On the weekend of November 5, 2017, Haida women from across the Islands and from away, gathered for the Haida Women’s Dialogue Session in HlGaagilda Skidegate – the first of a three-part series hosted by the Haida Gwaii Women’s Dialogue Sessions project.
Collectively led by the Council of the Haida Nation, Old Massett Village Council and the Skidegate Band Council, the project brings women together to discuss what is most important to them and to create solutions for positive change.
Earlier this year, a number of leaders from Haida Gwaii and the central coast attended the BC Assembly of First Nations’ Women’s Dialogue Session in Vancouver and it was that session which inspired this project. Taaw.ga Halaa’ Leeyga May Russ, Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Haida Nation; Florence Lockyer, Band Administrator for Old Massett Village Council; and Barbara Stevens, Chief Administrative Officer of the Skidegate Band Council, formed a committee to advise this project.
Each of the three dialogue sessions are tailored to a specific group of participants, with the first session being for Haida women, the next for all women on Haida Gwaii, and the final one for Heiltsuk and Haida women. HGWDS recognizes that women are already leaders in countless ways: within their families, amongst their friends, in their communities, in political positions, businesses and representing their clans and nations.
At each session, women came together to share their experiences, knowledge, and perspectives on the challenges women confront daily. The first session laid the foundation for the next two sessions. Over the course of the weekend, 80 women participated in decision-making, solution-building, and knowledge-sharing on topics of vital importance to Haida women.
Approximately 30 women came from Gaaw Old Massett to HlGaagilda, and 14 more participated from off-Island through a live audio stream and chat line. Vouchers were offered to participants to offset the costs of childcare and gas. Skidegate Health Centre, the Haida Health Centre, and the Adah Dene Cultural Healing Team from the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation provided healing services throughout the dialogue session.
From the Haida Women’s Dialogue Session, participants determined that the three top challenges impacting Haida women are: Healing, Access to ceremony, Haida matriarchal society.
Once these challenges were identified, the facilitation team analyzed participant responses, from which the following question emerged:
How can Haida women connect with matriarchs, elders, and knowledge keepers to learn about protocols and to experience healing through ceremony?
Participants then determined actions, resources, timelines, and indicators which would measure success when addressing the issues.
An example of one outcome is that before Spring, 2018, a ceremony space be identified to host regular gatherings of matriarchs, knowledge keepers, and elders that are willing to share with Haida women their knowledge about protocols, ceremony, and healing.
Throughout the weekend women came together to address issues that matter most to them through action and witnessing. The intention, expertise, and wisdom that women brought forward not only inspired a framework of healing that will inform future dialogue sessions, but also inform upcoming activities – stay tuned for more details!
The next All Women’s Dialogue Session is December 2-3rd in Gamadis Port Clements, and all women living on Haida Gwaii are invited to participate and share their thoughts on the roles of women on the Islands. Register at www.HaidaGwaiiWomen.com or call Rayne Tarasiuk at the Skidegate Band Office – 250 559 4496.