From: Goulais, Bob
Sent: Sunday, September 24, 2006 1:48 PM
To: ‘Rainey Gaywish’
Subject: Women on their Moon Time (Lodge-wide)
Attached, below, is a controversial (unsigned) letter to the editor that appears in the September 2006 edition of the Anishinabek News. Although I was disappointed in such a harsh, ignorant perspective on the issues of “women on their moontime” – it’s certainly not my place to educate the writer or our readers on women’s teachings and rationale. However, it would be wonderful to see our kwewag, teachers and Elders offer their informed opinion on the subject.
The more letters the better, as far as I’m concerned.Please send your Letter to: Maurice Switzer, Editor, Anishinabek News at: email@example.com. Remember, the opinions expressed in all published letters are those of the writer and not of the newspaper or our editor.Mi iw,Bob Goulais
Chief of Staff &
Executive Assistant to the Grand Council ChiefAnishinabek Nation – Union of Ontario Indians
Head Office: Nipissing First Nation
P.O. Box 711, North Bay, ON P1B 8J8
Ph. (705) 497-9127 Fx. (705) 497-9135 CELL: (705) 498-5250
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Excluding women on moon time
discrimination, maybe hate crime
Page 5, Letter to the EditorEditor:I think that many of the present-day native traditions, teachings and practices regarding women have crossed the line from just being offensive, into violations under the Charter of Human Rights and Hate crimes under the Criminal Code.Native women and girls are being subjected to ever-increasing amounts of degradation under the guise of so-called “native spiritual beliefs”. Here are some examples of these practices:
women and girls asked at open, public ceremony (not closed private ceremony) if they are on their moon time (menstrual cycle) and being denied entry if they are;
“traditional, spiritual leaders” announcing at public gatherings that “ women on their time” are not to go in or near their sweat lodge or it would cause the conductor to go blind, be paralyzed, or become very sick or dizzy;
open, public graduation ceremonies (school and treatment program graduations) where the graduate who is supposed to be the one being honoured is not allowed to be present in the room for most or all of the ceremony if she is “on her time”;
women and girls being required to wear skirts and prohibited from sitting cross-legged at public ceremony or public gatherings, or required to sit for hours in positions that are the most hurtful or harmful to their backs;
children being taught in the school that women and girls are not allowed to dance at a pow-wow if they are “on their time”;
teachings that if women or girls “on their time” touch feast food it will cause people eating that food to become very sick;
passing around the smudge at a public gathering and prohibiting a women or girl from smudging if they are “on their time”, or asking that women or girls “on their time” step outside the circle or room altogether;
passing around an eagle feather or fan at a public gathering and prohibiting a women or girl who is “on her time” from touching it;
prohibiting women or girls at any time from sitting around or playing the ‘big drum”;
excluding women and girls from all ceremony or gatherings if they are “on their time”;
saying that women and girls “who are on their time” should not be allowed to go into an all-purpose, publicly-funded building, where ceremony is held, even if ceremony is not being held there at the time.
How can anyone not see this as discrimination based on sex, which is a clear violation of the Human Rights Code? The Supreme Court of Canada defines hatred in its Hate Crime definition as: “an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill-treatment on the basis of group affiliation.”By that definition, I believe that the above-mentioned teachings and practices are “hate crimes”.Most people will not identify these practices as “hate crimes” because the people who are practicing and promoting this often “love and care about” the women and girls that are being subjected to this. I am sure that many of the slave owners loved and cared about their slaves, but that did not make slavery any less of a hate crime.I have witnessed and experienced the most beautiful, amazing, and miraculous healing and recovery take place through native ceremonies.
There are things that can be done so that these practices do not violate the rights and freedoms of women:
confine the practice of excluding women who are on their menstrual cycle to closed, private ceremony;
organizations who bring in “traditional spiritual leaders” who express oppressive teachings about women have an obligation to make it known that the beliefs expressed by this individual are not representative of all native people;
the onus should be on the people who practice these beliefs to protect their own sacred items. If you believe that harm will be brought to your sacred items by the presence of a woman on her time, then don’t bring them out to a public function where women are going to be. If you don’t want your feather or fan touched by a woman on her time, then don’t pass it out at a function where there are women;
be up-front and in the open with everyone. If in fact all women and girls who are on their menstral cycle are not allowed to dance in the pow-wow then you have an obligation to let the public and the funders know that. This way the public and the funders can decide ahead of time if this is something that they want to support. (I can just imagine what would happen if the posters and program for the Skydome Pow-Wow said “women and girls on their menstrual cycle are not allowed to dance.)
- It is not food that is handled by women on their time that causes sickness – it is the belief itself that causes the sickness. From the time of planting to processing, that food has likely been handled by dozens of women who are on the menstrual cycle. When people are bringing feast foods from restaurants how do they know the cooks and restaurant staff weren’t “on their time?”
I hope that we can find good, healthy ways of addressing these problems because the dignity and respect of all of our people is well worth standing up and speaking up for.
Name withheld by request.