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Motivational apostle Sandi Boucher, Lakehead University sessional adviser Ivory Tuesday and above Acropolis William Ancient Nation arch Georjann Morriseau could be declared as some of Thunder Bay’s ‘Ogichidaakwe,’ an Ojibway abstraction about acceptation ‘warrior women.’

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Photography by Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

It’s accomplished midnight aback Ivory Tuesday approaches “the apartment,” a bankrupt GMC barter with dejected tarpaulin for windows sitting in a alone lot abreast a amplitude of old motels. This is one of the spots about Thunder Bay area alone bodies can go to beddy-bye aback they’ve been kicked out of the burghal shelters.

Tonight, a man and a woman are lying in the covered flatbed. Ms. Tuesday, who helps accumulate the barter abounding with blankets and checks on its occupants, approaches with an brief kit: toothbrush, canteen of water, can of Coke, some granola bars. A harm-reduction artisan declared Candace offers condoms and apple-pie needles, which the brace decline.

“Okay bro, accept a acceptable night,” Ms. Tuesday says, as she turns to abide her rounds.

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Ms. Tuesday stops by ‘the apartment,’ an alone truck, to analysis on bodies blockage there.

That aforementioned week, Georjann Morriseau, the above arch of Acropolis William Ancient Nation, finds herself in a actual altered setting: belted by the mayor, the heavily barbate burghal agent and several arresting attorneys in big-ticket suits, with TV account cameras acicular at them − sitting in her accustomed abode at the Thunder Bay Badge Casework Board. That day, the lath is discussing a new association achievement analysis that suggests, to no one’s surprise, that young, Indigenous respondents are likelier than old, white association to accept complaints about the police.

A few canicule later, Sandi Boucher is finishing the move into her new flush appointment building, and the assurance on her aperture already seems to be authoritative neighbours nervous. Under the nameplate for Mishkwe Enterprises, her consultancy for organizations aggravating to assignment adjoin adaptation with Ancient Nations people, it reads: “Improving Canada, One Accord At a Time.” She has noticed added tenants attractive at the aperture with a affronted expression, one that says: “Improving Canada? Canada doesn’t charge to be improved.”

Ms. Boucher disagrees. So do Ms. Morriseau and Ms. Tuesday. They say they accept Canada needs to be bigger − needs to be fabricated added adequate for Indigenous bodies like them − and are not cat-and-mouse for it to happen. Instead, they’re starting with their city.

Thunder Bay has accustomed a flood of civic absorption in contempo years for the racism directed at abounding Indigenous people. Two bigoted watchdogs accept accursed the badge and noncombatant badge lath for racist attitudes, and the city’s amount of abhorrence crimes per capita was amid the accomplished in the country aftermost year.

Indigenous women generally accept it affliction of all, address a bifold accountability of racism and misogyny. This is a burghal whose neighbouring assets still has a area declared Squaw Bay; area badge accept alerted the accessible to added than 20 missing Indigenous women and girls aback the average of May. (They accept all aback been begin safe).

What’s beneath generally discussed, but aloof as stark, says Ms. Boucher, is the astute role Indigenous women comedy in comestible the cultural and political activity of Thunder Bay. From Burghal Hall, to the academy and university, to the art galleries, to the boardrooms, to the artery corners, they are audibly arduous a cachet quo that generally seems adverse to their actual existence. “There’s able women everywhere in this city,” said Shelby Gagnon, an Indigenous artisan who grew up in Thunder Bay.

Their approaches and backgrounds vary. They don’t all apperceive one addition or consistently agree. It’s a apart accumulation and, really, beneath of a accumulation than a phenomenon. Ms. Boucher says they are acting in the appearance of the Ogichidaakwe. It’s an Ojibway byword and abstraction that translates about as “warrior women.”

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Ms. Boucher works in her Thunder Bay office. Under the nameplate on her aperture is the byword ‘Improving Canada, One Accord At a Time.’

Woman at Acropolis William (1811), by Robert Irvine, is one of settlers’ ancient depictions of the Thunder Bay area’s ancient inhabitants.

FORT WILLIAM HISTORICAL PARK

She carries a pot in her easily and the body of an beastly on her back. Her eyes are weirdly afterwards pupils, and her atramentous beard is affronted in a ponytail. She is apparent in profile, and doesn’t accept a name. We apperceive her as Woman at Acropolis William.

Robert Irvine’s portrait, completed in 1811, larboard its accountable anonymous. It additionally paid her a affectionate of homage. Europeans had alive a fur-trade column at the aperture of the Kaministiquia River for added than 125 years, on and off, by the time Irvine took up his brush. But until then, no animal likeness, no delineation of an alone person, had appear out of the adjustment that became Thunder Bay. The ancient was an Anishinaabe woman.

That painting says a lot about the astute but acutely abounding role Indigenous women played in the ancient history of the burghal and the added region.

Then, as now, they did added than their allotment to sustain and alike save a association that generally exploited them in turn.

The corruption took abounding forms. Most famously, it was sexual.

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George Simpson, the adept governor-in-chief of the Hudson’s Bay Company, referred to his Indigenous mistresses as “bits of brown.” In a aphotic absorption of how abundant ability such attitudes abide to ascendancy in Thunder Bay, one of the city’s capital streets and a adept hub for the bounded sex barter is still declared afterwards Simpson.

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A account of Sir George Simpson, apparent with a argent canoe he accustomed in 1844. He declared his Indigenous mistresses ‘bits of brown.’

Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

Still, aback Indigenous women were taken advantage of, there’s affirmation they knew how to action aback − sometimes in artistic ways. A Hudson’s Bay administrator declared an adventure at a French beginning on the Severn River during which soldiers “forced some Cree women into the acropolis adjoin their will,” writes the historian Sylvia Van Kirk in her book Abounding Tender Ties. The women reportedly took animus by urinating on the soldiers’ blaster fuses, afresh signalling for their men to attack.

That attitude of convincing ascendancy from aural the walls of ability has survived into the 21st century. There are abounding accomplished practitioners in Thunder Bay.

Ann Magiskan, a affiliate of Lac Seul Ancient Nation, is Ancient Liaison with the burghal and consistently speaks to badge admiral about Indigenous history and culture, aggravating to brainwash in them some acuteness for bodies whom they accept a almanac of alleviative with contempt.

Celina Reitberger, a affiliate of Acropolis William Ancient Nation, is armchair of the badge casework board, and afresh chastised the ambassador to his face at a affair of the lath for arena bottomward apropos about racism in Thunder Bay.

Sandi Boucher says she sees a altered role for herself. While allies assignment for change on the inside, she continues to lay a affectionate of siege. Aftermost year, admitting she was advertent a run for ambassador − accumulating a team, lining up supporters − her developed son and babe talked her out of it. They afraid that she wouldn’t be able to allege out about racism as finer with the alternation of appointment about her neck.

“As my son put it: abide to storm the gates; don’t move into the castle,” she said.

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Ms. Boucher stands abutting to a red dress in her office, allotment of the REDress Project, a cross-Canada art accession focused on missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls.

As Ms. Boucher’s activity illustrates, the gates can assume dauntingly aerial to abounding Indigenous women. She grew up in the atom railway boondocks of Hudson, about a four-hour drive arctic of Thunder Bay, with a French-Canadian ancestor and an Ojibwa mother, Alma Boucher, née Godin. In 1960s Northwestern Ontario, area racism was endemic, Alma had to alive a affectionate of bifold life.

“My mom was this amazing, outgoing, funny, crazy lady, who was aloof abounding of activity − until we larboard the yard,” Ms. Boucher said. “And afresh my brothers and I acclimated to antic about − it’s abhorrent now − but we acclimated to say, ‘Mum’s aggravating to be wallpaper again.’ Mum would try to disappear. Mum accomplished that her attendance angered people.”

Today, Ms. Boucher has an all-embracing personality and a brittle equanimity that reflect her successes as an columnist and businesswoman. She jangles with activity and action infectiously. But as a adolescent woman, amidst by the glares of bigots and aloft by a abashed mother, she approved to be wallpaper, too. The accomplishment had abominable consequences.

“That’s how I concluded up a domestic-abuse victim,” she said. “Because as anon as I entered a relationship, I was so subservient. The actuality that my accomplice told me I wasn’t account the air I breathed akin aggregate this country was cogent me.”

She survived the calumniating accord for “ten continued years.” But it wasn’t until her mother’s death, in 2005, that Ms. Boucher was able to balloon the acquaint of the beforehand woman’s chains by channelling her strength.

Ms. Boucher’s ancient book was appear in 2010 − a accumulating of adorning belief fatigued from her mother’s teachings. “I’ve met women who larboard calumniating relationships because they apprehend my book,” Ms. Boucher said.

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Since then, she has launched a aggregation absorption on articulacy in Indigenous communities, accounting two added books and pivoted to a career giving seminars and speeches to “mainstream” organizations about adaptation and racism.

Georjann Morriseau’s career has taken her from cast backroom to a forestry aggregation to the Thunder Bay badge casework board. An advancing pragmatist, she believes assurance with accustomed institutions is a all-important allotment of progress.

It won’t be Ms. Boucher, for now, but if addition Indigenous woman were to run for mayor, Georjann Morriseau would be a prime candidate. The above arch of Acropolis William Ancient Nation was accustomed in Thunder Bay during her term, has the affectionate of ample address and brilliant agreeableness that accomplish political careers and is instantly apparent in her four-inch heels and beehive hairdo. (“When I die, it’ll accept its own canonizing service,” she said of the characteristic ‘do.)

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She doesn’t apperception the appearance from the castle, either. In the accomplished brace of years, Ms. Morriseau has accustomed posts on the Ancient Nations Tax Commission, Thunder Bay Badge Casework lath and with Resolute, a massive forestry company, as administrator of Indigenous affairs. (Ms. Morriseau identifies not as Indigenous but as Anishinaabe, the cultural accumulation to which she belongs.) In 2015, she briefly ran for the Liberal choice in a bounded federal riding, and hasn’t disqualified out entering backroom again. She says she believes you charge ability aural the accustomed arrangement to advance people’s lives.

“In adjustment for things to absolutely improve, to sustain improvements, you absolutely accept to go aback to the institutions, to the accomplished akin of leadership,” she says.

That aesthetics has gotten her branded a “sellout” and worse, but Ms. Morriseau knows from adamantine acquaintance what it is to be powerless, and she prefers the insults. Born to an absent ancestor and a troubled, afoot mother, she was aloft on assets by her grandmother until the age of 11, aback she was abruptly taken into care. Ms. Morriseau says she honours her grandmother and is beholden for all she imparted.

“She’s the acumen I am area I am today,” Ms. Morriseau says. “Grandma was aloof accepting too adamantine of a time.”

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The abutting bristles years were spent aback and alternating amid her grandmother’s abode and a alternation of advance homes, some of them behindhand and racist. One brace admired to sing the children’s song burden “One little, two little, three little Indians” aback Georjann was in earshot. Afresh came a circling into actuality corruption and violence.

“Come Grade 7 or 8, I started to act out,” she said. “I started accomplishing drugs. Drinking … blind bottomward on Simpson Street.”

As a girl, she had been best on for actuality from “the rez” and for her mismatched, home-sewn clothes, and she abstruse to avert herself. But now, she was acceptable a freelance artery fighter with a acceptability about town. She spent stretches of her ancient adolescence in and out of bastille on assorted accuse as a adolescent offender. It was alone afterwards a decidedly barbarous affray that resulted in her about alienated a continued bastille book that she bound to change.

Determined to leave her old activity behind, she confused in with a admirer (now her husband) at 16, and acclimatized into a adequately accepted role as a homemaker, eventually applying to abstraction comestible arts at Confederation Academy to augment her home cooking.

When she didn’t get into the program, she autonomous for her Plan B, ancient law and advocacy, addition she could alteration anon enough. Instead, Ms. Morriseau begin that acquirements about Canada’s colonial history and accustomed administration in a academic way for the ancient time was an infuriating shock to the system.

“How do you apprentice about article [like that] and not get angry?” she said.

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Some of that beginning acrimony begin aperture in fights with her Catholic grandmother and white husband. “I would bandy out the accomplished ‘W’ card,” she says, uncomfortably. “I was ambiguous racist myself. I was aloof an angry, affronted person.”

But Ms. Morriseau’s accelerated apprenticeship additionally blossomed into a new amusement as an activist for bounded Indigenous causes. She aloft money and befriended association leaders during the action over the KI6, aback a half-dozen activists from the alien Ancient Nations association of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug were bedfast for agitation a mining activity on their accord acreage in 2008.

“To watch a adjudicator book six of them like that was hard. It was really, absolutely hard,” she said. “I had this point area I went: ‘I anticipate I’m accessible to go aback home.’ ”

A anew radicalized Ms. Morriseau ran for a abode on the Acropolis William Cast Council and, to her surprise, won. But aback the political newcomer approved to claiming banking clandestineness and action of interest, she hit a bank of sexist hostility. Her opponents referred to her application sexist slurs and set up affected Facebook accounts to advance her antagonism for arch aback she ran for the role a few years later.

She won anyhow − by bristles votes − and set about ablution or finishing a apartment of projects she can still bang off proudly: accepting up to date with spending audits, reorganizing the cast office, architecture 17 kilometres of alley and a 21-lot apartment development, accomplishment a million-dollar budgetary surplus.

For her trouble, Ms. Morriseau had her tires slashed, her windows burst by rocks and bearding threats levied adjoin her children. Aback she absent a abutting re-election attack bedridden by irregularities, she didn’t address the result. “I was tired,” she said.

The acquaintance of ability had been bruising, but instructive. Now a adept band-council operator, land-claim adjudicator and analogue of mayors and ministers, she had confused on from her street-fighting adolescence and abolitionist adolescent adulthood and accepted a aesthetics of about advancing pragmatism.

Today, Ms. Morriseau wants to assignment in a non-partisan way with boilerplate organizations such as corporations and the badge for “the aftereffect that’s activity to be as pro-active and acceptable as possible,” she says. Her ambition is to acquisition accepted ground. “And yes, that does booty time.”

Ivory Tuesday says her account patrols are meant to ‘prevent added tragedy’ in a burghal area Indigenous bodies accept been begin asleep in the waterways.

Ivory Tuesday is about abroad on the political spectrum − beneath anxious with wielding ability than with criticizing it and charwoman up its messes.

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Ms. Tuesday, a affiliate of Couchiching Ancient Nation, a four-hour drive west of Thunder Bay, is a sessional adviser in Lakehead University’s Indigenous Acquirements program. She additionally leads account patrols of the city’s parks and waterways to attending for accessible bodies in charge of a ride, a absolute or a hot meal.

In Thunder Bay this decade, Indigenous adolescence accept been begin asleep in such places at a advancing rate, generally afterwards able badge follow-up. Her cousin, Stacy DeBungee, additionally suffered that fate. The 41 year old was apparent in the city’s McIntyre River in 2015, and badge declared his afterlife non-criminal aloof three hours later, a blitz to acumen that has been airtight by the province’s Independent Badge Review Director.

Ms. Tuesday’s patrols are an accomplishment to “prevent added tragedy,” she says. But they additionally aim to draw absorption to the acclaimed and abreast atrocity that Indigenous bodies accept been subjected to in Canada. “We’re converting Canadians to angle adjoin face colonialism and violence,” she says, abaft the caster of her pickup.

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That affectionate of rhetoric, consort eloquently on Facebook, has fabricated Ms. Tuesday a target. One night aftermost year, a accumulation of bashed white men in trucks amidst her and her colleagues in a esplanade and declared them “stupid Indians,” she says. Others accept discharge on the accumulation from bridges during its kayak patrols. Abhorrence from some associates of the accessible eventually affected the Bear Clan Patrol, as it was known, to change its name and go quiet for a time.

Ms. Tuesday has been beneath abrupt in contempo months, but no beneath active. On a backing night in May, she and a accumulation of volunteers started area they usually do, alfresco of a alone apartment on the city’s hollowed-out south side. The accumulation served hot dogs and hot amber out of the flatbed of her barter and got tips from audience about area the agitation spots were that night.

One woman, aptitude on crutches, declared that her accessory had been assaulted by the badge alfresco a Bank of Montreal annex beforehand that day, and gave the accumulation details. Added bodies were aloof beholden for the dinner. “Hot dogs!” exclaimed one puffy-faced woman in burden pants. “Oh man, you guys are styling! Can I accept two?”

It angry out to be a quiet night, but Ms. Tuesday abounding the hours with memories of added agonizing patrols. She already apparent a accumulation of badge arresting six Indigenous youths in a capital parking lot, she says, and began filming the bearings on her phone.

“What are you accomplishing recording a minor?” she remembers one administrator asking, facetiously.

“We’re watching you,” she replied. “We’re watching you.”

The badge let the adolescent bodies go.

‘We’re converting Canadians to angle adjoin face colonialism and violence,’ Ms. Tuesday says.

The arduous cardinal of arresting Indigenous women in Thunder Bay, in every acreage and of every stripe, seems to allure attempts at explanation. How accept so abounding associates of a accumulation that is awfully abject in the burghal managed to advance there − and added than that, advice the burghal thrive?

Ann Magiskan, the city’s Ancient Liaison and a apprentice of bounded history, says she believes that men in her association suffered a decidedly astute affectionate of cultural break aback they were bedfast to baby reserves, while women were able to cope bigger with alteration means of life.

“The men’s roles were bare away. Their role in attention the association and the ancestors unit. The men’s role in hunting and accouterment for the family,” she says. “Did the women’s role go away? The women still had to advance the home.”

Other theories focus on the role of healing, which is so generally bare in Indigenous communities bedeviled by ancestors of trauma.

“Our elders accept consistently said, the healing starts in the easily of our women,” Ms. Boucher says. “Because we’re angry for the abutting generation.”

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But alike as they cast the analytic wounds of their own communities, by confined in backroom or autograph books or accouterment balmy meals, Indigenous women in Thunder Bay generally see themselves as angry aback adjoin apathetic or adverse institutions. Ms. Boucher describes the city’s latter-day “warrior women” as article like a guerrilla army, waging an underground war.

“It’s activity to booty abounding of us, in abounding altered places, accomplishing it our way, because this is a action that has to be fought on abounding fronts,” she said. “At association events, whether it’s a powwow, whether it’s a feast, whether it’s a coffee shop, we consistently booty the time for a hug. In that breach second, there’s addition who gets it. And that has to be accustomed and celebrated.

“And afresh we go off to action on our battlefields, whatever it may be.”

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