In Mi'kmaw tradition, women are accorded the highest respect and regard, for they are the portals through which a spirit comes to earth. Obviously, without this portal, it would not be possible for our spirits to come here for the growth and healing that we need. The man's role is therefore a supportive one, protecting the woman and family from harm, and providing those things that require strength.

Historical proof of this respect can be seen in the petroglyphs at Kejimkujik National Park / National Historic Site. Of all the images scribed into the slate, the most common are representations of the traditional woman's peaked hat, indicating the importance of the woman in traditional society.


The Mi'kmaq had a matriarchal society. This means that the woman's voice was heard very clearly when important decisions were being made. This, again, is attributable to their role as life-giver: when decisions that affect the future of the people are being made, the ones who gave birth to those people should have the controlling input to the decision. For example, if war was being considered, the woman's point of view would not only take into account the reasons that war seemed to be required, it would also take into account the cost in human lives and suffering that would follow. For this reason, a woman's viewpoint provides a balance that a man is not equipped to provide. While the major leaders of the Mi'kmaq were males, they always listened carefully and respectfully to the voices of the female elders.


A woman's roles and participation in ceremonies is governed in some ways by her unique gift. So long as a woman is capable of bringing life into the world, she also experiences her menses, or 'moon time.' During this time, her connection with the earth is extremely strong, as her body purifies itself and prepares itself to receive life. Energies are flowing through her into Mother Earth. This flow is so strong that she should never touch anyone's sacred objects, because she would drain the energies from those objects and render them neutral, and therefore no longer sacred. In addition, she may even be capable of draining life energies from those around her, which is why women would go to a Moon Lodge that was separated from the regular living area. There she would be tended by female Elders, who are not affected by her purification.

During a woman's moon time, she should not sit in ceremonial circles. Instead, women on their moon time should sit in a separate circle, outside the main circle. This is not because they are seen as unclean! Instead, because of the powerful earth connection and energy flow mentioned above, they offer very powerful spiritual shielding to the people within their protective circle.

Traditionally, women did not regularly go to the Sweat Lodge, nor did they fast. Again, this is not because they are seen as inferior in any way. Rather, because of their gift of the ability to cleanse themselves spiritually, they do not require the ceremonies that a man requires to perform that cleansing. However, if conditions required, a woman could certainly attend a healing Sweat, or go on a fast for a vision.

Women who do participate in ceremonies should wear skirts or dresses, because it honours their gender and allows them an opportunity to acknowledge their special role in life. In addition, they should sit with their legs crossed to one side, rather than open in front of them.

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Updated: 25 Mar 2016 Print Page