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The name Atira was chosen for the society by the founding board of directors in 1982, a year before the society incorporated. The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, was on tour across Canada at the time. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from herstory.
The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table.
Atira was one of 1,038 women honoured at the table. Taken from The Brooklyn Museum’s site, where The Dinner Party is on permanent display, Atira was known as "Vault of the Sky." She was Mother Earth and a member of the council of gods in the belief system of the Pawnee, a First Nation originally located in what is modern-day Nebraska. Atira was the wife and partner of Tirawa, the creator god.
For the Pawnee,Atira's earthly manifestation is corn, which nourishes them and symbolizes the life that Mother Earth creates. "It was she who had brought forth life and it was into her body that all life would return at the end of its appointed time. Her symbol was the ear of corn, to represent the idea that, as the kernel is planted in Mother Earth (Atira) and she brings forth the ear of corn, so the child is begotten and born of woman."
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HERSTORY '82 - '95
Preface: The following draft narrative of ATIRA's history is based on the minutes of board meetings between the summer of 1982 and the spring of 1995. For lack of time to continue, I must leave the story of ATIRA unfinished for the time being. It may be that I can return to the project at a future time, or that the society will wish to have someone else take up the task. A more complete narrative ought to include matters of fiscal development, community relations, numbers of women and children served overall, nature of the services provided, problems experienced, and key moments of change in the organization's development.
Board minutes go some way toward supplying such information, but more extensive sources would be needed. During my short stay in the area this summer, Janice Abbott and the Board members have been very helpful in making themselves available to me and in allowing me to sit in and observe the nature of the meeting process.
Lack of time makes it impossible for me to proceed with personal interviews of past and current board members at this time, a circumstance I very much regret because it would most certainly lead to some interesting historical detail for this report.
To read the full Herstory, please click the following link: Herstory (PDF)