Democracy is Having the Power in Numbers

About the Perspectives on Democracy Series

As a social change agency, CKX seeks to leverage its platform to amplify voices on critical social justice issues. This series illuminates perspectives on democracy and pathways towards reconciliation and decolonization.

Our thanks and gratitude to Melissa Herman for her contribution to and crafting of this series, documenting stories and insights with Indigenous creators, artists, warriors, mothers, daughters, sisters and activists on their experience and engagement with democracy in Canada.

Stephanie Harpe is a proud member of Fort McKay First Nation, located in Treaty 8 Territory. She comes from a long line of powerful women —  including Chief Dorothy McDonald, who fought diligently for the rights of her people and for the protection of her territory. Stephanie’s mother was murdered in Edmonton and since then, she tirelessly advocates for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women. She is also the lead singer in the rezzy rock group; the Stephanie Harpe Experience aka S.H.E.

When asked what democracy meant to her, Stephanie replied;

‘We are in the star alignments for the women’s pipe. And  there is big shift happening among Indigenous women right now. Despite the shift, we are still struggling for basic Human Rights. We are struggling to have a better quality of life in our communities. Especially in the province of Saskatchewan, where they have high rates of HIV and a deep sense of hopeless and despair in Indigenous communities. And then, on the other hand, we have large companies like Nestlé  that come into Canada and take all the clean water that they want and yet we don’t even have clean water in our own communities.

But back to the question of ‘What is democracy?’ Democracy is us as Indigenous people having the power in numbers. We should not be supporting large companies who are doing horrible and destructive things. We need to be more conscious of our strength in numbers as consumers.’

A residential school survivor herself, Stephanie also shared her thoughts on the recent settlement confirmed by the Federal government for Sixties Scoop Survivors.

‘There should be one major condition to receive the money…  that an Indigenous person who is suffering from the trauma of being in a residential school [or a Sixties Scoop Survivor], a trauma that is now embedded in our DNA… that before you receive any money, the Federal Government will pay for counselling. So that we can begin some sort of healing. So that the trauma will stop there.’

She explained that the number of Indigenous lawyers, Indigenous judges, even elected officials that are Indigenous, gives us a little hope to make some changes. We are knocking on the ‘door of power’ everyday. But  it doesn’t matter how much we knock on that door, because there is little Indigenous representation behind that door making those decisions. She says that if more people like Senator Murray Sinclair are on the other side, we can begin to make change. She says, if social champions like Muriel Stanley Venne, are supported in their efforts, it would be a big step towards social change and reconciliation. She says, if we can get a higher number of Indigenous people in decision-making positions, we can exercise the power of democracy as Indigenous people.

Melissa Herman lives in Treaty 8's northern region. Entrenched in the ancient traditions of the Dene people, she does her best to carry those practices with her, to extend to the modern world, in an effort to bring together Canada and Indigenous peoples.