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Mamwikwek Traditional Algonquin Women's Unity

by Zach Ruiter

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Shannon Chief lives on lands that have been clear cut repeatedly by the logging industry in collusion with the Quebec Government.  Within this struggle is a complex set of social identities: people of the Rapid Lake Reserve, Anishnabe people who do not live on reserve, corporate spokespeople, bureaucrats, media, the SQ, activists, Quebecois allies and detractors, just to name a few.

Shannon has been struggling to organize the women in her community, which includes the Rapid Lake Reserve, better known as Barriere Lake which is 1.5 hours north of the Rapid Lake Reserve.  According to Shannon, "organizing with the women has been repeatedly blocked in the community by those who do not want to see the women have a voice for themselves and to speak with their traditional roles of making decisions and taking care of the land."  

When asked about the challenges involved her work, Shannon explained "its the confidence and lack of belief in themselves, and sometimes many of them are stuck in relationships where they are too busy working, or they are in relationships that are abusive, when they are in abusive relationships, they're being controlled not to go, they don't want to be heard, they don't want women to speak up".

The collective effort in which Shannon is involved is known as Mamwikwek Traditional Algonquin Women's Unity.  Domestic violence is an important focus for Mamwikwek, and they have mounted a campaign called "Love Should Not Hurt" to address and minimize violence that goes on when women's voices are not heard.  

The objectives of Mamwikwek include empowering women and youth to "form a council of women with the guidance of our traditional Elders and Grandmothers".  


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Zach Ruiter (Zach Ruiter)
Peterborough, ON
Member since December 2011

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