Indigenous History Month: The Power of Women’s Stories

Staff ShopBlog

“A people without a history is like the wind over buffalo grass.” – Sioux

 

June is National Indigenous History month in Canada and June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s a time for learning and reflecting, as well as celebrating the rich diversity of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

As an Indigenous & Women-owned business, Staff Shop believes in the power of amplifying these voices and telling these important stories. Indigenous women’s stories are particularly interesting.

“The First Nations, Inuit, and Metis of Canada have rich traditions of storytelling that serve multiple functions in their communities. According to the First Peoples Principles of Learning, ‘learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.’ There is a story for everything. Stories are told to teach, inform, inspire and entertain. Oral traditions are the backbone of Indigenous knowledge transfer and storytelling is the method by which much is shared. Storytelling serves to connect individuals and communities to their place and time as well as each other. Stories are also used to teach history, cultural etiquette, and spiritual beliefs. At the heart of every story is a lesson in relationship; whether relationship with self, others, or environment.” (Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre)

Our Founder and CEO, Jennifer Ménard-Shand, has her own story to tell – one of resilience, trust and forgiveness. We know that when women share their stories it inspires others.

 

Jennifer’s Story

I am French Canadian from northern Ontario, and First Nations Ojibwe from Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve on Manitoulin Island in Georgian Bay/Lake Huron, Ontario.

My grandmother Ann Wilkin (née Trudeau) spoke the Ojibwe language and taught me a lot about our culture. The Ojibwe language is part of the Algonquian language family and is widely spoken in Canada. She is my guardian angel – the kindest person I’ve ever known – a gentle, soft spoken, caretaking soul. She believed in the magic of Cedar, often called “Tree of Life” a sacred Indigenous medicine used for healing. She would always tuck some in our purses for good luck 🙂

However, I grew up very unaware of my ancestors and did not claim First Nations Status until my early teens. My mother never mentioned it due to either being embarrassed or afraid of the stereotypes and stigmas that can be associated with being a minority. I guess she felt as though we may be unfairly judged and criticized, and did not want to take the liberty of labeling us.

Something shifted after my grandmother was killed in a wrongful death car accident on September 11th, 2001, on Manitoulin Island. My mother was driving and struck another vehicle head on. My grandmother died instantly, my mother broke several bones in her body yet did not lose consciousness and witnessed her mother pass. I’m at peace with God taking her from us on 9/11 out of all days since I’m sure he needed a kind, compassionate, dedicated nurse like her to be there for all of the lives we lost that day. Ironically, my grandmother’s greatest fear in life was to die in a car accident. My mother unfortunately never fully recovered emotionally from this tragedy. She passed last year bitter and in pain from illnesses. She had a hard life and I experienced years of it through alcoholism, domestic violence and abuse in our home throughout my teenage years, yet the silver lining is that my mother embraced our Indigenous heritage and culture on a deep level since the day my grandmother passed, which I am grateful for. 

Knowing and being comfortable with where you came from is the foundation of being who you are without fear. Today, I am blessed with a platform and God-given gifts to share in hopes of inspiring people to be authentic, and to tap into courage and resilience to trust, forgive and overcome trauma and stereotypes. 

 

Jennifer’s Indigenous Mentor, Holly Fortier

Holly Fortier is an honourable teacher whom Jennifer highly respects and recommends if you’re looking for a meaningful approach and trusted resources on this topic. Jennifer recalls sitting in on her training session back in 2015 and was gutted to find out that Indigenous Peoples were almost extinct as a race, oppressed and stripped of everything they are still fighting for today. It’s clear that the cycle of abuse from residential schools, the trauma that came from children being ripped away from their parents, and the health and societal issues that disease and epidemics swept across our tribes, are embedded in the cellular memory today – making it very difficult to “get over” and frustrating for the rest of the world to understand what can be done to make things right. However, much hope lies in the 94 Calls to Action that are proposed, underway and completed. The fact is, we are reconciling, yet it takes time. Jennifer’s focus is on forgiveness and solutions as she reflects on what her ancestors suffered; “There’s more work to do but we have come a long way and I know my grandparents are in heaven smiling.”

 

Holly is Cree/Dene from Ft. McKay First Nation, Alberta, and was born in Treaty 7 Territory and was fortunate to be raised by cultural leaders, academics and activists. Her business specializes in the development and delivery of Indigenous History and Cultural Sensitivity. She has been delivering training sessions across Canada since 2007 to thousands and thousands of participants from government, corporate clients, educators, service organizations and first responders.Staff Shop highly recommends this training to any business leaders looking to broaden their knowledge on this subject. Learn more about Holly by watching this video of her telling her story, and the inspiring story of her mother who survived residential school – “A Mother’s Voice.” 

 

Further Resources

You can also go back and read our previous blog: Indigenous Truth & Reconciliation in the Workplace

 

 

 

Hire Jennifer to Speak

Visit www.jmenardshand.com or her Speakers Spotlight profile to learn more about how you can book Jennifer to speak on the topic of Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation in the Workplace. Hear her story and learn from her experiences.

As always, you can always Join Us or Hire Us! Contact us today!

Staff Shop is a certified diverse supplier, recognized by the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.



 

 

 

 

 

 

To all First Nations women and girls. All of you. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are resilient […] May you be safe. May you be loved. May you love yourself. May you be healthy. May you feel strong. May you find your roots and feel grounded, connected and supported.” — Melanie Rivers, Tiyaltelwet, Squamish First Nation
Image

Staff Shop Inc. is a privately held Canadian-Indigenous-Women owned staffing and consulting firm servicing Canada I USA I Caribbean as an award-winning diverse supplier, certified with CCAB, CAMSC, WBE & WEConnect International.

CNESST# 2102003