Âhkmêyimowak, The Strength of Women by Priscilla Settee.
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.
There is a force among women which I call Âhkmêyimowak, or persistence, which provides the strength for women to carry on in the face of extreme adversity.
Âhkmêyimowak is a Cree word and embodies the strength that drives women to survive, flourish and work for change within their communities. 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.
Stories are a means of transmitting vital information from within community as well as to outside communities. The stories of women are central to my life and my work. What sets this book apart from other books about women is the central role of culture. While it is ever adapting and changing, the role of Aboriginal culture on community, families, and relationships has deep impact on women.
Since the 1970s, I have worked with Native women at the local, regional, national, and later, international levels. Since the late 1970s, the global community has been my home and my working space. Over the years, I have developed relationships with colleagues and friends learning about Indigenous struggles in many regions of the world. I have been inspired to learn the stories and saddened as I realized the inequities that exist in not only faraway places in the world but right here as well.
It is important to analyze the situation of our Indigenous communities' within a larger context--a set of relations, as it were. Relations are something fundamental to Indigenous communities the world over. Besides our human relationships, there is a bigger set of relationships that keep 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.
In the Cree worldview, a core value is miyo-wichihtowin, which means "having good relations." Individually and collectively, people are instructed by cultural teachings to strive and conduct themselves in ways that create positive relationships with our extended community. The concept of extended community and family is fundamental in Indigenous communities. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents are surrogate parents. The community is an extension of the family.
The idea of relationship is extended to the animals and the natural environment. These are ones who cannot speak for themselves, but whose existence is essential to human survival. The extended community takes in all relationships, human and nonhuman, and is reflected in our interdependence. Reference is made to the concept of "all my relations," which means that all living things are related and must be cared for by one other. Service to humanity is primary.