Historic month for Indigenous women in Canada
Mary Simon, RoseAnne Archibald assume high-profile leadership roles at difficult time for reconciliation
Powerful Indigenous women made history in Canada this month, with the first ever Indigenous Governor General being appointed and the first woman being voted in as the Assembly of First Nations national chief.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Mary Simon is Canada’s new Governor General on July 6, and that the Queen had approved the appointment.
“Today, after 154 years, our country takes a historic step,” Trudeau said during the announcement. “I cannot think of a better person to meet the moment.”
Simon is an officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Governor General’s Northern Medal, the National Order of Québec, the Gold Order of Greenland, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Gold Order of the Canadian Geographical Society and the Symons Medal.
She was inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame and is a fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America and of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Simon is an advocate for Inuit rights and culture in Canada.
She has represented Inuit to the Canadian government and the United Nations, including work that led to Inuit’s inclusion in the Constitution in 1982.
She has worked with the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Arctic Council.
She was also Canadian ambassador for circumpolar affairs and Canadian ambassador to Denmark.
Simon was born in Kangisualuujjuaq, Nunavik, and she moved to Kuujjuaq, where she attended a federal day school.
Her father was a fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company and an Englishman, her mother was an Inuk.
After Simon completed Grade 6, she was homeschooled by her father, according to her biography on the Speak Truth to Power Canada website.
RoseAnne Archibald made history in July as well, becoming the first woman to head the Assembly of First Nations, replacing Perry Bellegarde, who stepped down this year after two terms.
The position of national chief has traditionally been held by a man.
Archibald, of Taykwa Tagamou Nation, is a leader with 31 years’ experience in First Nations politics.
The role of the national chief is to advocate on behalf of First Nations as directed by chiefs-in-assembly, according the AFN website.
“We are hitting the ground running, with our first 100 days plan. Further, as each region begins to open, I’ll be making travel plans to visit First Nations from coast-to-coast-to coast,” Archibald said in a press conference on July 10.
“Let’s take a collective deep breath and recognize that we have experienced a monumental shift in energy and consciousness. It’s not politics as usual. It’s a new day. The colonial and patriarchal systems are crumbling and it can’t be stopped or reversed. We have all been awoken by this pandemic. Stay awake everyone for the evolutionary and positive changes to come! For my part, I commit to a strength-based and heart-centred approach to leadership.”