The Wapna’kikewi’skwaq – Women of the First Light Gathering was a profound experience in the practice of sovereignty.
Members of Apaji-wla’matulinej, Righting Relations Eastern Hub gathered on Mi’kma’ki territory in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia as they do annually, to foster their relations, support one another, share the work they’re doing, and gain direction for the year to come.
How They Work
Growing out of Apaji-wla’matulinej, Righting Relations Eastern Hub, Wapna’kikewi’skwaq model a women-led approach, creating another way than the dominant system by bringing back the Clan Mothers and righting relations with everything – the earth, water, plants, animals, between the genders. Finding the markers of Matriculture in the language to prove that they are Matricultural, this powerful network of women grounds their direction from the original treaty with Creator, is guided by ceremony and using the language as their anchor. They are always asking themselves how they can be of service to Life and the 7 Generations to come.
Cultivating Food Sovereignty
With the growing challenges presented by climate change, Women of the First Light has been working in three communities – St Mary’s, Unama’ki and Esgenoopetitj to restore traditional land-based knowledge in the community. Led by three Women of the First Light – Judy Googoo, Gina Brooks and Miigam’agan, with the support of youth mentors in each community, they are planting community gardens as a tool for education and remembering, teaching how to know which berries to eat, building a thermal greenhouse to grow food in the winter, using land-based water practices to conserve water, and reminding the community about going back to natural foods to prevent diabetes and other illnesses that are rampant in the community.
They spoke of the changes they have seen to Mother Earth in their lifetimes and the loss of clean water, animals and plants they have witnessed is striking. They understand deeply, the ecological and political significance of moving towards food sovereignty for Indigenous communities.
Gespegawagi Declaration of Sovereignty
Gary Metallic, District Chief of the 7th District Tribal Council shared a historical and political analysis of Trudeau’s Proposed Rights Framework. He cautioned people that this proposed framework, whilst couched in what sounds like rights-affirming language, in essence is another tool of the government to assimilate Indigenous people into mainstream society, reducing the power of reserves to make decisions for themselves, and revoking rights entrenched in the Indian Act to Indigenous people in Canada. He spoke of this proposed legislation as the continuance of the 1969 White Paper during the time of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, which proposed the abolition of Indian Status, and assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Canadian society. If you are interested in learning more about this, take a look at Pam Palmater’s video who breaks down the proposed Rights Framework in an accessible way.
Gary shared the Gespegawagi Declaration of Sovereignty acknowledging the treaties and the sovereign nationhood of the Mi’kmaq people. This declaration puts the government on notice that as a sovereign nation, they do not consent to this proposed legislation. This along with other similar declarations of sovereignty from across Turtle Islands will be an instrument used to defend Indigenous people’s rights, if the legislation passes. Here is a video of Gary reading the declaration with the support of the grandmothers, and one young soon-to-be mother with the future generation in your womb.
Listening to the Men: Ryan Gould – Membertou Men’s Society
Ryan Gould, shared his story as a single father to four girls, who journeyed to the other side of addiction and founded the Membertou Men’s Society. The support group for Indigenous and non-Indigenous young men creates a space for men to support one another, find resources to battle addiction, mental health, to learn to love themselves and find their purpose in the community and family to take care of the children. He spoke about his work to overcome the stigma that men are not supposed to speak about their emotions and how they are bringing back the bonding that has been taken away by inter-generational trauma.
His sharing brought many to tears and was an enormous inspiration. Having the love and support of the grandmothers he said is very empowering.
Women of the First Light continue to inspire many in their restoration of the Clan Mother System, creating initiatives that consider the well-being of all life, and connecting women and increasingly male leaders throughout the East to strengthen the practice of love and sovereignty.