PEI

On International Women's day, this Mi'kmaq woman remembers her fight against sexism

Marrying her non-Indigenous husband meant Georgina Knockwood Crane was no longer allowed on her First Nation and her status was taken away.

'I don't care how old I get, I'll still fight for my rights'

Georgina Knockwood Crane in 1987 and Mar. 8, 2020. Knockwood Crane has fought for the rights of Indigenous women for decades. (CBC Archives/Nicole Williams/CBC)

Georgina Knockwood Crane married her husband, Hubert, on Dec. 19, 1970.

She was a Mi'kmaq woman from Abegweit First Nation and he was a white man. Knockwood Crane describes her husband, who died last April, as her best friend.

"He became my best friend, he became my counsellor, he became my bosom buddy," she said with a smile.

But marrying him all those years ago meant Knockwood Crane was no longer allowed on her First Nation and her rights as a status Indian were taken away.

Georgina Knockwood Crane with her late husband Hubert Crane, who she married on Dec. 19, 1970. (Morell Lions Club/Facebook)

"That was very hard to take from your own people because when I'd go back to the reserve they'd say 'Oh ... this is the white woman now,'" she said.

Both of Knockwood Crane's parents were Mi'kmaq but this was the case for any Indigenous woman who married a non-Indigenous person and her children.

This was not the case for Indigenous men who married a non-Indigenous person. Their wives, in turn, would get status and be allowed on the First Nation reserves.

'I'm going to keep fighting'

In the early 1970s, Knockwood Crane was one of hundreds of women who protested the rule on Parliament Hill.

"We wore our regalias, we had our drums and we marched up to the Parliament building and we drummed and drummed and drummed and chanted 'We are Mi'kmaq, we' are native, we are First Nations people. You did not drain our blood. We still have the same blood our mom and dad gave us.'" 

Knockwood Crane attends a meeting for the Native Council of P.E.I. She says discussing the rights of Indigenous women brings up painful memories. (Julien Lecacheur/CBC)

The rules have since changed. Many Indigenous women regained their status after amendments to the Indian Act in 2017, but Knockwood Crane said sexism still exists and the fight for rights goes on.

"I'm 70 now ... I don't care how old I get, I'll still fight for my rights, my children's rights, my grandchildren's rights. It's something that has to keep on going and as a woman I'm going to keep fighting."

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