A story by Sherri Mitchell Weh’na Ha’mu Kkwasset
One of the most destructive impacts of colonization for Waponahki (Wabanaki) Nations has been the disruption of our traditional matrifocal and matricultural ways of being, not only in relation to our governance systems but in the overall sociocultural structure of our families, clans, and nations. Traditionally, the women were centered in our societies. The clan mothers were the primary decision makers on all issues impacting our nations, including decisions related to land and other sources of survival for our Peoples. The women were honored as the givers of life and were trusted to provide balanced guidance for protecting, nurturing, and cultivating the lives of tribal members. The dehumanization of women that accompanied colonization violently removed our women from the center of our societies and sent our traditional systems into disarray. As a result, our people suffered. Therefore, we know the true value of our women and we recognize that they are crucial to our cultural survival as Waponahki Peoples.
Today, Waponahki women are once again at the center of our communities. They are leading the work to recover our traditional ways of knowing and being, through language programs, renewal of kinship networks, and the revitalization of land-based teachings that focus on the relationships that exist between all systems within creation. The women are also decolonizing our stories, developing pathways for food sovereignty, and protecting of our lands and waters.
If we hope to continue our progress toward cultural revitalization and cultural survival, we have to ensure that our women are protected while they do the work of interweaving vital cultural knowledge into all aspects of community life, including all moves toward greater self-determination and sovereignty. Centering Waponahki women is the key to saving Waponahki Nations.
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