Canadian Aboriginal WomeN (Part XVII)

By Essam Farag

During my convocation ceremony at the University of Guelph in February 2004, a special person was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws. This woman was Dr. Roberta Jamieson, an Aboriginal lawyer and distinguished Canadian celebrity. Her powerful and moving lecture stuck in my memory and challenged me to write about the achievements of Aboriginal woman in all aspects of Canadian society - a sector of the Canadian fabric that is seldom recognized. This article is a continuation of the articles presented in the last ten issues, which was dedicated to Dr. Jamieson and all women belonging to minority groups in appreciation for their contributions.


On the historic day of June 11, 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly apologized to native Canadians in the House of Commons for a government policy of taking natives from their families and forcing them to attend state-funded Christian schools up until the 1970s.


This series about Canadian Aboriginal Women, seeks to make the world more knowledgeable about the Aboriginal population and challenge youth around the world to strive to achieve success regardless of the hurdles they might face, with the dream of creating a better society for future generations. Interestingly, the 2001 Canadian Census figure indicate that about 500 aboriginal people (Indians, Metis and Inuits) have doctoral degrees, about 1,500 have Masters' degrees and about 14,000 have undergraduate degrees.


These articles present the profiles of exemplar aboriginal women who are carving the way for the future of their communities. In part XVII, I present pieces about two interesting women: Lucie Idlout and Elisapee Sheutiapik.


Lucie Idlout

Lucie Idlout (born Tatanniq Lucie d'Argencourt) is a Canadian singer/songwriter from Nunavut. She is the daughter of Leah Idlout-Paulson and granddaughter of Joseph Idlout.

After the release of several EPs, Idlout's first full length album, E5-770, My Mother’s Name, hit the streets in 2004.The title, a homage to her mother, was directed at the Canadian government's dark history of identifying Inuit by disc numbers instead of their names. E5-770 was the disc number issued to her mother. The government policy was instituted in 1944 but ran from 1941 - 1978. Her song "Birthday", off of the same album, appeared in Dan Birman's Crime Spree, starring Gérard Depardieu and Harvey Keitel.Though she had already garnered national and international attention, it was when she was the opening performer for The White Stripes at their concert in Iqaluit on June 27, 2007, that the media began to truly take notice.

Her second album, Swagger, was released in February 2009.The album includes "Lovely Irene", which was later reworked with a children's choir from Iqaluit and renamed "Angel Street". The song inspired Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik to launch a campaign to call attention to the issue of domestic violence in Canada by asking Canadian cities to name a city street Angel. To date there are eight cities with street names bearing the title "Angel" after this ambitious project.

In fall 2009, she recorded a new song, "Road to Nowhere", for CBC Radio 2's Great Canadian Song Quest. She has since written the score for renowned filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk's film Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, as well as music for several television shows.
In 2012, Idlout guest starred as a lesbian throat singer in CBC's 
Arctic Air

Filmmaker Shane Belcourt also cited Idlout, a close friend of his sister Christi, as an influence on the themes of his 2007 film Tkaronto.

Elisapee Sheutiapik

Elisapee Sheutiapik served as mayor of Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. She won the mayoral election in 2003, defeating the incumbent mayor John Matthews by 40 votes, and was acclaimed to a second term in 2006. She is also a member in a scholarship selection committee, and owns a coffee shop in Iqaluit.

On 10 September 2008, CBC North reported that Sheutiapik would be taking a leave of absence to run in the upcoming Nunavut election. She ran in Iqaluit West, which had the highest voter turnout at 90.2 per cent, but was defeated by incumbent MLA Paul Okalik by 44 votes. She subsequently returned to the mayor's chair.

On 19 October 2009, Sheutiapik won a third term as mayor of Iqaluit. Her opponent was former city councillor Jim Little, who took 42.3% of the vote as opposed to 57.7% for Sheutiapik. On November 9, 2010, she announced her resignation as mayor in December that year, and was succeeded by Madeleine Redfern.

Elisapee Sheutiapik first set out on a national project, with artist Lucie Idlout, to have cities across Canada name a city street “Angel Street” when her sister, Mary Ann, was killed in a case of domestic violence. The mother of one and former mayor of Iqaluit, Nunavut, which has the highest rate of domestic violence per capita in Canada, successfully renamed a street in Fredericton and the street in the town that holds the only women’s shelter in Nunavut. The “Angel Street Domestic Violence Education Project” which aims to take “a public stand against violence in Aboriginal communities” is ongoing.


Essam Farag, BA Honours (Dalhousie), MA (Guelph) is an Editor for the Ambassadors Online Magazine. Email: 

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