Wise Women Rising

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.

Blanket Ceremony
Group presentations. Jisgang (Nika Collison)
Day One Full House.
Haida Gwaii Women’s Dialogue Session Women’s Business Panel.
Raven-ann Potschka singing and drumming for closing.

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    Rayne Tarasiuk

    Haawa/Haw’aa to everyone at the Council of the Haida Nation for your amazing support in offering live audio streaming at the session and for publishing this article!

    Furthermore, haw’aa/haawa to everyone who participated in the Haida Women’s Dialogue Session. Not only did you help create the framework for the upcoming dialogue sessions, you also laid the foundation for creating positive change for Haida women in your communities!

    The Haida Gwaii Women’s Dialogue Sessions project would not have been possible without the support of so many community members and organizations on Haida Gwaii, as well as many off-Island organizations. A HUGE hawaa/haw’aa to the following wonderful people and organizations, as well as many more, for helping make this project, and the Haida Women’s session, a success:

    – The Project Advisory Committee: Babs Stevens, CAO Skidegate Band Council; May Russ, Executive Director, Secretariat of the Haida Nation; and Florence Lockyer, Band Administrator, Old Massett Village Council

    – The Skidegate Health Centre and Haida Health Centre for providing the fantastic healing services of the Adah Dene Cultural Healing Centre Team from the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation

    – The wonderful facilitation team: Kim Goetzinger, Raven Ann Potschka, and Kara Sievewright

    – To the following ladies who offered their support without being asked: Babs Stevens, Natalie Stevens and lovely daughters, Elaine from the Skidegate Band Office, and all of my wonderful co-workers. Haawa!!

    – To Vie and her wonderful sister for delicious lunches, and Kathy Williams for her wonderful supper!

    – To Nika Collison and the Skidegate Dance Group for their excellent performance!

    – And of course, to our incredible sponsors, who have so generously supported this project in coming alive! : Skidegate Band Council, Old Massett Village Council, Village of Queen Charlotte, Port Clements Village, Council of the Haida Nation, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada GovCan – Indigenous Peoples, Gwaii Trust Society, Northern Savings Credit Union, White Raven Law Corp, Inter Pares, New Relationship Trust, Women’s Economic Council, Canadian Art Prints and Winn Devon Art Group Inc., Nick Tarasiuk and Bibiane Tarasiuk, Haida Gwaii Radio Society, Haida Gwaii Community Futures, Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre – Haida Gwaii, and Sitka Studio!!

    With one successful dialogue session adding to our shared expertise, we look forward to getting together at the All Women’s Dialogue session in January 2018, and the Heiltsuk and Haida Women’s Dialogue Session in February 2018. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

    Wishing you a merry Christmas!

    Rayne Tarasiuk,
    Project Coordinator

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