We are collectively living here, amongst our ancestors and those yet to come. If we can allow our individual and collective gifts to shine, we will be a more harmonious society.
Lynda Fox Trudeau is an Anishinaabe-Odawa woman from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory located on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. A graduate of Coady’s Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program (2015), she is the General Manager for the Debajehmujig Theatre Group; Debajehmujig is an Ojibwe/Cree word meaning “storytellers” in English.
“We are a multi-arts not-for-profit organization developed to showcase professional works which promote and create awareness of Indigenous culture through art,” Lynda explains. “Our organization is a host to theatrical performance and visual art, as well as wardrobe design, music and audio art, traditional knowledge, land-based sustainability, and graphic design. We also have an animation suite, audio visual capabilities, a seed bank, gardens, a store, and an institution of training for arts animation.”
Wiikwemkoong is home to 8,343 registered members of the Three Fires Confederacy of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations; 3,284 of whom live on reserve. The Anishinaabe Chi Naaknigewin forms the traditional government of the Anishinabek Nation and in part states, “We have retained these lands for future generations so that they continue to be Anishinaabe. We continue to govern the water, air, and lands, including the islands, as our ancestors have since time immemorial.”
As a part of the Wiikwemkoong community, Lynda and the Debajehmujig Theatre Group play an important role in amplifying Indigenous art and culture, and advocating for inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in professional arts in Canada.
“I can recall times when historically, we as Indigenous people, weren’t valued,” Lynda says. “We were identified as burdens on society. The feeling about Indigenous people growing up didn’t reflect the real contributions that Indigenous people have made to society.”
For example, The Massey Report which was published in 1951 and still shapes much of Canada’s arts policy “excludes the value that Indigenous arts provides,” she explains.
As a contributor to the Indigenous Trainers Caucus, Lynda and Debajehmujig are working with the Government of Canada to establish measures which are reflective of Indigenous artistry, and based on standards set by Indigenous artists and arts workers.
“The arts provide an integral contribution to society,” Lynda says. “Artists mimic the greatest Creator, and the creation process is deeply rooted in values, principles, and tradition.”
I recall returning home [from Coady Institute] and feeling connected with my spirit. I felt very proud of what and who I am. I realized if I could feel like this while being with other women – I’ve got to work toward this opportunity so this feeling can be felt by others, and not just me.
As General Manager, Lynda supports Indigenous artists by providing an opportunity to demonstrate their gifts and experiences, ensuring they have the necessary tools, time, and space for creation.
“We strive for artistic excellence and to create awareness through our storytelling.”
Lynda says that learning about her family members’ experiences drives her to work toward increasing awareness of the value of Indigenous knowledge through storytelling.
“I’m motivated by what I’ve learned, I’ve un-learned, and learned,” she says.
Lynda is also motivated by her time at Coady Institute.
“I recall returning home and feeling connected with my spirit,” Lynda reflects. “I felt very proud of what and who I am. I realized if I could feel like this while being with other women – I’ve got to work toward this opportunity so this feeling can be felt by others, and not just me.”
Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership
On June 29, Lynda was one of 11 Indigenous women leaders who released a joint statement in support of Coady’s Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership campaign that launched with a $200,000 donation from Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, and later a matching donation by the Jeannine Deveau Education Equity Endowment Fund.
The statement in part reads, “We have a shared vision for raising the profile of Indigenous women’s leadership and voices in Canada and globally. We know that magic happens when women lift each other up and share their Indigenous knowledge, perspectives, cultures, and traditions.”
On July 7, Coady announced the campaign had raised approximately $650,000 of its $1,000,000 goal.
“It’s incredible what people can do when they are provided with the opportunity to,” Lynda says of the incoming support. “It’s money which will help – but the money will be multiplied by the impacts and ripple effects upon society.”
Lynda adds that one of the most impactful ways that we can support Indigenous women’s leadership is by nurturing and cultivating the will.
“[We must be] willing to learn history, willing to work together, willing to challenge perceptions, willing to address conflict in thought and behaviour, and willing to expand upon the norms,” Lynda explains.
“We are collectively living here, amongst our ancestors and those yet to come. If we can allow our individual and collective gifts to shine, we will be a more harmonious society.”
Join the Circle of Abundance by donating today!