Beyond Their Years: Five Native Women's Stories


249 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-55130-150-4
DDC 305.48'897071




Reviewed by Marilyn Mardiros

Marilyn Mardiros is an associate professor of health sciences at the
University of Ottawa.


The life histories of five Native women presented in this book challenge
Eurocentric stereotypical notions about Native women. In telling the
story of Kateri Tegakwitha, a Mohawk and Algonquin who lived in the late
1600s, the author discusses the biases of Jesuit missionary
contemporaries who compiled her life story and intended to make her a
saint. What is missing in their written accounts, according to Steckley,
is a contextual analysis of Kateri’s life within aboriginal cultures.
He identifies not only his sources of information, but also makes
explicit his analysis of historical records, allowing readers to come to
their own conclusions about the material he presents.

A compelling chapter provides not only the history of Shanawdithit, or
Nancy April, a Beothuk woman who lived in the early 1800s, but also of
the Beothuk in general. In recounting the life and death of
Shanawdithit, who lived about 28 years, Steckley indirectly relates the
genocide of her people. As with her people, all traces of Shanawdithit
disappeared: her body was exhumed, her skull taken, and her graveyard
dismantled to make way for the railway.

Nahnebahwequay, also known as Catharine Sutton, was born in 1883. A
Mississauga, she spent her life fighting for land, first against the
Iroquois, then against Europeans. Through her story, the reader gains an
appreciation of colonialism, failed land treaties, and the importance of
self-government as a means of shaping one’s cultural destiny. The
story of Tarema (Mary McKee), a Wyandot woman, serves as an exemplar of
disenfranchisement and ethnocide of the Wyandot.

This very readable book will appeal to undergraduates involved in First
Nation’s and women’s studies, as well as general readers interested
in learning more about the history of Native women.


Steckley, John., “Beyond Their Years: Five Native Women's Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,