EMMA Talks feminist series features Indigenous voices

Squamish Nation stories are highlighted during speaker series


Reported by Myra Dionne

The voices of Coast Salish matriarchs from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) nation resounded at a free public event last Thursday evening.

EMMA Talks, a mini-art festival and speakers series held at SFU’s downtown campus on Oct. 19, invited guest curator and professional communicator Michelle Nahanee, master weaver Chief Janice George and Indigenous feminist Salia Joseph to share their stories of resistance, survival and belonging.

Denouncing the title of victim

Indigenous women have fought and continue to fight for their voices to be heard, said Paisley Eva Nahanee, daughter of Michelle Nahanee. She said people often mistake Indigenous women as being victims which is not true.

“You have these super strong, super powerful Squamish women who have beaten so many odds to get here on this stage to say hey, I’m not a victim— I’m a hero, I’m a survivor, I’m all these things,” Nahanee said.

During her speech, Joseph honoured the women who supported her discovery of identity and belonging. She brought the audience to their feet and to tears.

“It was no shortcoming of my family, of my mother or of my father, that made me move through the world wondering about my identity as an Indigenous woman,” Joseph said. “It’s no fault of theirs but only the repercussions of structures that made it so hard for us to go home.”

Open dialogues fostering a sense of identity 

Corin Browne, the co-founder of EMMA talks, said the goal of the feminist series was to create an open and safe space for women to share.

“I think that there’s just so many women’s voices and stories that you don’t hear, right? Not all women have access to mainstream media or have people to organize for them,” Browne said.

According to Joseph, Indigenous women are often ignored because they offer a threat to issues like pipelines, racism and histories the government has previously disregarded.

“They represent all the things that people want to turn a blind eye to. They have to fight for any time to have their voices heard because so often people don’t want to listen,” said Joseph.

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