I saw the colourful mural at 560 Sargent Ave. and it piqued my curiosity.
It was a bright mural showing Nellie McClung on the front with six white women seated next to her. Then I read the white sign on top of the building: “Celebrating 100 years since women gained the right to vote in Manitoba. “.
Being an Indigenous woman, I realized the sign wasn’t accurate as it gave an incorrect version of history. My grandmother was not able to vote and my mom never voted in her lifetime. In fact, it’s been just over 50 years since Indigenous women were able to vote in Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia clearly states the timeline of this history:
“1934 Dominion Franchise Act explicitly denied the franchise to Status Indians on reserves and to Inuit in the north. Until 1951, the Indian Act also barred Status Indian women from voting for or holding office in their bands”.
It wasn’t until 1960 when the Federal Government extended the right to vote for all Indigenous people. Even then, Indigenous women struggled for the same rights that white women had at the ballot box.
The suffrage movement largely excluded Indigenous women and very little was done by women leaders to include their Indigenous sisters in this fight. So, the mural had that part correct in depicting no Indigenous women as suffragettes as there were none in the movement.
I am fully aware of the struggle Indigenous women faced in extending their rights to vote. My mom had gained the right to vote in her lifetime, but never cast a ballot in either a provincial or federal vote.
I highly value my right to vote as an Indigenous woman and make full use of that right when it comes to voting at election times. By doing so, I am acknowledging and honoring the right that the Indigenous women’s movement fought so hard to gain.
So, it does bother me to see a sign that declares women got the right to vote in the last 100 years. It demeans the struggle of Indigenous women who fought to gain the same rights as white women; it erases their valued part in changing Canadian history for all Indigenous people. The sign needs to be modified to include their struggle in the political arena.
Part of reconciliation is knowing the accurate history in Canada, and not the one written in our history books.