Government of Canada honours Indigenous rights advocate with historic designation
From: Parks Canada
Mid-19th century Mississauga woman, Nahnebahwequay, recognized as a person of national historic significance.
July 21, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Parks Canada Agency
Nahnebahwequay (1824-1865) was a Mississauga advocate who fought against colonial policies that drove Indigenous people from their lands. Recognized for her oratory skills, she travelled and advocated for First Nations land and women’s rights, eventually taking her appeal directly to Queen Victoria.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, announced the designation of Nahnebahwequay as a person of national historic significance under the National Program of Historical Commemoration.
Nahnebahwequay (“Nahnee”) was born on the Credit River flats to Myawekeshigoqua (Mary or Polly) of the Otter clan and Tyatiquob (Bunch Sunegoo) of the Eagle clan, and grew up at the Credit Mission. As a child, Nahnebahwequay travelled to England with Kahkewaquonaby (also known as Reverend Peter Jones), who petitioned the Crown for First Nations land rights. In the late 1850s, she became involved in a land dispute between the Indian Department and Anishinaabe at Nawash on the Saugeen Peninsula, which led to her being elected by community leaders to travel to England to present their case directly to Queen Victoria. On the way, she established international support through public lectures. In 1860, she met with the Queen, who did not act on her request.
Upon Nahnebahwequay’s return to Canada, she continued to speak out against colonial land policies, and pushed back against additional legal restrictions placed on Indigenous women. Her experience is representative of the efforts of Indigenous leaders and activists to gain support and present their grievances to the Crown during the mid-Victorian era.
National historic designations encourage us to acknowledge the experiences, struggles, and conflict that have shaped Canada, and help us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society for today and future generations. The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes nationally significant persons, places, and events as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and awareness of Canada’s rich and complex heritage.
The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a nationally significant person, site or historical event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.
“Nahnebahwequay was a lifelong champion of Indigenous land rights at a time when Indigenous peoples were forcibly removed and dispossessed from their lands. Her many accomplishments are all the more remarkable given that she was an Indigenous woman who challenged colonial land policies as well as conceptions of women during her era. Nahnebawequay means ‘Upright Woman’ in the Ojibwe language. On behalf of the Government of Canada, it is my honour to commemorate the national historic significance of this Mississauga advocate who so embodied her name and dignified her cause.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“I was impressed by the dignity and the resolve of ‘Nahnee’ as she worked to resolve her grievances and that of her people. Largely unknown or forgotten by the people of our First Nation, she emerges from our past as an exemplary person. She teaches lessons about perseverance, resilience, and integrity as she confronts the government of the day; she challenges stereotypes regarding women and First Nations that people held in the past and that are existent to this day. In the history of our First Nation, she is the most prominent Indigenous female to come down to us from the past. It is not until the late 20th century and the early 21st century that female leaders surface prominently in the governance of our First Nation. Hopefully, the example of Nahnee and her commitment to justice will inspire others, from within our First Nation and elsewhere, to work on behalf of Indigenous rights.”
Darin P. Wybenga,
Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Traditional Knowledge and Land Use Coordinator
- The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation and renewed relationships with Indigenous peoples, based on a recognition of rights, respect, collaboration, and partnership. Collaborating with numerous Indigenous groups across Canada, Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples are partners in conserving natural and cultural heritage and sharing the stories of these treasured places.
- Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a new, comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.
- Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada regarding the designation of places, persons and events of national historic significance under the National Program of Historical Commemoration.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Parks Canada Agency
Darin P. Wybenga
Traditional Knowledge and Land Use Coordinator
Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation