Aboriginal Women's Leadership Circle

Congratulations to the winners of our Young Aboriginal Women Creative Essay Contest

Grand prize winners awarded a trip to attend Women's Worlds 2011:

Tanis Desjarlais, 22 (First Nations) : "Caught between worlds"
Hayley Moody, 19 (Métis) : "Where are your women?"
Naiomie Akavak, 24 (Inuk) :"What does Aboriginal women's leadership mean to me"

Desjarlais is a First Nations filmmaker whose piece "Caught between worlds" begins as a somber exploration of being an urban Cree struggling with sobriety. Disconnected from her traditions, she awakens to realize that the knowledge still exists and that "[v]isual art, media art, being honest and real, in my opinion, can and will heal the Indigenous People of Canada." Desjarlais lives in Toronto, originally from Regina.

Moody, an undergraduate at McMaster University in Hamilton, won for a moving speech she penned that firmly argues "[w]omen's Aboriginal leadership is about working together - all women working together - to create awareness and change in our globalized world. It's about learning from one another's stories and having the empowerment to change existing boundaries. It's about joining together."

Akavak, living with cerebral palsy, writes that "[e]ven though I struggle every day to speak, I want to be a voice for others to learn from. I want to send out a message that I care and that together we can make Nunavut safe for everyone." She sees her participation in Women's Worlds 2011 as an opportunity to learn from other strong women and continue to work toward becoming a leader in her own right so that she can help the people in Nunavut take a stand against violence toward women and children. Akavak resides in Iqaluit.

The seven runners up are:

Josephine O'Brien (First Nations) : "What Aboriginal women's leadership means to me" (essay)

Natasha Kanape Fontaine (Innu): "Regalia", "La Petite Filleet la Femme", "Menashkuat", "Pas-de-l'Ours" (visual art)

Kristen Bos (Métis): "Blossoming Leadership" (essay)

Kailey Arreak (Inuk): "What does Aboriginal Leadership mean to me?" (essay)

Hanako Nagao (Métis): "Drum Walk" (photo)

Monique Auger (Métis): "Exemplifying the Power of Leadership among Indigenous Women: Sophia Thomas, an Extraordinary Woman" (essay)

Naomi Sayers (First Nations):"Lead-HER-ship" (essay)


February 2011


Calling all Young Aboriginal Women across Canada ages 16 to 29 -- do you want to be part of one of the biggest gatherings of women in the world happening in Ottawa-Gatineau from 3-7 July?

The Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Circle invites young Aboriginal Women across Canada to submit their written, artistic, or otherwise creative submissions to attend Women’s Worlds 2011. We greatly value the participation of young Aboriginal women and would like to hear directly from YOU about why you want to be there.

10 winners in total will be selected:

3 grand winners to be awarded an honorarium of $1,500 (one young First Nation woman, one young Inuit woman and one young Métis woman) plus the opportunity to present their essay at Women’s Worlds 2011 + 7 winners to be awarded an honorarium of $1000

Who: Young Aboriginal Women (trans, Two-Spirit, gender non-conforming inclusive). First Nations, Métis, Inuit. status and non-status identified, ages 16-29

Deadline to submit: Friday 25 March 2011
Notification of acceptance: 4 April 2011

For more information about the Aboriginal Women's Circle, see below.

CONTEST GUIDELINES (available in Inuktitut in the downloadable pdf at the bottom of this screen)

With your submission please also provide covering letter or email which tells us in 300 words or less why you would want to attend Women’s Worlds 2011 and how you plan on using the experience of Women’s Worlds 2011 within your life, work, or community.


In 800 to 1200 words max, tell us what does Aboriginal women’s leadership mean to you?

Some additional guiding questions to help you (however do not feel limited to just these):

1) When you think about the word “leadership” what does this personally mean to you? “Leadership” does not necessarily mean being an elected official or winning awards – it means different things to different people. Talk about this and how you feel about it.

2) Do you know any strong Aboriginal women? Who are they? Why are they strong to you?


You may alternatively choose to answer the above by creating an artistic piece of your choosing that expresses how you feel. For example; visual art, photography, dance, video, theatre, etc. If you choose to do this, you can opt to submit the piece itself (if possible) by e-mail, taking a photograph, or sending it in the mail, or send us the link to your video if you choose this type of medium (preferably on youtube.com). A 200 to 400 word max description that references the piece and the two questions must accompany the artistic submission.

Submissions will be accepted in English, French, and Inuktitut. If you would like to submit in another Aboriginal language please let us know and we will do our best to ensure translation.

Email your written submission in a Word doc. attachment OR artistic submission by Friday March 25th to youngaboriginal@womensworlds.ca with your name, email address, phone number, age and Aboriginal identity (First Nations, Inuit, Metis status or non-status).

You can also send us your application by mail to:
Young Aboriginal Women’s Creative Essay Contest
Women’s Worlds 2011
55 Laurier Av. East , DMS 3192
Ottawa , Ontario, K1N 6N5

This award contest is in partnership with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network to ensure direct Aboriginal youth leadership and outreach.


Visit the Aboriginal Women's Leadership Circle on Facebook.


21 June 2010

Women's Worlds 2011 proudly introduces the

WW 2011 aspires to be a powerful celebration of voices and diversity. As Canada is host to this important event, the meaningful participation of Aboriginal women and the prominence of Indigenous women's issues are essential.

WW 2011 participants should come away with a deeper understanding of Aboriginal women and Indigenous women, and with a recognition of their immense knowledge and leadership as inspiration for a better world. This is why we identified the value of creating an Aboriginal Women's Leadership Circle, a volunteer advisory body comprised of Aboriginal [First Nations, Inuit, Métis] women.

Just as the event's content and program should challenge colonialism and neo-colonialism in its various forms, the internal organizing process should, too. We believe the non-tokenistic involvement of Aboriginal/Indigenous women is vital to feminist organizing and convening.


Working within an Aboriginal worldview, we will collaborate within WW 2011 to be respectful of all people and communities, their perspectives, and their potential contribution to this celebration of voices.

The Circle will advise on the 'who', 'what', and 'how' of recognizing and honouring Indigenous perspectives, experiences, knowledge, culture, and territory within WW 2011. We are here as an all-encompassing, over-arching body to ensure that voices across community, political, social, environmental, arts, and culture sectors and beyond are heard.


The Aboriginal Women's Leadership Circle will work collaboratively and provide leadership to all of WW 2011 to ensure Indigenous women's voices are included at every stage of planning and at the event.

The Circle recognizes the distinctive realities between First Nations, Métis, Inuit, as well as other Indigenous women throughout the world, and will encourage representation from across the globe as well as sharing of knowledge and experiences between generations.

The Circle will ensure the highlighting of Indigenous women's unique and disproportionate experience with globalization.

The Circle will support WW 2011's prioritization of inter-generational sharing and women with disAbilities, and ensure their relevancy to Aboriginal women.


Representing a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, disciplines, and Aboriginal ancestry, we are collectively committed to being an integral part of WW 2011.

Founding member Claudette Dumont-Smith of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation territory is a registered nurse who has worked at the local, regional and national levels on Aboriginal issues for the past 35 years and has held various positions including that of Commissioner on the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mary Sillett has been involved in Inuit/Aboriginal issues since 1976. Positions she has held include President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, President of Pauktuutit (Inuit Women's Association of Canada), and Commissioner on the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples.

Tina Keeper of Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba is an actor, producer, researcher, communicator, and former Member of Parliament.

Jessica Yee is a Two Spirit Indigenous feminist activist from the Mohawk nation. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network which works across North America in the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health by and for Indigenous youth.

Erin Konsmo is a young Métis from Red Deer, Alberta. Both a social justice entrepreneur and compassion activist, she is currently a community-based researcher for Aboriginal HIV/AIDS and works internationally with a variety of development organizations.

Alanis Obomsawin of the Abenaki Nation has created over 30 uncompromising documentaries with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) that chronicle the lives and concerns of First Nations people. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

For more information on the WW 2011 Aboriginal Women's Leadership Circle, please email circle@womensworlds.ca.


iniktut version of aboriginal circle text