Bolstering sisterhood

The Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle has been supporting women for 16 years

Well after many of her peers have settled into retirement, Adeline Webber continues to put in long hours volunteering as Vice President of the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, an organization she founded after a friend mentioned that she would need a retirement project. Sixteen years later, along with a strong and resilient board of directors, and two staffers Winnie Peterson and Sarah Cardinal, the non-profit organization’s mission is to provide access to healing and learning through culturally rich programs and to influence positive change in the lives of Whitehorse’s Aboriginal women.

A member of the Teslin Tlingit First Nation, Webber and her siblings were sent to residential school at young ages, with brothers going to different communities, while the sisters remained together at the Whitehorse Baptism Mission School. Over the years, survivors of the residential school system would gather together for healing and connection and the conversation would often turn to the hope that someone would gather stories and photographs from their shared experience.

This need was identified by the women’s circle and they took on the publication of Finding Our Faces, an over 100-page book of photos and stories documenting the residential school system in Whitehorse. Webber says it documents her history for her own children and grandchildren, and has become a resource for Yukon’s grade five education curriculum. For this, and other work in implementing Yukon land claims and Final Agreements, as well as advocating for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Webber is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“It is my hope that through my leadership and volunteer work over the years, I have been able to strengthen, revive and inspire Aboriginal women and girls to live their lives to the fullest and take their rightful place in their communities, Yukon and Canada”, she said.

Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle board member Jayla Rousseau-Thomas shares the Yukon Sisters in Spirit book

The women’s circle began as a way to provide a voice, cultural support, and programming for urban First Nations women living away from their home and communities, but over the years it has grown to partner with multiple organizations. They served as co-chair of the Yukon Advisory Council for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), part of a National Inquiry that recently released its Final Report. It contains 231 Calls for Justice and can be found at  Board secretary and treasurer Jerry Soltani attended the MMIWG National Inquiry closing ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec, and the group is now working with the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society and Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council to host a closing ceremony for local families.

The group’s ongoing goal is to continue to build membership, currently 37, by removing barriers to access to their programming, so that they can serve a broader scope of ages and walks of life. Childcare and meals are often provided for participants free of charge. They also keep an eye towards the future with their staff capacity building initiative and their dream of opening a centre where Aboriginal women can connect, create and learn together. Recent events hosted by the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle include workshops on drum-making, quilling and sewing, and hosting speakers on topics like resilience, healing and reconciliation.

Board member Jayla Rousseau-Thomas said “It is an honour and privilege to drive meaningful, low barrier cultural programming, including projects to honour our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.”

Find out more about upcoming opportunities by checking or  liking their Facebook page. Additional Board members of the Women’s Circle include Krista Reid, President,  Ingrid Isaac, director, and Kirsten Maides, director.

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