The Nelson and District Women’s Centre welcomed Kathryn McCooeye as its new co-executive director as of April 15.
McCooeye is from Huron, Celt and African ancestry, but was raised in the Gitksan (Coast Salish) culture in a remote village in northwest B.C. She is a Chanumpa (Sacred Pipe) Carrier in the Lakota tradition, having apprenticed with the late Grandfather Wallace Black Elk (Lakota). McCooeye has dedicated her life to serving Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations) and is a much sought after Indigenous cultural consultant, elder, traditional knowledge keeper, outdoor Indigenous educator and ceremonial facilitator.
“Intersectional feminism directly aligns with our traditional First Nations sacred women’s laws in meeting our responsibilities by ensuring that the needs of everyone in the village and natural environment are met,” said McCooeye.
“I look forward to working as co-executive director of the Nelson and District Women’s Centre and I am honoured to be entrusted to ensure the inclusion of our self-identified women, trans, cis, non-binary, two spirited and queer women of colour in our services.
“Too often women’s centres are places that cater only to the settler population so I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Indigenous and other women of colour in the community who require services, support or just a cup of tea to come on over. You will be included in our space with warmth and respect.”
Reasha Wolfe was hired in February 2018 to share the position with Kori Doty, who resigned in October 2018 following over six months of controversy and harassment regarding their gender expression.
“I was deeply honoured to be partnered with Kori and honestly I was shattered by the bullying they experienced and that they weren’t safe in their position at the Women’s Centre. It has taken a lot of work to create a safer working environment since then, and I was overjoyed to receive Kat’s application.”
Wolfe added: “I think this may be the first time in the 45-year history of the Women’s Centre that an Indigenous woman is in leadership, and I am overjoyed about the opportunity to work with Kat and learn from her.”
The Nelson and District Women’s Centre is also known as the West Kootenay Women’s Association, a feminist organization with a volunteer board of directors called the co-ordinating collective, two drop-in co-ordinators, Zaynab Mohammed and Nichola Cornell, a volunteer co-ordinator and youth co-ordinator, Axel McGowan, another youth co-ordinator, Raina Gardener, a bookkeeper, Clelie Murray Chevrier, and a housekeeper, April Isnardy.
Sometimes there is one executive director and sometimes there are two. Membership has grown by over 300 per cent in the last year. Members are feminists from near and far who support the society’s work.