Multidisciplinary artist Anna Heffernan, a member of Curve Lake First Nation, reimagined a new $20 bill featuring the late Elsie Knott, Canada’s first Indigenous woman to serve as a chief who led Curve Lake First Nation as chief for several years from the 1950s to the 1970s. Knott is one of a dozen Indigenous women who have been artistically reimagined to grace a new banknote as part of The Native Women’s Association’s Change the Bill campaign. A petition to support the movement to replace Queen Elizabeth II with an Indigenous woman who has made significant contributions has almost reached its goal of 35,000 signatures. Artwork by Anna Heffernan/NWAC photo. ANNA HEFFERNAN

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is leading a campaign calling  for an Indigenous woman to be featured on the $20 bill to replace Queen  Elizabeth II. 

The Change the Bill campaign seeks to foster reconciliation through art by  commissioning Indigenous artists to reimagine the banknote with notable  Indigenous women. Featuring an Indigenous “hero” on a redesigned bill — a move  that is “long overdue” — would be a significant step toward recognizing the  important, yet often overlooked, contributions of Indigenous women, according to  the group.

As part of the campaign, Canadians are encouraged to sign a petition to  support the movement. On the association’s website, a dozen important Indigenous  women figures are displayed as potential replacements, along with a reimagined  artistic rendering of a new bill created by various Indigenous artists. 

Among the 12 women is Elsie Knott — the first woman in Canada to serve as a  First Nations chief — who led Curve Lake First Nation for several years. 

Knott, born in 1922, was first elected in 1954 — three years after Indigenous  women were given the right to vote in band elections and serve on band councils  under the Indian Act. She acted as chief until 1960 before being re-elected a  decade later. Knott served as chief until 1976. 

Knott is known for her commitment to bettering the quality of life and living  conditions for her community’s members. Notably, Knott worked to improve water  quality, housing, social services, infrastructure, and other aspects of the  community. 

She was also a dedicated proponent for protecting, preserving and passing  along Ojibway culture and traditions, and helped form an Ojibway language  program at the Curve Lake First Nation School.

Knott died in 1995. 

Four years later, her life, community advocacy and political career was  honoured with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union of Ontario  Indians. 

The artistic interpretation of Knott on a new bank note was created by Curve  Lake First Nation artist Anna Heffernan. Heffernan decided to feature Knott “out  of respect for her service to their community, and because she is proud of their  community for their early embrace of women in leadership,” according to the  association’s website. 

Current Curve Lake First Nation Chief Keith Knott says he thinks Elsie Knott  is a perfect fit to be featured on a new banknote. 

“It’s an excellent idea,” he said. “It would be a great piece of memorabilia  for one the leaders of our community many years ago.” 

Years ago, he served on Curve Lake First Nation’s council when Elsie Knott  was chief. 

“Future leadership could identify within themselves that there’s always that  role to play within a community, and I think she would be a great role model for  members in the community — for women and men to be recognized in such a national  way; to have your community recognized in that fashion,” he said. 

So far, the petition has garnered over 34,680 signatures — quickly  approaching its goal of 35,000 names. 

The next step is to “keep up the pressure and keep the campaign alive by  engaging organizations and individuals Canada-wide,” stated a spokesperson for  the association. 

Schools, organizations, influencers and leaders will be contacted to join the  campaign’s next phase. 

While the association has met with the Bank of Canada’s governor and the  Royal Canadian Mint, it’s ultimately up to the finance minister and the federal  government to make a final decision related to bank note changes. 

“The next phase of our campaign will ensure that a wide range of voices  across the country are engaged and are heard in the minister’s office, each  supporting our campaign,” added the spokesperson. 

Brendan  Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His  reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism  Initiative.

By Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 01, 2023 at 05:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Peterborough Examiner   Peterborough, Ontario
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