Band councillors, social workers, and other indigenous women are learning leadership skills at a Montreal university.

Isabelle Picard is teaching the two-week course at UQAM, organized in conjunction with the Native Women's Association, which looks at the historic roles of women in native society.

"What influenced the role they have today? What changed? The Indian Act, residential schools. How did it impact our life?" said Picard.

Those in the course are analyzing female roles in education, community, and health "to talk about the realities and the issues that the women are facing as leaders, as councillors, or chiefs in their communities," said Picard.

Donna Lariviere from the Timiskaming First Nation is learning to cultivate skills in herself and in others.

"To see how we can change even more, for our native women, for the future, for our grandchildren, our daughters, and sisters so we can keep on going," said Lariviere.

"We share each other's opinions and thoughts. So it kind of nourishes your thoughts and opinions and the way you see things about the native situation."

The course's participants come from four first nations across Quebec and elsewhere, communities that have struggled with poverty and drug abuse, and hope they can learn how to change their communities for the better.

"I think I will be more prepared to understand all the challenges, when you defend Quebec native women, to understand our history," said Lariviere