This Indigenous group wants to change the face of Canada’s currency

Despite being the country’s original inhabitants, no Indigenous person has ever appeared on Canadian currency. Instead, with the exception of the $10 Desmond bill, Canada’s bills largely feature old white guys (and that number will only increase if King Charles replaces his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on the $20 bill).

Now, the Native Women’s Association of Canada is taking direct aim at what it describes as the “continued underrepresentation and marginalization” of the Indigenous population with an awareness campaign called “Change the Bill.”

Developed with Taxi, “Change the Bill” consists of a reimagining of the $20 bill by Indigenous artists, portraying members of the Indigenous community whose achievements have largely gone unrecognized. NWAC describes the endeavour as “reconciliation through art.”

Women featured on the 12 reimagined bills include Elsie Knott, the first woman in Canada to be elected as Chief of a First Nation; Mi’kmaq poet and songwriter Rita Joe (main picture); and Margaret Pictou, the first female Mi’kmaq Chief of the Eel River Bar Reserve.

There are several objectives for the earned media campaign, said Irene Goodwin, the NWAC’s director of policy and programs, culture, art, youth, sport, in an email. They include raising awareness about the significant contributions made to Canada’s culture by Indigenous women; informing the public that these contributions have never been recognized the way other Canadians’ contributions have been recognized; and supporting Indigenous artists.

“In a broader sense, it was a way to address the issue of reconciliation by raising awareness and engaging Canadians right across this country,” she said. “By doing so, we aim to create a more inclusive society that recognizes and values the diverse perspectives, cultures, and histories of Indigenous women.”

All of the bills were recently displayed at an exhibit held at The Local Gallery in Toronto, and the organization is urging people to sign a petition urging the government to feature an Indigenous woman “hero” on a Canadian bill note. To date, the petition has amassed more than 9,100 of its stated goal of 10,000 signatures.

“Raising national awareness about the underrepresentation and marginalization of Indigenous women in Canadian society is also a significant outcome for us—and I think we are well on the road to doing that through this campaign,” said Goodwin.

Chris Powell