Chantal Chagnon is looking to change the norms of traditional feminism — an area often dominated by white women.
Growing up, Chagnon’s mother worked as a communications and public liaison for CBC Edmonton. Her job required her to attend a lot of events, so Chagnon would often tag along. These events gave Chagnon a chance to listen in on conversations her mother had with local artists, which opened her eyes to human rights issues and led her to become a young activist and volunteer in her community.
“Something was broken [in] the world, especially as an Indigenous girl,” she says.
Today, Chagnon, a well-known Indigenous artist, educator and activist, focuses on challenging feminism through her performances, including at Fort Calgary’s International Women’s Day — held earlier this year. Through the event, Chagnon and other Indigenous women shared their stories and expressed their own feminism.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY AT FORT CALGARY
At the Fort Calgary event, Chagnon sang traditional Cree songs, including The Turtle Song, which is also known as The Strong Women’s Song.
“I stand up for all women, because we are all Indigenous to somewhere and women are the important leaders of our communities,” she says.
The event, which was led by five Indigenous women, took place back on March 7 and is part of Fort Calgary’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.
Allison Graham, the programs officer for the organization was in charge of piloting the event at the historic site.
“It is about equality and prioritizing voices that have not been heard before,” Graham says.
Fort Calgary’s marketing and communications officer, Preeha Lashari agrees non-white women are often left out of feminism, with harmful results which is why an event like this one is so important.
“Stories of women in other cultures are unheard or may not be portrayed in ways that are accurate,” she says. “We as settlers should not be telling their stories on their behalf.”
The event consisted of three major performances and smaller activities that took place around the main building. The smaller activities included button making, women’s artifact tables and pop-up history exhibits.
Following Chagnon, the second performance was a traditional hoop dance put on by 10-year-old Cera Goodin.
Goodin danced to traditional Indigenous music while moving slowly around the stage, picking up 16 hoops one by one, until she was able to hold all of them at once, including one in her mouth.
Finally, the third event of the day was led by Jenny Goodin, Tracy McHugh and Susan Solway, three Indigenous women on the Siksika council who were elected in November. These women answered questions about their electoral process and how they will work to change individuals’ lives on Siksika for the better during their terms, which go until 2021.
OPENING UP THE CONVERSATION
The performances and conversations were interactive which allowed for audience questions and participation.
The Indigenous women who participated in this event viewed it as important as they were able to have a platform to share their culture and stories from their past.
“It is beautiful what Indigenous culture is, it is bringing everyone into the circle. It is important to hear those voices because we haven’t heard them for so many years,” Chagnon says.
“We are all ripples in a pond and everyone coming together, that’s truly what makes waves. That is why it is so important to share everyone’s voice.”