International Women’s Day: “We Hold up Half the Sky”

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There was an acknowledgement in the group that people cannot wait for government to make changes. People are the resources and people must come together collaboratively to create change. A woman from Saskatchewan said that people have to stop asking for permission to do anything. Her father created the first casino in Canada on a reserve without permission. She said it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.


There were many other ideas presented: With so much sadness and anger around these issues, it was noted that humour is a powerful tool to have and to use. There was talk of bridging across diversity to generate a common language, defining what colonization is for all of us and ways of getting free from it. The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers is a worldwide healing network using traditional methods to move the world into healing. It is gaining worldwide recognition. Some reserves are teaching the old language and ways of being, re-uniting generations as one and intending to force the government to get back to the bargaining table and to recognize Indigenous rights worldwide. It was noted that the Canadian government cannot recognize Aboriginal peoples because that would be an acknowledgement that white people are illegally occupying what is First Nations land.


Maori elder, Hinewirangi Morgan, created the meme “elegant racism” to describe the more subtle and sophisticated form of racism evident in today’s world and at the Olympics. For example, while the Olympic organizers pretended to honour the Four Host Nations as equals, they were not treated like equals. Having First Nations peoples dancing at the opening ceremonies seemed on the surface to be wonderfully inclusive. In fact, it was an example of objectifying, depersonalizing, dehumanizing and trivializing them. They were not portrayed as real people and shown as who they truly are. It was also an example of “whitewashing” the reality: the Olympic committee bought First Nations support for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics with money and token involvement so they would not disrupt the events with protests.

Misappropriation of the Inukshuk figure as a symbol of the Olympics is another example of elegant racism. No acknowledgement was made at the Olympics that the Inukshuk is a venerated object of the Inuit peoples of Northern Canada.


From the web site ”Inukshuks are monuments made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival. The traditional meaning of the inukshuk is "Someone was here" or "You are on the right path."

The Inuit make inuksuit in different forms for a variety of purposes: as navigation or directional aids, to mark a place of respect or memorial for a beloved person, or to indicate migration routes or places where fish can be found. Other similar stone structures were objects of veneration, signifying places of power or the abode of spirits. Although most inuksuit appear singly, sometimes they are arranged in sequences spanning great distances or are grouped to mark a specific place.

These sculptural forms are among the oldest and most important objects placed by humans upon the vast Arctic landscape and have become a familiar symbol of the Inuit and of their homeland. Inuit tradition forbids the destruction of inuksuit. An inukshuk (also known as inuksuk) is often venerated as symbolizing an ancestor who knew how to survive on the land in the traditional way. A familiar inukshuk is a welcome sight to a traveler on a featureless and forbidding landscape. “

No permission was asked of the Inuit for use of this symbol at the Olympics, nothing was shared about its meaning at the Olympics, and no monetary recompense was made to them for using the Inukshuk at the Olympics. This is called "cultural misappropriation".


At the Poverty and Income table, it was noted that 70% of the world’s poor are women. It was suggested that it was necessary to make an economic rather than a moral argument against poverty in responding to the economic paradigm of North American society. For example, it costs more to have a poor underclass than to have a living wage. It was suggested that government be sidestepped as they are not offering solutions. Instead, people need to step up to offer their own alternatives to poverty like job sharing, dropping rental rates, offering living wages, food sharing through community gardens, free stores,  localized community power bases, and voluntary job transformations changing jobs that are part of the problem into jobs that solve those particular problems.

There is a showing of film, about the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, here in Vancouver March 9 at 7:00 at Ayurveda Studio 3636 West 4 Ave.


“Building a world that's free...When you want this done, call in your sisters because we hold up half the sky.”


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