Lisa Sambo dropped me a note after our story ran in the Pique commenting on the photo I’d been able to secure thanks to the wonderful people at the First Peoples’ Cultural Council of language champions, singing, appropriately, the Women’s Warrior song at HELISET TŦE SḰÁL – ‘Let the Languages Live’ – 2019 International Conference on Indigenous Languages.
“The matriarchs!” she said.
What an honouring word that is.
A modern-day definition of Matriarch is: “Any female who provides love and support for their tribe – be it at home, work, or within their local or global community.” Note: you do NOT need to be a mother to be a Matriarch! You may be nurturing a local or global cause.
Am I A Matriarch? – Matriarch Health & Wellness
The next day, Asia Suler, a writer and herbalist I follow on instagram shared something about matriarchs, that I have posted here – not to endorse Asia’s course, which I haven’t done myself, but to credit her with this beautiful thinking.
“If you are someone born with two XX chromosomes then you carry within you the silken strands of matrilineal mitochondrial DNA, a line that can be followed all the way back in time to the first mother…. and the heart of your ancestral landscape. In Brian Sykes’ groundbreaking genetic work, he found something interesting about the maternal DNA.
While paternal DNA, in his sampling range, tends to be less historically rooted in a landscape, matrilineal DNA is deeply placed based. If your mothers line is from a particular place, it is more likely to have been in that place for a long, long time. For most of the mtDNA Sykes tested in The British Isles, the mothers and grandmothers of that family could be traced all the way back to the Neolithic burial mounds.”
This awakens something in me – some understanding of the mother’s body as a landscape, of my body is a landscape, of my life as the outburst of my mother’s, my grandmothers’ bodies, of bodies as the first land we know, the first belonging we know. And that is echoed, deepened, taken further, by the land itself. Especially when that physical bond is not strong, the mothering of the land and the earth has stepped in so beautifully and generously for me.
Threaded through all of the St’at’imc communities is a common phrase: Pelpala7wít i ucwalmícwa múta7 ti tmícwa. It means “the people and the land are one.” The Xa’xlip (formerly the Fountain Indian Band) unpacks this on their website: “In the St’at’imc language, the name for ‘land’ is Tmicw, the name for the ‘people of the land’ is Ucwalmicw, and the name of the ‘language’ is Ucwalmícwts… What happens to one happens to the others.”
Thinking of that, makes it seem even more fitting to me, that the women in the photo are recognized so immediately by Lisa as “matriarchs.” These women of substance. These women of place.
And we all trace our stories to women like this. Maybe not of this land. But of their own places. Back and back and back to the first mother. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀