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Sacred Lifegiver
by Emily Jane Henry
Kihci Têpakohp Iskotêw Iskwêw

As a child, I looked in the mirror and reflected back to me was the lingering pain of the past generations since first European contact. I saw the racist historical laws that created the injustices that led to 1200 Indigenous women to be murdered and missing without inquiry.

Yet, within my eyes, I also saw a flame that no human or unjust law could ever distinguish. I seen my pure spirit reflected back at me. Over the years, healing inspired the fire within me began to burn brighter. And, one day, I looked in the mirror and I understood that I stand in the footsteps of my Ancestors. I understood that I am the living manifestation of my Ancestor’s prayers.

Now I look in the mirror and I see hope for the next seven generations. I see a Shining Light. I see love of culture. I see love of traditions. I see a beautiful Lifegiver. I see a strong matriarch. And, I see a beautiful woman worthy of respect.

PHOTOGRAPH: Emily Jane Henry at age 11 in her traditional regalia during pow-wow season. The picture was taken in the Fort Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada, during the summer of 1971.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem “Sacred Lifegiver” is inspired by my experiences as a child growing up on the reserve in Canada and witnessing intergenerational impacts that resulted from damaging historical laws found in the Indian Act. One major impact is that Indigenous women’s traditional roles were degraded over time — so much so that in the present day, many have vanished or have been killed and it still has yet to be fully addressed. This poem represents my hope for the next seven generations and how woman will once again reclaim her respected traditional roles. Kinanâskomitin (thank you), Kihci Têpakohp Iskotêw Iskwêw (Seven Sacred Fires Woman, my Spirit name).

emily henry

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emily Henry is a Cree First Nation Woman from Ochapowace reserve in Canada. She has authored several manuals used for intervention of Aboriginal offenders in federal custody in Canada. Visit her at Facebook.com.