by Metis–Cree artist Carla Joseph, of Chilliwack BC. You can view and purchase her work on her Facebook artist page, Hummingbear Cree-ations.
On International Women's Day (March 8), the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) honours and acknowledges the many successes, gifts, and achievements of our Indigenous matriarchs, mothers, aunties, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and cousins across Turtle Island. These incredible women are inspirational leaders and role models for all of us as we move forward on our individual and collective health and wellness journeys.
The FNHA also respectfully acknowledges and mourns the loss of sacred spirits, especially the many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and our precious children who were victims of residential schools and other genocidal systems. They will remain in our hearts forever.
At this time, the FNHA also recognizes and stands together in support of the brave women and girls across Canada and around the world who are living in conflicts and war, facing unimaginable horrors.
Indigenous women and girls have forged new paths and created lasting changes for many generations, and will lead and inspire us for generations to come. Time must be taken to recognize and celebrate these powerful women, and to nurture and inspire our young ones to become the powerful leaders of tomorrow.
“We are the mothers who give birth to our Nation. We are the mothers who bring future generations into being. We are the lifeblood of our people. We are the grandmothers and mothers and daughters, the aunties and nieces, the sisters of our Nation. We make our Nation rich. We come from the matriarchy and our womanhood is a blessing." ~ Heiltsuk Women's Declaration, Sacred and Strong[i]
As life-givers, women are sacred in our diverse cultures and traditions. Our children – including those who have not been born yet, are the future generations that will proudly carry on our stories, cultures, traditional healing practices and ways of being.
The role of life-giver must be honoured, and our women and girls should always be upheld, respected and supported as gifts. This is one way to bring back balance and wholistic health and well-being to our communities.
Today, the FNHA celebrates the work done so far and reflects on the work that lies ahead as we strive to change the status quo and ensure our women and girls have an equal representation in society. Continuing to heal trauma and breaking the cycles of discrimination, bias, oppression and systemic barriers to enable all First Nations women and girls to be self-determining, healthy and thriving.
One way the FNHA supports community wellness is by celebrating and sharing stories of the lived experiences of First Nations women and girls. In the recently released report, Sacred and Strong, we placed at the centre their knowledge, experience and wisdom. With this report, the FNHA aims to spotlight and empower First Nations women and girls on their health and wellness journeys.
Each of us has been supported and nurtured by unique, strong and resilient women. Let us continue to honour and recognize them today and every day as we support each other on our journeys of healing, wellness and inclusion for all.
“To all First Nations women and girls. All of you. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are resilient […] May you be safe. May you be loved. May you love yourself. May you be healthy. May you feel strong. May you find your roots and feel grounded, connected and supported." ~ Melanie Rivers, Tiyaltelwet, Squamish First Nation[ii]
Colleen Erickson, FNHA Chair, Board of Directors
Women provide a strong foundation of leadership to the First Nations Health Authority. On the Board of Directors, seven out of eight Directors are women. It is with pride that we work collectively to advance BC First Nations health and wellness.
Richard Jock, FNHA Chief Executive Officer
Today we celebrate and reflect on the many contributions made by women around the globe for the betterment of our societies. At the FNHA, we are proud of the committed leadership and dedication of the many women across the organization who work every day to make a positive difference to the health and well-being of BC First Nations people. We are a better organization because of your efforts.
Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Chief Medical Officer
Indigenous women and girls are the current and future matriarchs of our communities; we are the vitally important caretakers of our diverse cultures — we keep our traditions alive and our families and communities strong. We are, and have always been, both sacred and strong. I am proud to work with so many amazing Indigenous and non-Indigenous women here at the FNHA.
Sonia Isaac-Mann, FNHA Vice President, Community Health and Wellness, Programs and Services
As a First Nations woman, I acknowledge and support the vital roles of all women. We must all recognize the importance and value that First Nations women bring to our families, communities and nations.
Brennan MacDonald, FNHA Vice President, Regional Operations
I raise my hands to all women in our FNHA family and in our communities for sharing your strengths, talents, perspectives and leadership in the work we do on behalf of communities. Know that you are appreciated on International Women’s Day and every day!
Show your support for women on International Women's Day
The official website for International Women's Day (IWD) is asking people to share images of themselves striking the IWD 2022 pose (both arms in front of each other making an “x") with the hashtag #BreakTheBias in the caption. This is to show your commitment to breaking the bias and standing in solidarity with women everywhere. For more information, please visit the following links:
[ii] Sacred and Strong: Upholding Our Matriarchal Roles, The Health and Wellness Journeys of BC. First Nations Women and Girls, 2021, pg. 1.