She Is Indigenous campaign highlights women's accomplishments, challenges negative stereotypes
'One of the main narratives about us is our struggle ... but there's also joy, strength, intelligence'
Filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin. Author Cherie Dimaline. Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller. Lawyer Pam Palmater. Surgeon Donna May Kimmaliardjuk.
These are some of the women a national awareness campaign wants people to know and recognize for being strong, resilient, inspiring, wise, nurturing and trailblazing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women across Canada.
The campaign is called She is Indigenous.
Funded by the Province of Ontario, the campaign is led by Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak, the national organization representing Métis women, and supported by a number of provincial and national Indigenous organizations.
"We really want to re-write that narrative that Indigenous women are vulnerable and at-risk individuals. Instead, we see Indigenous women as profoundly kind, ambitious, and inspirational," said Tamsin Fitzgerald, senior policy analyst at Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak.
Close to 100 women have been featured since the campaign launched in June 2019 online with the goal of reducing violence against Indigenous women and girls.
It launched the same month as the release of the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak issued its own report in the fall.
With She is Indigenous, Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak wanted to work toward the same goal of reducing violence against Indigenous women and girls but from a different approach.
Fitzgerald said the campaign challenges negative stereotypes, educates Canadians about First Nations, Inuit, and Métis issues, and supports Indigenous women by honouring their unique strengths and accomplishments.
"The main goal is to support everyday Indigenous women and highlight their contributions," she said.
One of those women is Celeste Beauchamp.
The 20-year-old Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Kahnawake works as a youth reconciliation initiative co-ordinator at Canadian Roots Exchange in Ottawa.
She said she likes that the campaign focuses on the inherent strengths of Indigenous women.
"We're empowered in just being women," said Beauchamp.
"We get really caught up in our resilience, constantly fighting for our community, constantly fighting for our land and our languages, that we forgot that we're whole in ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves and honour our own power."
Tenille Campbell, the Dene/Métis poet of #IndianLovePoems and photographer behind Sweetmoon Photography, is another woman profiled in the campaign.
"I really like the idea of visually taking up space," she said.
Every other day, She is Indigenous posts a profile of an Indigenous woman on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The plan is to continue indefinitely, and encourage others to participate by nominating themselves or an Indigenous woman in their life.
"So often, one of the main narratives about us is our struggle, which is important, but there's also joy, strength, intelligence, and kinship. There's so many other aspects of being an Indigenous woman other than just surviving," said Campbell.
"I like the idea that it was positive-based — highlighting our strengths and not what we overcome to become who we are but celebrating who we are."