Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

Canada’s Google Doodle on June 28 honors Kanien’kehá:ka Mohawk activist and women’s rights champion Mary Two-Axe Earley, who fought for decades against discrimination contained in Canada’s Indian Act.

The Google Doodle, which is only viewable on www.google.ca, was created through the collaborative efforts of Kanien’kehá:ka Mohawk artists Star Horn and Courtney Montour. In addition to the collaboration, Montour is a filmmaker and creator of the short documentary, “Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again.” The documentary will be available for educators and teachers to view via CAMPUS and for community film screenings in Canada.

Mary Two-Axe Earley (center) at the Montreal Botanical Garden tree planting ceremony (mid-1970s). (Photo courtesy of Rosemary Two Rivers via “Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again” film)

“Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again shares the powerful story of Mary Two-Axe Earley, who fought for more than two decades to challenge sex discrimination against First Nations women embedded in Canada’s Indian Act and became a key figure in Canada’s women’s rights movement,” according to the National Film Board of Canada description.

Representatives at the National Film Board of Canada stated in their release: “Today’s Google Canada Doodle is visual artist Star Horn’s vibrant and richly symbolic portrait of Two-Axe Earley, a key figure in Canada’s women’s rights movement who fought against sex discrimination in the Indian Act, which had stripped First Nations women of their Indian status if they married non-Indian men.”

About Mary Two-Axe Earley

Mary Two-Axe Earley was born on the Kahnawà:ke Reserve on October 4, 1911. The territory is located in Quebec on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River. When she turned 18, she moved to New York and married an Irish-American engineer. Her marriage caused her to lose her status as a Native woman due to marrying a non-Indigenous man as stated in a provision in Canada’s Indian Act of 1867 at the time.

In 1967, Two-Axe Earley founded the Equal Rights for Indian Women organization and fought for decades to restore rights lost to First Nations women and their descendants. Her fight paved the way for the passage of Bill C-31, the anniversary of this passage is June 28. The bill became effective on April 17, 1985, and one week after the passage of the bill, Two-Axe Earley became the first woman to have her Indian status reinstated.

Mary Two-Axe Earley with David Crombie, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, at her home (1984-1985). (Photo courtesy of Rosemary Two Rivers via “Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again” film)
Mary Two-Axe Earley with René Lévesque, Premier of Quebec, at the First Ministers’ Conference on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters, Ottawa (1983). (Photo by NFB via “Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again” film)

In 1996, she received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for her decades and lifelong work for the rights of First Nations women and their children.

On the Google Doodle page dedicated to Two-Axe Earley, Kanien’kehá:ka artist Star Horn said that because she and Two-Axe Earley hail from the same community, to be involved with such a project was an honor.

“There are so few images or videos of her anywhere, but Courtney Montour's documentary was a great inspiration. She worked for over 4 years to gather together her story and bring her back to life on film which was amazing. I saw very old clips of her, sitting at her kitchen table talking, in a little house in Kahnawake, just like my very own tota (grandmother) would have been. It reminded me of how hard some of those women had to work, raising families, and holding so much responsibility.”

Mary Two-Axe Earley with her grandchildren (1978). (Photo by Esmond Choueke via “Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again” film)
via “Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again” film

“I want her name to be associated with the legal change she and her allies brought about for all Indigenous women across the country. Also, I want people to know how that affected non-Indigenous women and rights as well. I also want them to see her as the smart, sweet, strong, Kanienkehaka matriarch that she was, and that she was from Kahnawake! I want the Kanienkehaka youth to learn about her, to take pride in her story, and to know that they too can make significant changes in the world, or their community, or even just for their own selves and family.”

ICT logo bridge

Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 contribution today to help Indian Country Today carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.