For generations, industrialized societies have subjected tribal women and their communities to genocidal violence, slavery and racism in order to steal their lands, resources and labor.
On International Women’s Day, Survival International’s photographic gallery portrays not only the many tragedies that tribal women have endured, but also profiles some of the courageous and inspiring indigenous women, both past and present, who have fought – and fight on – for their lands, their ways of life and their fundamental human rights.
Elizabeth ‘Tshaukuesh’ Penashue is an 84 year old Innu woman from Sheshatshiu in Labrador. For many years she has led a spring-time walk through the local Mealy Mountains, with the aim of reconnecting the younger Innu generation with the lands they have lived on for nearly 8,000 years.
I don’t want to see my children lose everything. I don’t want them to lose their Innu identity, culture and life, she told a Survival International researcher. Before I’m gone, I have to teach the children. If nobody teaches our children, what will they think when they grow up? Will they think ‘I’m not Innu, I’m a white person’?
It is important to know who you are. I am Innu. The country is my life. I’m proud that I was born in a tent. No nurse, no doctor. My father helped my mother give birth.
When I walk into the country, I feel like I’m going home, into my own place. The Innu place.
Elisabeth began her 13th – and final – walk in February 2014. Before she set out, however, she discovered that she has been denied access to ancestral Innu land around Muskrat Falls by energy company Nalcor corporation, which is constructing a hydroelectric mega-project in the area.
Picture © Elizabeth Penashue