I think its time to stop studying our women of Coast Salish Territory, and listen to us! Rivers, Regions, Mountains are named after Women; not named after men! Women hold the highest honour of Coast Salish Territory; Women declare who the next Chieftain or Leader is of the nation, not our men. Huch Qu'

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This story was submitted in response to Menstruation Matters.

Comments 8

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May 20
May 20

Thanks for sharing much light on our indigenous mothers and women. It sad that tradition and culture is beginning to fade so fast in this our today's society. However, I am certain that with women like you so passionate about such people will bring them in the forefront all the time. Thanks you for sharing.

Cowichan Th'wulhalem

Thank you Sis Salifu, giving native women a voice in British Columbia is difficult because of the Indian Act and many are still afraid in the western Province to open up truthfully. So, there are a handful of us that move it forward, yet we do pay for it in many ways; like the band refuses to give us housing, refuse to employ us, and the Province creates barriers for us to advance. Other Provinces are more acceptable to change, to embrace Native Women's Rights; but because Native Women sit higher than men, when it comes to lands, economy, Indigenous Naming ceremonies of Coast Salish Territory - men like patriarchy, under the Indian Act so the switch back to cultural or traditional ways is very difficult. Though it is right, men love money and economic strategies, to advance themselves, plus they like the control of financial agreements. Its very backwards to Longhouse ways, and Coast Salish peoples. Its very difficult, even for me to think two different ways, living in a double edge sword. I have body guards where ever I go, because of the Violence Against Native Women. Thank you. Sometimes I need kind words, because I fear I am always the one helping someone understand something, like applications or translation of a letter. Love & Light,

May 20
May 20

Wow! Its this serious? But I know One day if you do not give up, you will get results. Keep up the hard work.

Hello, Sharon,

Thank you for sharing your work. I hope Indigenous women can thrive well in this fast growing modern world, and I hope this world would be kind enough to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Stay strong!

Cowichan Th'wulhalem

Finally; its called "a Canadian Genocide" of Indigenous Women. I've been pushing for this for over 25 years, and I had to deal with adversarial treatment by cops because of my advocacy. But, finally, the judge called it "genocide"...but, still its a long road ahead, to find those men who prey on women and murder them in Canada.

Beth Lacey
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thanks for posting this. Good luck

Anita Shrestha
Oct 09
Oct 09

Thank you for sharing,...............Keep it continue.

Cowichan Th'wulhalem

"Conservatives; 2009 when PM Harper's $22.7- billion stimulus package was handed out to farmers he took it from the Indian moneys, never been paid back." while native people starve across Canada. Our fish dying, bears, birds, our lands, our rivers, our oceans. We need world-wide support.