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Women on the frontlines in Elsipogtog First Nation territory, protesting fracking in 2013.

Women Warriors: 9 More Standout Indigenous Female Leaders in Canada

David P. Ball

“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground,” advises a proverb commonly attributed to the Tsistsistas (Cheyenne). “Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.”

In the country today known as Canada, indigenous women have always been at the forefront of defending their lands and cultures—from the iconic 1990 standoff between Mohawk warriors and the Canadian army near Oka, Quebec to Elsipogtog First Nation's ongoing anti-fracking battle near Rexton, New Brunswick.

In the last Assembly of First Nations elections two years ago, an unprecedented number of Native women campaigned to lead the body representing 633 bands, and last week women's decades of campaigning for a national inquiry into missing and murdered women has hit Parliament once again.

On March 8, women around the world marked International Women's Day, and Indian Country Today Media Network celebrated five indigenous women leaders.

RELATED: Women Warriors: 5 Standout Indigenous Female Leaders in Canada

To keep the spirit alive during Women’s History Month, we bring you five more of the women leaders, artists and advocates who are at the forefront of change across Canada.

Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah McLean

One of the most energetic examples of indigenous women's leadership and vision is the Idle No More movement, which to this day continues to raise the alarm around the gutting of Canada's environmental laws, its relationship with aboriginal peoples, and the failure to uphold the country's historic treaties. Founded at the end of 2012 by four Saskatchewan women, the grassroots movement sparked a year of flash mobs, round dances, teach-ins, blockades and protests in every corner of Canada and even in other parts of the world, designed to bring attention to indigenous issues.

RELATED: Idle No More Rallies Sprout Across Canada, Invigorating Grassroots

The movement's Twitter hashtag was coined by another indigenous woman, Tanya Kappo. Last year Foreign Policy magazine listed the four co-founders on its list of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013,” citing the movement's demand that “Canada not leave its First Nations behind.”

RELATED: Idle No More Founders Make Foreign Policy Magazine's 'Leading Global Thinkers' List

Idle No More’s founders continue to educate and raise awareness today on environmental and other issues of concern to Indigenous Peoples in Canada.


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