What is home?

Wisdom from nêhiyawêwin

Cheyenne Greyeyes and Celina M. Vipond

Published in Issue 4.2 // The Long Read

Keywords: Home, family, indigenous, nêhiyawêwin, matriarchy


Policies mandated by the Canadian government in its ongoing assimilation project have interrupted the transmission of knowledge and traditional family systems by separating Indigenous peoples from our homes, lands, and languages. This work is concerned with decolonizing western concepts of home and family in Canada through an Indigenous lens, validating Indigenous ways of knowing when it comes to home and housing, and therefore challenging the way Indigenous issues are addressed. We will be utilizing the lexicons of nêhiyawêwin (Y-dialect Cree) as a primary source to explore the embedded knowledge within the language. Nêhiyawêwin positions women as integral to strong community and family relations, as positioned by traditional matriarchal systems. Indigenous ideas of family are more expansive and broadly defined compared to western worldviews, supporting the circular transmission of oral culture over several generations. To truly understand Indigenous ideas of home, the reader must consider the fluidity of kinship and adoption, as well as what and where home is. This includes a relationship to the land and a spiritual sense of being. With this in mind, we call for Indigenous authority over policy and programming to address Indigenous social issues in Canada. This would allow for Indigenous paradigms to effectively inform policy and housing initiatives that serve Indigenous populations.


Cheyenne Greyeyes is from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation on Treaty 6 Territory and is an undergraduate student at MacEwan University. Her research is focused on Indigenous Treaty, language, and Indigenous cultural resurgence. She works as part of the ‘Decolonizing Transitions out of Care’ research team and as a youth worker at Niginan Housing Ventures, an Indigenous-led and owned housing organization from Edmonton, at their multigenerational affordable housing building.

Celina M. Vipond is an undergraduate student at MacEwan University working with the ‘Decolonizing Transitions from Care’ research team in partnership with Niginan Housing Ventures. Her research ranges from molecular biology to social work and psychology, with a particular interest in Indigenous resurgence and culture in her journey of reclaiming her own Métis culture.

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