Germaine Tremmel visited SFU on October 29, 2017 to present on the Importance of Cultural Identity for Women and the Rise of Women Warriors. A grandmother who worked to initiate the movement at Standing Rock to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tremmel is a lawyer and activist seeking to protect the rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples. Her presentation focused on recognizing the importance of women within our communities, emphasizing the power women have within themselves.
Her talk was presented by the In Visible Colours Festival in conjunction with the DTES Heart of the City Festival, and supported by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. In Visible Colours is hosted by the Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts (DECA). The festival focuses on celebrating the art and diversity of women in Vancouver. Tremmel was in conversation with Dalannah Gail Bowen, the Executive Director of DECA. An artist, activist, and singer, Bowen focused on creating a space to centre Tremmel’s voice, and shared some of her own stories in connection with Tremmel’s thoughts. In light of the “Heart of the City Festival” theme of Honouring Women in the Downtown Eastside, it was fitting that these two women shared in conversation with one another.
Beginning with a traditional greeting, Tremmel shared stories of her upbringing on the Standing Rock Reservation and the development of her understanding of womanhood within the Lakota context. She spoke to how dominant culture has treated women and the need for women to own their power as keepers of knowledge and history. Over the course of the event, she challenged both women and men to understand how we can begin to uphold the voices of women. She encouraged the audience to begin to build relationships with one another in simple ways, with a focus on empowering each other.
“We need to start changing now our views, our thoughts and our actions, the way we treat women [. . .] and our women need to understand who we are and our power as women.”
– Germaine Tremmel
She spoke of how the young women around her asserted their voices in the midst of the din at Standing Rock, seeking guidance from their grandmothers. They decided to send a message to the White House by utilizing an Indigenous tradition of relay running. The group of young people began at Standing Rock in North Dakota and went on to organize a run to the White House in Washington, D.C. with a petition asking for their water to be protected. Tremmel shared a story of how she ran alongside one of the youngest children who ran to the edge of the reservation boundary. This powerful story captured the strength that can be found in young women, as well as the power of the grandmothers and their great wisdom.
Tremmel closed with a song, responding to the request of an audience member who had heard her sing at another event. She encouraged the crowd to greet one another and meet someone new, enabling the audience to begin to apply the wisdom that was shared by building simple connections.
You can listen to the full audio recording of the conversation on Soundcloud here.