Ellen Gabriel was first introduced to the Canadian public in 1990, when she was chosen by the People of the longhouse and her community of Kanehsatà:ke to be their spokesperson during their resistance to the proposed expansion of a private nine-hole golf course near the town of Oka, Quebec. During the ensuing standoff between the Mohawk people and the Canadian army, Gabriel not only participated in negotiations to protect the sacred grove of pines, but also spoke out about the presence and leadership of women behind the barricades.
Since then, she has worked to raise consciousness among politicians and the public alike of the history, culture and identity of Indigenous peoples. Although her national activities have been far-reaching, ranging from presentations to Parliamentary and Senate committees and the Quebec National Assembly to presentations and conferences and post-secondary institutions, the real breadth of her efforts extends to the international sphere. Gabriel has been active in the UN, participating in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and advocating for Indigenous cultures and languages at the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In 2004, Gabriel was elected president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association, a position she held until 2010. She continues to be an advocate for gender equity, Indigenous governing structures and the revitalization of Indigenous languages, culture, traditions, as well as the importance of this revitalization in overcoming colonial oppression.
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