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Indian women of Saskatchewan, for centuries, have been content to walk a step behind their men fulfilling their role as helpmate and mother. "Now it is time, and we are prepared, to take that one step forward and to walk beside our men," Mrs. Flora Mike of Duck Lake told a national conference of Indian women in Edmonton Tuesday, March 23.
Mrs. Mike, chairman of the steering committee to form a Saskatchewan native women's association, said in order to catch up to their men, who have organized themselves, both provincially, and nationally "so that they' are becoming a force to be reckoned with throughout the land, we, too, must be organized provincially and nationally. Then we, too, will enjoy the same recognition."
The Saskatchewan chairman said that women, being so much closer to the problems of Indians, particularly those pertaining to their families, have much to contribute and she urged the formation of a national organization.
"There are some problems, however, that apply only to treaty women while other problems are those encountered only by Metis women. They are compounded by the difference in provincial and federal regulations," she said, adding that because of these differences, Saskatchewan native women had had some difficulty in forming a provincial organization.
Mrs. Mike gave a brief history of "the awakening of native women of my province-Saskatchewan," which started about six years ago through the Indian Affairs Branch and the extension department of the University of Saskatchewan. Native women were invited to attend courses in homemaking which included sewing, knitting, canning, etc. The topics discussed were gradually broadened to include subjects such as education, childcare and culture. And still later, they went deeper into problems pertaining to welfare, foster homes, child neglect, housing, alcoholism and others, she said.
Conferences were held annually with native women representing most of the 67 reserves and, the 37,000 treaty Indians in Saskatchewan. In addition to these delegates, invitations went out to other women to attend these conferences.
The steering committee was formed and "now we are just about ready," Mrs. Mike said. "Hopefully, we will become a chartered provincial organization," she said.
She said that it had not yet been decided whether to become an arm of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians or whether to do it alone.
"But you may be sure that whatever we decide, we shall be a strong voice for the native women of Saskatchewan," she said.