Heartwaters-Caretaker Woman, a sculpture by Fond du Lac Ojibwe artist Jeff Savage, highlights the role of Ojibwe women as caretakers of the water. Photo: AdolfGalland

Mary Annette Pember: Ojibwe women are the ones who hold everything together

From keeping ceremonies alive to helping negotiate treaties, Ojibwe women remain at the forefront of their communities. Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, reflects on the resilience of Ojibwe women:
Ojibwe culture is not matriarchal in the anthropological sense. We trace our clan affiliation through our fathers rather than our mothers. Traditionally our hereditary chiefs have been men.

Hearing these facts, an outsider might get the idea that Ojibwe women are not in the forefront of our communities. Even the thought of expressing such a notion to the strong Ojibwe women in my immediate family makes me shiver a bit with fear.

My mother Bernice and my famous Aunty Pat were tiny ladies, barely 5 feet tall, but had the ability to make even the biggest, toughest male a little weak in the knees with fright once they began dressing them down for failing to meet their duties.

When I think of Aunty Pat, I see her sitting in her easy chair in the cramped living room of her little HUD home, where she held court. At first glance, one could mistake her for a child sitting in that enormous chair. But when she was riled, she had a way of drawing herself up and rooting her little rear end into that chair that made you want to run for cover.

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: The Power of Ojibwe Women (Indian Country Media Network 8/4)