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Indigenous Women's Firsts - 2

Honourable senators, I start today by thanking the magnificent Indigenous women who, over the course of Canadian history, have paved the way for their descendants, despite facing many overwhelming challenges. The stories of these women, established since the 1800s but begun centuries before, are still relevant today. They capture snapshots of Indigenous women’s history, experiences and knowledge about creating a strong sense of identity, despite facing racist and sexist marginalization. These women all wanted to create a world where every Indigenous woman and their descendants could live a life of freedom and equality.

In this statement, I will set the backdrop with some of the laws and policies that allowed for the continual displacement and marginalization of First Nations spiritually, physically and politically, but did not prevent female Indigenous firsts as they persevered throughout.

In 1452, the papal bulls allowed all possessions and property to be removed, and legalized slavery as an act of “just war.” In 1493, the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius allowed colonizers to legally deem Indigenous-occupied lands as unoccupied or uninhabited. In 1497, the era of the fur trade in Canada began.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized the nation-to-nation relationship between the Crown and First Nations. In 1764 there was the Treaty of Niagara. In 1820, the first residential school was established in Red River. In 1867, Dominion of Canada was created under the terms of the British North America Act; the federal government was given jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians. In 1876, the Indian Act was established.

In the year 1860, Nahneebahweequay, Catherine Sutton, from the Mississauga Nation was the first to travel to England — when she was 7 months pregnant — and successfully petitioned Queen Victoria to intervene in a land claim dispute near Owen Sound, Ontario. The Queen granted Catherine legal ownership, however the Canadian government did not honour the Queen’s decision.

In 1896, Shaaw Tláa, Kate Carmack, from the Tagish/Tlingit Nation discovered the first gold nugget that led to the Klondike Gold Rush.

In 1914, Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture from the Mohawk Nation became a registered nurse. She was also the first Canadian Indigenous female to serve in the U.S. military.

Thank you.

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