Mary Two-Axe Early
(1911 – 1996)
Mary Two-Axe Early was a courageous Mohawk woman from Kahnawà:ke, Quebec, who demanded changes to the Indian Act to protect the treaty rights of Indigenous women. She challenged the discriminatory policy that allowed Indigenous men to retain their official Indian status when they married non-Indigenous spouses but took it away from Indigenous women who married non-Indigenous men. Two-Axe Early campaigned against this policy for 20 years, forging a coalition of allies while facing intense opposition from the male leadership of her own community. In 1985, Canada's Parliament finally passed legislation that restored the right to live, own land or be buried on reserve to thousands of Indigenous women and their children. For her tireless efforts, Two-Axe Early received a Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.
“After all these years, I’ll be legally entitled to live on the reserve, to own property, die and be buried with my own people.”