When a girl approaches puberty, her culture’s attitudes toward women and sex come at her in new and often intense ways, both by what is said and also by what is left unsaid. Elder Helen Nora Hansen was raised in a residential school that treated coming of age with the silence of shame. Michelle Robinson’s parents raised her in the bush in Klahoose traditional territory and gave her the traditional teachings about coming of age. From their dramatically different experiences, these woman have great advice on how to support our girls as they make their way toward adulthood.
“It wasn’t a good experience. That was back in 1960, when I was in residential school, so not a good experience at all.” - Elder Helen Nora Hansen, Klahoose First Nation.
“It was a celebrated time. Before they would have parties, which people called potlatches, coming of age ceremonies or whatever. There were things that were done to celebrate that and that young lady was kept a treasure … and taken care of.” - Michelle Robinson, Social Development Officer and Band Councillor, Klahoose First Nation.
Carrie Saxifrage has lived on Cortes Island since 1994. She has worked as a nurse, lawyer and school administrator and served on numerous community boards. Most recently she wrote a climate memoir titled The Big Swim - Coming Ashore in a World Adrift. The chapter Falling into Place describes how an ancient First Nation jawbone found on her family’s land helped her understand how we share places through time. http://www.saxifrages.org/carrie/
Photos: (top) Elder Helen Nora Hansen; (podcast) Michelle Robinson, Social Development Officer and Band Councillor,