"Be a matriarch. Be good medicine." – Tala Tootoosis (right) with Shalaine Bouvier for the Kokum Scarf Campaign (Tala Tootoosis/Facebook ) The word "kokum," Cree for grandmother, has different associations for different Indigenous women. An ongoing social media movement, the #KokumScarfCampaign, asked some of them to share their thoughts.
"That kokum, that power, the power to scold. That power to love you, that power to be strong. That power to wake up at 6 a.m. and start cutting up deer meat and making bannock and cleaning the house — and she’s 85," said Tala Tootoosis, a Nakota Sioux, Onkwehonkwe and Plains Cree woman from Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Mesa Bitternose says she is wearing her ribbon skirt and kokum scarf in honour of MMIW in the Kokum Scarf Campaign. (Becki Bitternose/Facebook ) Tootoosis created the campaign, which asked women to enter pictures of themselves with ribbons skirts and kokum scarves on their face while also wearing a "statement tee" from an Indigenous owned business. "I’ve conquered my weaknesses through prayer, participating and believing in my tradition," Laua Willians said in her Kokum Scarf Campaign submission. (Laua Willians/Facebook ) "I am raising my children to know who they are as anishinabe and to be proud of who they are as where they come from," said Sher N Asby in her Kokum Scarf Campaign (Sher N Asby/Facebook ) A kokum scarf is a brightly coloured handkerchief that became a popular staple for Indigenous grandmothers. Tootoosis said the scarves have many practical uses.
"My grandmother wore them they’re from the trap lines. It was just something they wore to keep their hair back while they chopped wood or skinned an animal. I always seen it as a symbol of strength. My kokum always wore one. I don’t think I ever saw her without one," Tootoosis said.
"When you wear it, you’re remembering you aren’t alone and you’re remembering that you come from a long line of really strong women." Generations of women in Tala Tootoosis family wearing kokum scarves over the years. Pictured here is Tala’s mother, grandmother and great grand mother. (Violet Naytowhow/Facebook ) Tootoosis created videos on different ways to wear a kokum scarf and even how to make a ribbon skirt. "I am learning my language & traditions to pass onto my children," said Snutetkew Manuel in her Kokum Scarf Campaign submission. Resilience is a key part of the campaign. Every woman that enters a photo is asked what makes her resilient.
Killa Atencio is a Mi’gmaq woman originally from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation who currently lives in Halifax. For Atencio, resiliency doesn’t always mean having a tough exterior or a hardness toward the world around you. She said she likens her personal resilience to water. "The campaign it makes me feel proud and it makes me wanna be seen wearing it and and showing off the beauty behind it," said Killa Atencio. (Killa Atencio / Facebook ) "I’m a very soft person and sometimes I feel like that is a burden, but through this campaign and through my own reconnecting to my own spirit, I’ve come to realize that being soft is strong in a way," Atencio said.
"In my submission, I make a lot of reference to the water and the waves. The water has taught me how to be strong and reclaim my own power. It is soft, but it breaks away stone. Being strong isn’t always having your fist in the air: sometimes it’s just the words you use and the heart that you have." Why ask participants about their resilience?
Tootoosis said she feels it’s important to […]
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