International Women's Day 2021: Indigenous Leaders

March 5, 2021 | Jamie

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Happy International Women’s Day to all! International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8.

Today, as a Métis woman, I want to uplift six incredible Indigenous women in Canada. These women are truly leaders in their various fields, as well as in Indigenous communities living in Canada.

There are so many more individuals whom I would love to share here as well, but in all honesty, that would be a year-long conversation about the incredible number of strong, independent, Indigenous leaders in our communities that identify as female.


Lee Maracle (Stö:lo)

Author, Advocate, Teacher, Knowledge Keeper

Lee Maracle is “one of the most highly published First Nations writers in Canada.” In 2018, she received the Order of Canada “for her influential voice in cultural relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

You can check out her various works held in our collections. Below, I've shared one of my favourites.

My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle

My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle (Stö:lo)

"Lee Maracle's My Conversations with Canadians presents a tour de force exploration into the writer's own history and a re-imagining of the future of our nation."


Jenn Harper (Anishinaabe)


Jenn Harper is the founder of Cheekbone Beauty. Cheekbone Beauty offers “a cruelty-free makeup line with products named after inspiring Indigenous women, like Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, singer Buffy Sainte-Marie and former Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull.” Wanting to give back through her company, Cheekbone Beauty donates 10% of their profits to Shannen’s Dream, which is part of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society.

In 2019, she pitched Cheekbone Beauty on CBC’s Dragon’s Den and declined an offer from a Dragon to purchase half of her company for $125,000. She was named one of Chatelaine’s Women of the Year in 2019.

Jenn will be moderating Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs: Traditional Crafting During a Pandemic on March 10 from 1-2pm! This program will be streaming live on CrowdCast. You can RSVP now, tune in live or watch the replay after the event.


Sunshine Tenasco (Anishinabeg)

Founder, Water Advocate, Entrepreneur and Author

Sunshine Tenasco (Anishinabeg) started Her Braids, “an organization dedicated to ending Indigenous water Crisis.” Her Braids donates “10% of [their] profits directly towards the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Movement.” The goal of Her Braids is to raise “funds and awareness while educating people through traditional beadworking workshops.”

She also started Pow Wow Pitch, “which offers Indigenous entrepreneurs business support” in a style similar to Dragon’s Den.

Additional to that is her incredible children’s book, Nibi’s Water Song, which was illustrated by Chippewa and Potawatomi Chief Lady Bird, an incredibly talented illustrator and artist.

Nibi's Water Song by Sunshine Tenasco

Nibi's Water Song by Sunshine Tenasco (Anishinabeg), illustrated by Chief Lady Bird (Chippewa & Potawatomi)

"Nibi is an Indigenous girl on the search for clean water to drink. Though she is faced with repeated obstacles, Nibi's joyful and determined energy become a catalyst for change and action as her community, and in widening circles, the country and government rally around her to make clean drinking water available for all. There is a strong underlying message that even when a problem seems too large to face, every bit that everyone does helps. And inaction is not an option."


Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki)

Filmmaker, Activist, Singer, Educator

Alanis Obomsawin has worked with the National Film Board of Canada since 1967, and has released “more than 50 films and counting – including landmark documentaries.” In 2019, she was named a “Companion of the Order of Canada,” and is also “a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec.” She is known for embracing “the power of film as a tool for social justice” in films like Incident at Restigouche (1984), Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993), Trick or Treaty? (2014) and many other documentary films. You can check out some of her works available in our collection.

Hi-Ho Mistahey! by Alanis Obomsawin

Hi-Ho Mistahey! directed by Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki)

"In this feature-length documentary, Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Shannen’s Dream, a national campaign to provide equitable access to education in safe and suitable schools for First Nations children. Strong participation in this initiative eventually brings Shannen's Dream all the way to the United Nations in Geneva." Summary is from the National Film Board of Canada.


Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwaka’wakw)

Lawyer, Politician, Advocate, Author

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould was “the first Indigenous person to serve” as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. She also served “as the Minister of Veterans Affairs of Canada” until she resigned from the Liberal Government. She resigned and left the Liberal Party cabinet due to the Prime Minister’s pressure “to step in and resolve the corruption and fraud case against SNC-Lavalin Group.”

She was re-elected to Parliament in 2019 as an Independent, representing Vancouver-Granville.

She also released her book From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada in 2019. She will also be releasing a memoir in Fall 2021 called "'Indian' in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power".

From Where I Stand by Jody Wilson-Raybould

From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada by Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwaka’wakw)

"From Where I Stand is a timely, forthright, and optimistic book for all Canadians. Drawn from speeches made over a ten-year period both at home and abroad, Jody Wilson-Raybould reveals why true reconciliation will occur only when Canada moves beyond denial, recognizes Indigenous Rights, and replaces the Indian Act. We have the solutions. Now is the time to end the legacy of colonialism and replace it with a future built on foundations of trust, cooperation, and Indigenous self-government."



Tanya Tagaq (Inuk)

Author, Singer

Tanya Tagaq is an award-winning solo throat-singing musician. Her music career began after being asked to tour with Björk in 2004. She has released five throat singing albums, all of which have been nominated or won awards, including the Polaris Music Prize in 2014 and Aboriginal Album of the Year at the Juno Awards in 2015. Her albums are “political … challenging … spine tingling … powerful.” Her 2016 album Retribution “was received with near universal acclaim.” In 2018, she released Split Tooth, her first novel crossed with memoir, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is also a Member of the Order of Canada, and is “a vocal supporter of traditional Inuit sealing.”

You can check out her albums and book in our collection.

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

"Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget."



To celebrate this International Women's Day, be sure to check out one of their books or documentaries, attend Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs on March 10, and learn more about these Indigenous women and the many others whom I couldn’t share about today. After all, we should all uplift each other.


Update on March 22, 2021: fixed a typo, and included a sentence about the upcoming release of Raybould's memoir.