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Doreen Spence

"We must recognize that there was a North American holocaust of native people. We ask ourselves, where do we go now? We must build bridges, bridges to cover the gaps among all nations."

Doreen Spence has dedicated the majority of her life to volunteering in native and nonnative communities with a consistent emphasis on aboriginal issues and concerns. Her work in the field of human rights and the protection of fundamental freedoms for her people is unsurpassed. She is active in many organizations, including the Alberta Civil Liberties Association and the Committee Against Racism. Doreen is founder and serves as the executive director of the Canadian Indigenous Women's Resource Institute.

Like many effective activists, Doreen works tirelessly to advocate for the rights of those she serves. She communicates her vision through the usual means–passionate speeches, face-to-face negotiations, grassroots community building, among other vehicles. But unlike other activists, Doreen shares with her audiences a unique set of cultural activities that underscore the fight to which she has dedicated her life–uplifting and empowering indigenous people, especially women. It is not uncommon for Doreen to incorporate in her presentations songs, dances, chants, traditional knowledge, medicinal healing, and storytelling by indigenous women themselves. And she encourages her audience to leave their seats and participate. One participant, initially unfamiliar with the culture, was amazed by its impact on her during an event led by Doreen: "I joined in, ate dried chokecherries, danced the round dance, made and wore my own parfleche (pouch), participated in the smudge (medicinal healing) ceremony, drum-danced as the Inuit do, throat sang, and performed a Greenlandic mask dance." Doreen says: "My soul has been touched by women's stories of racism, exclusion, prostitution, and death. I have laughed with the comics, cried with the truth tellers, and I hope to continue my journey, joining with native women and building our future together."

Canadian Indigenous Women's Resource Institute (Ciwri) Plains Indian Cultural Survival School Society Alberta Civil Liberties Association

Northern America | Canada