Tansi, Hello! I am excited to be back on the Jillian Harris blog and speaking about the power and resiliency behind Indigenous women and highlight Indigenous women entrepreneurs and businesses that are currently paving the way for International Women’s day. My name is Shayla Stonechild and I am the founder of the non-profit organization, the Matriarch Movement, which focuses on amplifying Indigenous voices and providing accessible wellness workshops to BIPOC women across Canada. I recently became the first Indigenous woman to be on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine this month so there is a lot to celebrate and look forward to.
You can follow more of my work here:
Hiy hiy, Thank you, to Jillian for being a big supporter of mine this year and for continuing to inspire me and the rest of y’all.
Matriarch definition: “noun – a woman who is the head of a family or tribe. An older woman who is powerful within a family and/or organization.”
For centuries, Indigenous women have been disrespected, undermined and silenced by the federal law, the Canadian state and society in itself. When you hear about Indigenous women in mainstream media – it is usually through a state of lack, scarcity, vulnerability and survival. Prior to colonization, most Indigenous societies had a balance of the masculine and feminine energies – knowing that this is not gender specific. When it came to decisions it may have been a longer process to get to the end goal. However, our governance system had our communities wellbeing at the forefront, each voice and role mattered. No one was less or more important. Some societies had matriarchs are the forefront and others were patrilineal.
The Indian Act that was introduced in Canada in 1876 and it tore away Indigenous women from their respective roles in traditional societies. The Indian Act was not equal amongst Indigenous men and women. The introduction of the European style Chief and Council was the introduction of the wounded masculine (the patriarchy) and this created an imbalance within our systems, societies and ourselves. It wasn’t until 1960 when Indigenous people could vote here in Canada without giving up their status rights. Even to this day, there are more than 5,000 cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2S cases. It is a listed as a Canadian genocide, a national crisis and a narrative that unfortunately transcends our borders across Turtle Island. (The name for Canada and the United States before colonial borders came into existence).
Indigenous women are silenced, paid significantly less and killed at a rate that is seven times higher than any other woman in Canada. We are also more likely to go missing – and to not have it be broadcasted on the news. When we are on the news, we are misrepresented and mislabelled – as CNN would like to say we are “something else”.
What I see represented in mainstream media about Indigenous women and people is not what I see reflected when I look within my communities, within my support system and within my own lineage. I see a history of Indigenous people who are resilient, educated, who are shifting their consciousness from surviving into thriving, who are caring for the health of our planet (like always) and who are connected to something bigger than just themselves. In a society that continues to try to erase and silence Indigenous women, reclaiming our power, speaking our truth and taking up space is an act of decolonization and reclamation of who we are as Indigenous people. This is our pathway towards healing – so that the next generations may thrive.
When I look within my communities I see Indigenous women trailblazing industries they have never seen themselves represented in. I see Indigenous women challenging the mainstream narrative – regardless of the racism and colonial violence they may be against everyday. I see Indigenous women working towards a more sustainable and equitable future for all. I see Indigenous women giving back to their communities through each success they have. I also see accountability and learning towards any failure they may have.
Instead of sharing and glorifying only our traumas, I want to share our celebrations, our successes, and our life’s purpose. I have curated a list of eight Inspiring Indigenous women entrepreneurs and/or businesses that are currently inspiring me – and you as well, I hope.
One way to be a good ally and to be in solidarity with Indigenous women – is to amplify our voices, not just one day but every day. To not only use us for representation but to actually commit to actions that support reconciliation and us working together. To listen to our stories. To follow us on social media. To buy and support our work. To pay us what you would a white male. To respect our lived experience and our shared history. This week, we celebrate and honour all women – all matriarch’s who have paved the way for us to be here doing this work now.
If you would like to support me and the Matriarch Movement – you can buy purchasing one of my latest collaborations:
Matriarch Movement founded by yours truly (Shayla Stonechild) x Paris Jewellers arrowhead necklace collaboration with 100% of proceeds going to the Matriarch Movement non-profit organization that is focused on amplifying Indigenous Women’s voices and providing accessible wellness workshops to BIPOC women across Canada.
Image Credit: @parisjewellerscanada
Lesley Hampton @lesley_hampton is an Anishinaabe Fashion Designer, Artist, Entrepreneur and advocate for mental health, body positivity and inclusivity. She is the Creative Director of LESLEY HAMPTON – an Indigenous-owned, size-inclusive clothing and accessory brand based in Toronto, Ontario. Her designs were recently worn by Lizzo. https://lesleyhampton.com/
“Assiniwe Jewellery” @assinewejewelry is founded by twin sisters, Edie and Jacquelyn Assinewe. They are full-time students from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation who are interweaving their passion for business and fashion. Edie intertwines traditional Ojibwe designs into her work. Jacquelyn handmakes each clay statement piece and focuses on making each piece accessible to her community. https://assinewejewelry.ca/
4. Sohka Lashes
Sohka Lashes @sohkalashes is a Canadian and First Nations owned business founded by Denita Gladeau (@lushtre). Their goal is to empower Indigenous women and support their lifestyle through designing luxury faux mink lashes, lash glue and brow shapers. 10% of all proceeds go to the Sohka Women’s Fund Program which is a business grant designed to support Indigenous women entrepreneurs. www.sohka.ca
Cheekbone Beauty @cheekbonebeauty founded by Indigenous entrepreneur and advocate, Jennifer Harper. Cheekbone beauty is known for their cruelty-free and sustainable statement lipsticks, lip glosses, contour and highlight palettes. You may have seen Jenn on CBC Dragons’ Den, in Chatelaine magazine, or speaking about entrepreneurship at your local university. Cheekbone Beauty is dedicated to supporting Indigenous youth by donating 10% of all proceeds to Shannen’s Dream. www.cheekbonebeauty.com
Image Credit: Cheekbone Beauty, Founder Jenn Harper wearing “Askihk Rose” lipstick. Photographer: @jfhanniganphoto
Dorothy Grant @dorothy.grant.studio is a Haida designer and powerhouse that has been in the fashion industry for over 32 years. She is the first designer to have merged Haida art with fashion. Her perseverance and vision to create a successful business while remaining rooted and in respect to her culture can be seen in her designs and felt in her presence. www.dorothygrant.com
7. Sḵwálwen Botanicals
“Sḵwálwen Botanicals” @skwalwenbotanicals is an Indigenous business founded by Leigh Joseph – who is from the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) First Nation. Skwalwen is focused on creating skincare products that honour traditional Squamish plant knowledge. This is done through using only sustainable ingredients, having respect for the land while harvesting and naming each product a Squamish name to honour the lineage. https://skwalwen.com
8. Orenda Tribe
Orenda Tribe @orendatribe is founded by Diné woman, Amy Yeung. It is an eco-conscious brand focused on elevating consciousness and kinship through upcycled vintage designs, textiles and giving back to the community. Recently, Orenda Tribe has been focused on fundraising and aiding Diné relatives who have been impacted by COVID-19. They provided meals, reusable masks, PPE and hand sanitizers. They also hosted a SPREAD LOVE + SHINE LIGHT auction to fund their efforts with 100% of proceeds to the Command Center. https://www.orendatribe.com/
I invite you to support, follow, uplift and purchase from any of these Indigenous women.
PS: (Yes, you can buy Indigenous earrings and moccasins – It is not cultural appropriation. It is supporting our work so we can better support our communities and the future generations. )
Thank you, hiy hiy, until next time. @shayla0h