Call it the power of silence. When it comes to actively engaging with Indigenous communities advocating for their voices to be heard, listening is at the core.
Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak (LMFO), the national voice of Métis women in Canada, recently launched their Ready2Listen campaign, sharing the first-person accounts of eight Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQIA individuals fostering change within their communities.
The campaign kicked off on International Women’s Day, March 8, at an event hosted by LMFO in partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, honouring five inspirational Métis matriarchs for their advocacy work in multiple spheres.
In the coming weeks, the Ready2Listen campaign will release six more First Nations, Inuit and Métis stories, bringing the total to 14. The campaign also includes online resources for employing Indigenous methods of learning and conflict resolution to battle racism, bullying and online hate.
“It’s something that has been a dream of mine — that we start to celebrate and honour the amazing women that I watch walk all around me,” said Melanie Omeniho, president of LMFO, at the event. “When we see the women that inspire us in the community and are mentors to others within our communities, we need to lift them up and celebrate them.”
From young advocates using social media to promote mental health to a skateboarder bringing the sport to Indigenous communities across Canada to an artisan ensuring fellow Indigenous creatives receive fair pay, each individual sharing their story on Ready2Listen offers an inside perspective on the way to move forward to a more inclusive society.
“Together we are healing intergenerational colonial wounds,” said Chantal Fiola, a Two-Spirit Michif (Red River Métis) and one of the women honoured at the event. “By drawing upon and sharing our collective power as Métis women and LGBTQ+ people in community, we widen the path a little more and nurture those who are following in our footsteps.”
Fiola used the Ready2Listen campaign to share her journey of discovering her Métis identity and her connection to ceremony. An associate professor and Distinguished Indigenous Scholar’s Chair at the University of Manitoba, she also shares her knowledge in the classroom.
“As a Two-Spirit Michif person who has dedicated her life to making space for people to find their way back to the spiritual ways of our ancestors, and for queer Métis to live and love safely out loud, I’m heartened to know that this award will further amplify my voice,” Fiola added.
Four additional Métis women were honoured and uplifted at the event.
Victoria De La Ronde is an ever-present public servant, caregiver, mentor and social advocate for Indigenous Peoples across the country. As a practising lawyer, she works to fulfil her dream of discovering the best means possible to create and support thriving communities and families.
Chelsea Vowel, a force of nature and mother of six, is an intellectual, writer and educator whose work intersects language, gender, Métis self-determination, futurisms and resurgence. She is the author of Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit in Canada and the co-host of Métis in Space, an Indigenous feminist sci-fi podcast.
As the vice president of Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, Michelle LeClair has been immersed in Métis culture for most of her life. Representing about 80,000 Métis citizens across the province, LeClair advocates for their political, economic, cultural and educational rights.
Tai Amy Grauman is Métis Cree, a Callihoo and a Beauregard with ancestral ties to Haudenosaunee voyageurs. An actor, playwright, director and producer, Tai recently co-founded the Marie Collective, a land-based performance company that will tour Métis productions to communities across Alberta.