One Year Into COVID-19 It’s not every day that you start a new job and then immediately have to close down the office indefinitely and send everyone home amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic. But that was my whirlwind experience when I joined YWCA Edmonton as our new CEO one year ago today. I hadn’t even met most of our staff yet before making that difficult decision after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mandated an historic stay-at-home order
April 12, 2021 – 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
The History and Experience of Indigenous Women Running for Office in Alberta
Katherine Swampy is a mother of five biological children, but together with her husband, Armand Swampy, have raised 11 children. She is a Band Councillor for the Samson Cree Nation(SCN). She has also ran to become a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and Member of Parliament for Canada. Katherine holds the following positions: the Peace Hills Trust Board of Directors, Chairwoman of Maskwacis Cultural College Board of Directors, Nipisihkopahk Iyiniwisiwin Board of Trustees, Member of the Consultation Committee, member of the SCN Executive Committee, Chairwoman of the Justice Pillar of SCN, Women’s Advisory Board, and NDP Rural Caucus Executive.
Katherine also dances and teaches young girls the Jingle Dress Dance and how to sew traditional regalia. She also counsels suicidal youth in her community. Katherine has also been fighting for First Nations Rights since she was as young as eleven years old, and is still an activist for women’s rights, environment, LGBTQ2S+, MMIWG and Indigenous rights.
Katherine holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in economics and a minor in political studies, a Masters of Public Policy Administration, and is currently studying her PhD in Public Policy Administration.
Elder Taz Augustine
Taz Augustine is a descendant of the Original People of this land now known as Canada. As an Advocate for the Protection and Inclusion of Indigenous Spirituality she has worked as Indigenous Spiritual Counsellor, she has provided psycho-educational healing ceremonies, workshops, training within communities, Corrections, Institutions for more than 25 years. Her expertise includes Genocide Awareness & Affects, Systemic Racism, Inter-generational Trauma, PTSD, event planning and peaceful activism. She is also a published writer, an international public speaker and inspiring Keynote Speaker. Her past endeavours include organizing rallies for Idle No More with an attendance of over five thousand people. In 2013 she ran for a position of City Councillor for Ward 6 and in 2017 , she was the first Indigenous woman to be a Mayoral Candidate for the City of Edmonton. A voice for people, a light in a time of darkness…grace, dignity, truth and compassion motivate her to continue in her endeavour to create a better world for all People especially children, and those yet to be born. A Leader, A Voice… of Truth.
Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes is a member of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, Treaty Six, and resides in Calgary, Treaty 7, Alberta.
Cheryle earned a BA in Communications and a BA in Canadian “Native” Studies from the University of Calgary. She has been an Indigenous activist within Calgary and area for the past decade, marching, singing and drumming for women, MMIWG2S, Indigenous justice, championing the environment, and speaking up for those who cannot.
Cheryle retired from the Native Centre at the University of Calgary, and was the former Leader of the Green Party of Alberta (2018-2019). She provides service as a Traditional Knowledge Keeper, sharing Indigenous protocol, Territorial Acknowledgements, prayers and ceremony (upon request). Cheryle is mother of two, “Kokum” (grandmother) to two beautiful grandsons and step-kokum to two beautiful twin granddaughters.
Gabrielle Blatz is a first-term City Councillor in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. In addition to being a city councillor, she graduated in 2015 from Red Deer College from the Medical Laboratory Assistant program. Since then, she has worked at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre, Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre, as well as the Centennial Centre for Brain Injury and Mental Health. Her love for community and public service started in 2017, when Gabrielle and a group of friends started a volunteer group called Sequoia Roots Movement. They ran food and sock drives, community clean ups, and donated monthly as a group to various charities. Her political career began in 2019, when a friend gave her a heads-up that a by-election was being held in Wetaskiwin. He asked if I was planning on running, and she immediately said no. “In my mind were the anxious thoughts that I’m sure many other women have had when a leadership opportunity comes up. For us ladies, the glass ceiling seems impossible to shatter by ourselves,” she recalls. “I was 23 years old at the time, and we had no other women on city council after two had stepped down. After speaking with friends and family, I called my friend back, and said, ‘Let’s do this.’” Running for city council was an incredible journey for Blatz. A quote that was a major driver in her campaign was, “You can’t be what you can’t see”. She wanted young, Indigenous women and girls everywhere to see that it can be done. She also wanted to spark positive change and growth in her community with fresh eyes and ideas. Wetaskiwin is Gabrielle’s hometown. As a Métis woman, living in a city that has deep roots in Indigenous culture and history gives her pride in her heritage. During her campaign, she got a lot of my strength and encouragement from her ancestral history of game-changers and history makers. Her ancestry includes her great-great-great grandfathers Chief Michel Calihoo and Chief Pacheeto Tanner, who signed Treaty 1 and Treaty 6. She also descends from Gabriel Dumont, to whom she owes her first name. He helped lead the Red River Rebellion along side Louis Riel. Another relative is Audrey Poitras, the first-ever female president of Métis Nation of Alberta. Gabrielle is hoping to continue the line of strong leaders in her family, and bring honour to her ancestors, as well as the future generations of female powerhouses that she hopes to inspire.
ABOUT THE EVENT
Join the Searching For Izena Project on April 12 when we host a special panel discussion called: Ogama Eskwewak: The History and Experience of Indigenous Women Running for Office in Alberta. Ogama Eskwewak means ‘Boss Women’ in Cree. The event moderator is Edmonton City Councillor Aaron Paquette.
During the panel discussion, you will hear from Indigenous women who have both won and lost at the ballot box in Alberta and what drove them to seek public service. You will also hear about the challenges they faced and their thoughts on how we can elect more Indigenous women to different decision-making bodies across the province. In total, only about six Indigenous women have served on municipal councils across the province. In Edmonton, three Indigenous women have run for council. None have been successful – yet!
As a lifelong Edmontonian and a parent raising his family in Ward 4, Councillor Paquette is an advocate for building strong and healthy communities.
Aaron’s work is shaped by his passion for community building and common-sense decision making. Aaron works hard for good jobs and a thriving economy, and cares about community safety and recreation spaces for families. He works for responsible budgeting and smart planning, and is making sure Edmontonians have good and fair options for getting around their city.
Councillor Paquette has sponsored the Council Initiative on Food and Agribusiness Diversification, and has also taken a leadership role working on the Child-Friendly Edmonton, End Poverty Edmonton, Multiculturalism, Literacy, and Urban Isolation/Mental Health Initiatives.
Prior to his election to Council, Aaron owned a thriving small business and worked as an award-winning Indigenous artist and author.