The First Nations Women of B.C. lost a truly remarkable advocate for the rights of our women and children.
I am the last founding member of B.C. Native Women’s Society, which was founded in 1968; my late mother Mildred Gottfriedson was elected president.
Besides her, there were a total of six founding women. We fought for rights in band membership which was, under the “Indian Act,” discriminatory — a mild work to define “Indian Women who married a man of other races” who lost their status, the right to live on reserve, to own property, to even be buried with their ancestors.
We started to fight this section of the Act at our first meeting in 1968. We started out meeting with the federal government.
It was very frustrating in the late 1970s — and then we meet a young lawyer, Ken Tessovitch, who helped us immensely.
We started the legal process of our fight which he worked endlessly for our society and we paid him peanuts. He stuck with us to the end.
We finally changed the Indian Act in 1985; it’s known as Bill C-31.
My mother had the outmost respect for Ken and so do I. He was and is a remarkable human being who believed in justice, equality rights of all people.
“Go gently my dear friend.”