On Monday, March 16th, Beverley Jacobs came to speak at the McCord Museum in Montreal. Jacobs is the president of NWAC, an Aboriginal rights lawyer, and was a lead researcher in Amnesty International’s 2004 study Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada. She also currently works to raise awareness across the country via NWAC’s Sisters in Spirit campaign.
The root causes of violence against Indigenous women in Canada, from a forced shift away from the Matrilineal basis of many First Nations to patriarchal modes of determining “status,” was the crux of Jacobs’ talk. The Indian Act and the Indian Status Card are only two of many symbols of a deeply flawed change of direction that has caused First Nations communities, but particularly the women, to suffer brutally.
Jacobs comes from the Mohawk Bear Clan in Six Nations, Grand River, and has a deep sense of history which she shared with those who came out to listen. Montreal is part of her traditional territory and the one request she made of her audience at the end of the night was: “Learn about the land you’re living on. Learn about its history.” Seeing as how one can’t find such historical knowledge in the educatioonal system, her words resonated deeply; a more personal kind of challenge was felt by many and seemingly embraced.
In the photo directly above, Jacobs holds a Two Row Wampum Belt. The two rows represent Native and White cultures co-existing side-by-side without interfering in each others’ way of life. Jacobs sees the agreement as profoundly violated, but only by one party. Also in this picture: Kevin Daniels, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
To hear Beverley Jacobs speak in Montreal, click here: http://www.mediacoop.ca/audio/1267