Restoring the Balance

First Nations Women, Community, and Culture

Open Access PDF


First Nations peoples believe the eagle flies with a female wing and a male wing, showing the importance of balance between the feminine and the masculine in all aspects of individual and community experiences. Centuries of colonization, however, have devalued the traditional roles of First Nations women, causing a great gender imbalance that limits the abilities of men, women, and their communities in achieving self-actualization.Restoring the Balance brings to light the work First Nations women have performed, and continue to perform, in cultural continuity and community development. It illustrates the challenges and successes they have had in the areas of law, politics, education, community healing, language, and art, while suggesting significant options for sustained improvement of individual, family, and community well-being. Written by fifteen Aboriginal scholars, activists, and community leaders, Restoring the Balance combines life histories and biographical accounts with historical and critical analyses grounded in traditional thought and approaches. It is a powerful and important book.


“The collection’s great strength is its incredible tightness – authors often explore the same issues, histories, individuals, and legislations from a variety of angles, weaving together many different strands into a clear, compelling whole. The collection achieves the remarkable for an academic text – focusing on analysis and action, exploring problems and presenting solutions. All of the chapters are well written and engaging, and a handful – on trauma and resilience, Aboriginal women’s writings, cultural competence, and museum artifacts – are especially excellent.”

J.B. Edwards, University of Montana, Choice Magazine, September 2009

“This timely text, directed to policy-makers, educators and community members, presents a wide-ranging collection of papers all of which address the task of restoring gender balance in terms of both the representation of and the reality of First Nations women’s participation in various social contexts. Importantly it also documents some of the outstanding work women have been doing over the last several decades in this regard.”

Celia Haig-Brown, York University, Journal of the Society for Socialist Studies


Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title (2009)

About the Authors

Gail Guthrie Valaskakis was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Concordia University and was a leading authority on Aboriginal Media and Communication. She passed away in 2007.

Eric Guimond is an assistant director at the Strategic Research and Analysis Directorate at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Madeleine Dion Stout is a former nurse and founding director of the Centre of Aboriginal Education, Research, and Culture at Carleton University.

Other contributors: Kim Anderson, Jo-ann Archibald, Cleo Big Eagle, Yvonne Boyer, Marlene Brant Castellano, Viviane Gray, Gaye Hanson, Anita Olsen Harper, Emma Larocque, Mary Jane Norris, Sherry Farrell Racette, Cynthia C. Wesley-Esquimaux

Table of Contents

Theme 1: Historic Trauma Trauma to Resilience
Notes on Decolonization by Cynthia C. Wesley-Esquimaux
Demographic Conditions by Cleo Big Eagle and Eric Guimond
First Nations Women’s Contributions to Culture and Community, through Canadian Law by Yvonne Boyer

Theme 2: Intellectual and Social Movements
Leading by Action: Female Chiefs and the Political Landscape by Kim Anderson
The First Wave of Aboriginal Women Academics at Canadian Universities by Jo-ann Archibald
Reflections on Cultural Continuity Through Aboriginal Women’s Writings by Emma Larocque
Sisters in Spirit by Anita Harper

Theme 3: Health and Healing
Heart of the Nations: Women’s Contribution to Community Healing by Marlene Brant Castellano
A Relational Approach to Cultural Competence by Gaye Hanson

Theme 4: Arts, Culture and Language
Looking for Stories and Unbroken Threads: Museum Artifacts as Women’s History and Cultural Legacy by Sherry Farrell Racette
The Contribution of FN Women to the Preservation of their Culture through Language by MaryJane Norris
A Culture of Art: Profiles of Contemporary First Nations Women Artists by Viviane Gray