Of course the Indigenous community is ready for leadership by its women. It always has been, said Carrie Manitopyes. She is the Human Resources Manager of Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, located at Tsuut’ina First Nation in Treaty 7 territory in Alberta.
“Shortly after the Indian Act was amended in 1951, which allowed women to hold positions in band governments, we saw two women elected as chief in 1954 —Elsie Knott of Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario, and Gwen O’Soup of Key First Nation in Saskatchewan.”
Today we see more and more women hold the office of chief, said Manitopyes.
We are also seeing women holding leadership positions in all other sectors.
“What I find so interesting is that Indigenous women are challenging the very notion of the western model of leadership. We’re saying, we don’t have to look like you. We don’t have to talk like you. We don’t have to think like you to be a leader.” Indigenous women are redefining what leadership is.
It is society in general that has been sending the message that Indigenous women are not leaders, said Manitopyes .
“You see these messages filtered through media, through marketing, through politics and through business.”
Manitopyes said we have to unlearn the unhealthy conditioning that we have been exposed to, and Indigenous women are starting to confront these beliefs.
There are sacrifices that come with being a leader, the biggest is being away from family.
“Time is a non-renewable resource, and so we need to prioritize where we spend our time. Too much time in one area can lead to imbalance. And leadership is all about finding balance.
“Work-life balance is especially challenging for single parents. Single mothers know more about sacrifices than anyone else. They know what it takes to make things happen. They have the qualities of strong leadership. Single mothers epitomize the strength of Indigenous women.”
Manitopyes said we are now seeing a resurgence of Indigenous women leading the way.
“Idle No More was a clear example of women leading the way. These women, they created a space for our issues to be heard and our culture to be shared.”
She believes we’ll see more Indigenous women and girls become educated, find their voices and gain influence in how the communities and businesses are run.
“I think we’ll see less lateral violence and more healing in our communities. As Indigenous women, we know we play and important role in our families, in our communities. We also know that when we are strong, our families are strong and our communities are strong.”
Manitopyes believes women can mentor the next generation by helping them find their voices, step out of their comfort zones, and step into their power.
“Finding our voice means being heard. The inclusion of women’s voices is so important, because the best decisions are made when all voices are heard.”
Stepping out of our comfort zone comes when we share our gifts, our talents and our accomplishments. Sometimes people are shy about sharing these things because of humility.
“Humility is one of our teachings and so we struggle with sharing who we are…. When we share our gifts, our talents and our accomplishments, we have the opportunity to inspire, to motivate, to support and to learn from each other.”
This also helps the next generation to step into their power. And that happens when we voice our opinions.