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Mary Two-Axe Earley

Public Service (1996)

Thousands of Aboriginal women, children and families owe the changed condition of their lives to Mary Two-Axe Earley.  Treaty rights have been reclaimed, post-secondary education has become a reality, health services secured and the wounds of a political injustice soothes.  Her pursuit of amendments to Section 12(I)(b) of the Indian Act resulted in the reinstatement of women who had previously lost their treaty status via outside marriage.  Two generations of children from those marriages were also reinstated.  Ms. Two-Axe Earley spearheaded the establishment of Equal Rights for Indian Women which later became Indian Rights for Indian Women in the late1960s.  Her impassioned plea for justice caught the ear of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1968.  It led to a crucial Commission recommendation in 1970 that the Indian Act be amended in its treatment of women.  That recommendation would grow, under Ms. Two-Axe Earley’s influence, to become the historic Bill C-31 in 1985.  She was the first woman reinstated by, then, Indian Affairs Minister, David Crombie.  She has been a magnetic and quietly powerful speaker at conferences, commissions and hearings worldwide in her continued hunt for justice, basic human rights and the equality of women before the law.  A Clan Mother who places the traditions and welfare of Aboriginal communities before anything else, she was awarded a Governor General’s Award and an Honourary Doctorate of Law from York University.  She received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for her drive to establish Bill C-31 and her commitment to the rights of women.