My name is Krystal Brant. The creator knows me as Skanawiióhstha, which means “she makes things peaceful all the time.” I am Mohawk and I belong to the turtle clan. My family originates from Tyendinaga as well as Six Nations of the Grand River.
- What are some ways in which you like to celebrate your Indigenous heritage?
The ways that I celebrate my Indigenous heritage is in how I have raised my children. It is important to me to have a drug and alcohol-free home and to always have a good mind when I am around them. I chose to have Indigenous midwives and to bring my children into the world under their guidance so that they could have a good start in life. We try to celebrate our heritage in everything we do: from the food we eat, to playing lacrosse, sewing our clothes, etc. It was important for me to surround my children with a community of strong role models who could demonstrate the confidence to practice their culture.
- Who was/is an Indigenous woman that may have been significant in your life and why?
There are so many Indigenous women that have been significant in my life! I always say that I was raised by the Chapter. One woman, who made a particularly significant impact, was Hilda Nadjiwon. I was completing my training program at Laurentian University and I was the “Elder Helper” for the summer of 2010. She truly helped me embrace being a mom and allowing myself to have fun parenting. She showed me what it is like to be patient and mindful with them and that I needed to be gentle with myself as a mother and as a woman. Her teachings over my three years at Laurentian were so abundant but
her kind and gentle nature in everything she did was the most impactful.
- When and how did you start volunteering or working with the Indigenous community? Why was and is it important to you?
I have been volunteering with the Indigenous community since I was a small child. My mother was very active in Indigenous political movements and she always took me along with her. She helped to establish the two Native Centres in our area and she was actively involved with the Chapter very early on. Volunteering was never a question for my generation, it was just something that our parents expected from us because it helped us to keep the Indigenous community together.
Volunteering is so important to me because it demonstrates to my children that not everything we do needs to be “work.” Working with the Chapter for so many years has helped me to build my social circle and enabled me to have such strong
women be role models for my children.
- When and how did you first get involved with the Chapter?
I first got involved with the Chapter when I was just a baby. I think that this is a real testament to the Chapter and the values that it stands for. My mother, along with other women in the community, would bring all of us children to gatherings, board meetings, and political events. Even now, I bring my own daughters to meetings with me. It is important that they are aware of the things that we are working on in the community, but also that they see as many strong Indigenous women leading the community as they possibly can.
- Why is it important for Indigenous women to have organizations like this NCNW where we are governed by Indigenous women?
Only Indigenous women can truly understand the lives of Indigenous women. It is important for us to have organizations like NCNW where we are governed by Indigenous women because they will give them a voice in the community and at a provincial level.
- What is your most memorable accomplishment in working with NCNW? What is your next goal?
I think that on the surface level, my most memorable “accomplishment” in working with NCNW is becoming the Southern Ontario representative for the Ontario Native Women’s Association. I have attended their Annual General Assembly several times over the past 30 years, and I have dreamt of one day being a more vocal part of this organization. This is allowing a voice for our Chapter at a provincial body, which is really huge. On a more practical and grassroots level, it is that we have stepped forward to keep Indigenous children in their homes. It is difficult for me to frame this as an “accomplishment” because it is a sad reality that our children have been taken from us for centuries. The fact that the women in our Chapter saw this as a need and a priority in our community, and that they have created a framework with Family and Children’s Services is a huge step forward. Every time an Indigenous child is able to stay at home with their parent(s), it is a victory for
My next goal is to form a group for the young women in our community. It is so important to enable the next generation to be able to carry on the work that our mothers and grandmothers started for us.
- What is the most important message you would like to get across with your work and involvement with the Indigenous community?
For me, the most important message that I would like to get across with our work and involvement with the Indigenous community is that we are still here. As previously stated, only other Indigenous women truly understand the lives of other Indigenous women. It is important that we build up and support one another and just be there for each other.
- What is an important lesson others can learn about the Indigenous culture and people?
The most important lesson that others can learn about Indigenous culture and people is that we are resilient. For centuries, others have tried to repress and control us but we are still here.
- In your opinion, how can someone become the best ally possible to the Indigenous community?
As a historian, I believe that someone can become the best ally possible to the Indigenous community by listening first and foremost. Our histories have been repressed, hidden, or dismissed as “folklore” for so long. If someone truly wants to be an ally, it would serve us best to be heard. For years, my grandmother and other people who attended Residential Schools have been telling us about the atrocities that they witnessed and experienced in those schools. It hasn’t been until recently, with bodies being recovered from these schools, that the general Canadian population has started to listen. The hard work was
done with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so it does not serve us to have to explain the findings to non-Indigenous people; it is not our time to have to educate. Allow us the time and space to grieve as a community. The history is already there, they just need to read it and listen to those voices.
- What does the Indigenous community or Indigenous women need the most from Canada at this point in time?
Indigenous women have been disenfranchised by the Canadian government and their communities for far too long. All we are seeking is respect and for our voices to be heard. At this point in time, we need to be given the right to raise our own children. In light of the recent Residential School awareness, people need to be aware that there are currently more Indigenous children in foster care than have ever attended residential schools in Canada. This was not a short chapter in Canada’s history; the Canadian government is still taking our children from us and this needs to stop. There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful that I grew up with a mother and that my children get to experience the daily love and nurturing from both a mother and a grandmother.