by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
Inside Vanier Hall’s Winclare Auditorium, the tables were elaborately set up in the form of a circle as a way to reflect Indigenous customs and traditions.
The gesture was all the more appropriate as the room hosted a First Nations roundtable panel on the evening of Mar. 7. Presented by the Friends of Women’s Studies, the talk was in accordance with International Women’s Day as it featured the perspectives and experiences of five women with aboriginal roots, discussing a variety of issues affecting them today.
“We want people to learn more about the issues facing indigenous women and children across this country, specifically in Windsor, and how to plug it in everyday in their professional lives, and to be accountable allies,” said moderator and Women and Gender Studies professor Cara Fabre.
As Canada carries a checkered history with the national Indigenous community, the notion of truth and reconciliation is one regarded very passionately by the speakers who attended. Prior to the official panel period, the night was given a feather ceremony by panelist and Anishinaabe elder Mona Stonefish. Before delivering the ceremony however, Stonefish minced no words as she adamantly touched on the frustrations she faces when it comes to self-identification and assimilation into a Eurocentric culture.
“I’m still fighting, I’m fighting every day in my life,” Stonefish said. “I’m sick and tired of people claiming that they know my story. Far from it.”
A series of questions were presented to the panelists, who then decided whether or not to answer them. Among the questions involved disclosing what the dominant issues were facing aboriginal women today. Bkejwanong First Nation member Beth Cook highlighted the ever-growing concerns with missing and murdered indigenous women, feeling it’s a forefront issue which still requires an immediate address.
“This is our country, every single one of us, we’re all treated equal,” Cook said. “We really need to stand up and speak out against this.”
While a pivotal issue at hand, Métis UWindsor student and panelist Katie Baltzer also believes there are other issues to contend with such as wage parity gaps and scholarship funding. The panelists seemed to agree partnerships and alliances play a part in combating the predicaments set before them. But the notion, which was ultimately underlined between them, is no non-native individual must assume a full understanding of what the people have gone through under any circumstance, ultimately boiling the issue down to a matter of respect.
“Don’t speak with us, be with us,” Baltzer said plainly.