Leave a comment

Aboriginal Women Social movement

After taking a look at the history of colonialism and structural violence towards Aboriginal women in Canada we can see how this history effects issues Aboriginal women face today. Aboriginal women have experienced discrimination and racism through colonization and structural violence in the past, this  has influenced the creation of Aboriginal women social movements (such as the Stolen Sisters social movement)

I have mentioned the characteristics of social movements in my first blog entry, I am going to apply these characteristics to the Aboriginal women’s socail movement.

First characteristic is informal networks of people. Aboriginal women social movement has gained more and more attention from provinces/territories all over Canada, different people with different backgrounds coming together to improve the lives of Aboriginal women.

Based on shared beliefs and solidarity. The Aboriginal women social movement’s shared beliefs and solidarity is equal and fair treatment to Aboriginal women in Canada.

Mobilize about conflictual issues. The issues I have stated in the beginning of this post are a few issues the Aboriginal women social movement are mobilizing around.

Through the frequent use of various forms of protest. The Aboriginal women social movement have used various types of protest such as the annual march on October 4 The National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Intends to change something that is status quo. Currently the status quo is Aboriginal women are experiencing issues such as:

  • colonization created stereotypical images of Aboriginal women which today has led to deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them.
  • Structural violence has lead to impoverished and broken apart Aboriginal families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
  • According to a Canadian government statistic, young Aboriginal women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence. Indigenous women have long struggled to draw attention to violence within their own families and communities. Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist violence against Indigenous women in Canadian cities – but have done little to prevent it.(http://www.amnesty.ca/campaigns/sisters_overview.php)


Leave a comment

Structural Violence towards Aboriginal Women

In this blog entry I am going to examine structural violence and colonial/fedral governments determination of who was and was not an ‘Indian’ as an example of structural violence towards Aboriginal women.

Structural violence is the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.(Gaultung 1997) Structural violence is inequalities ingrained into a society that excludes members of particular groups from participating in major social institutions. Aboriginal women continue to experience structural violence within the Canadian government today.

An example of Structural violence is the ‘Indian Act’

The Indian Act (1876) is the legislation that has intruded on the lives and cultures of status Indians more than any other law. Though amended repeatedly, the act’s fundamental provisions have scarcely changed. They give the state powers that range from defining how one is born or naturalized into ‘Indian’ status to administering the estate of an Aboriginal person after death… the act (sic) gave Parliament control over Indian political structures, landholding patterns, and resource and economic development. It covered almost every important aspect of the daily lives of Aboriginal peoples on reserve. The overall effect was to subject Aboriginal people to the almost unfettered rule of federal bureaucrats. The act (sic) imposed non-Aboriginal forms on traditional governance, landholding practices, and cultural practices. (Henry, Tator, Mattis and Rees, 1998: 130)

The Effects of Structural Violence on Aboriginal Women

The first definition of who and who was not an ‘Indian’ was passed by the lower Canada legislature in 1850 for the purpose of Indian administration, but it wasn’t until 1869 that definition by patrilineage was imposed (Canada, SPC 1850, c.41; Canada, SC 1869, c.6) If an Aboriginal woman was to marry a White man she would be denied the birth right as Aboriginal citizen;  and so would her children, this law did not apply to men.

 In 1951 patrilineage was imposed further making it even more strict by denying women who married out, their Aboriginal/Band membership. Aboriginal women were legally stripped of their identity and forced to make their way, as best they could without:

  • On reserve services like health and education
  • They were no longer eligabile to receive their fair share of Aboriginal annuities
  • Lost the right to live on reserve free from taxation
  • Lost their right to live on traditional lands
  • Lost their right to participate in Aboriginal local activities and
  • Raise their children in their traditional extended family system
These laws remained in place for more than a century. This regulation remained in effect until the Indian Act was revised in 1985 by Bill C-31.
Over the next decade, more than 130,000 people – mostly women – applied to have their rights and status restored. For the tens of thousands of women who had been affected over the previous century, losing their status meant the loss of independent standing in their community and increased dependence on their spouses. In many cases, the laws led to women losing all ties to their home communities. (http://www.missingpeople.net/recent_reportsamnesty_internati.htm)
The primary goal of the federal government’s Indian policy was the destruction of tribal organizations, cultural transformation, and the eventual assimilation of all First Nations Peoples into the Canadian mainstream body politic (Tobias, 1983)
Stevenson, Winona. 2011. ‘Colonialism and First Nations Women in Canada’
Henry, Frances, Carol Tator , Winston Mattis, and Tim Rees. 1998. The color of Democracy: Racism in Canadian society, 2nd edn. Toronto: Thomson Nelson Canada
Canada. Status of the Province of Canada. 1850, chap. 41; 1857, chap 29.
Tobias, John. 1991. ‘Protection, Civilization, Assimilation: An Outline History of Canada’s Indian Policy’,  in J.R Miller, ed., Sweet Promises: A Reader on Indian-White relations in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Leave a comment

History of Colonization and the Effects on Aboriginal Women

During the colonization era negative and stereotypical images of Aboriginal women were created by European colonialists, colonial agencies manipulated public perceptions of Aboriginal women to rationalize their subjugation. The negative and stereotypical images of Aboriginal women are still present in Canadian society, this may contribute to the discrimination and racism Aboriginal women experience today. In this blog entry I am going to examine the history of colonization and the effects on Aboriginal women.

Prior to the arrival of the colonizers Aboriginal women were hard-working and strong; Aboriginal women were economically independent and actively involved in the community. Aboriginal women made substantial contributions through small animal hunting, fishing, and gathering, and among some First Nations were full time horticulturalists. When big game hunting failed, women were the sole providers for their families and communities. Furthermore, the economic contributions they made translated into considerable personal autonomy, since women were generally responsible for distributing the products of their labour and were owners of the household (Bourgeault, 1991).

It is important to understand the meaning of colonization and how colonization effected the personal autonomy of Aboriginal women.

Colonization is a process Aboriginal peoples have been resisting since the beginning of the European/Aboriginal relationship. Colonization is a process of conquest whereby one nation establishes a colony on another nation’s territory with the intent of taking power, land, and resources. Europeans colonialism dates from the fifteenth century onwards, and involved the brutal establishment of European sovereignty on stolen non-European territory. Colonialism is not only about material accumulation but requires the production of ideologies that justify the theft and violent practices at its root. (Said, 1979; 1994).

Colonization has greatly effected Aboriginal women, in order for the colonizers to claim Aboriginal land it was important for them to ensure that the Aboriginal women became colonized. As an old Cheyenne proverb goes, “A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.

The colonizers had a predetermined ideas of appropriate female behaviour and status. The European ideal of womanhood, or the ‘cult of true womanhood’, revolved around female domesticity (Riley, 1963: 219) The Europeans believed that a women’s role was to cater to their fathers, husbands, or nearest male relative, and to support her family.

European ideal of woman was projected on Aboriginal societies where it functioned as “the single most important criterion for contrasting savagism with civility. (Smits, 1982: 298) The colonizers believed how a society treated its woman determined the social evolutionary state of the society.

Victorian morality was the severe standard against which Aboriginal women were judged. They were ultimately found wanting because almost everything about their being – their appearance, their social, economic, political, and spiritual positions, activities, and authority – was a violent affront to the European ideal. Compared to European women, Aboriginal women appeared ‘antithetical to the presumed natural condition of women’ (Weist, 1983: 39)

Missionaries and the colonizers worked hand in hand to colonize the Aboriginal peoples in Canada, missionaries condemned everything about Aboriginal ways of life that challenged or violated ‘civilized’ Christian norms which is everything Aboriginal women represent. More than any other colonial agency, missionaries represented the condition of Aboriginal women in fatalistic and derogatory terms. (Carter, 1984) Vivid descriptions of Aboriginal women as exploited, overworked drudges, abused, misused, dirty, haggard, resigned, and beaten abound in missionary literature (Devens, 1992)

Missionaries directly attacked aspects of Aboriginal women’s lives and characters that exemplified their personal autonomy and independence. More specifically, they assailed the lack of patriarchal family authority in the household, polygamy, the rights of both sexes to divorce, sexual freedom outside marriage, and female ownership of and control over lands, resources, and produce (Anderson, 1992)
Unlike European women, Aboriginal women faced a ‘peculiar kind of sexism… grounded in the pernicious and ever present ideologies of racism’ (Albers, 1983: 15). Also unlike European women, their burden was even more severe – to be ‘good’ they had to defy their own people, exile themselves from them, and transform into the European ideal (Green, 1990:18)
Said, Edward W. 1994. Culture and Imperialism, 1st Vintage Books edn. New York: Vintage Books.
Smits, David D. 1982. ‘The “Squaw Drudge”: A Prime Index of Savagism’, Ethnohistory 29 (4): 281-306.
Riley, Glenda. 1986. Inventing the American Women: A Perspective on Woman’s History. Arlington Heights: Harlan Davidson, Inc.
Bourgeault, Ron. 1991. ‘Race, Class, and Gender: Colonial Domination of Indian Women’, in Ormond McKague, ed., Racism in Canada. Saskatoon. Fifth House Publishers.
Weist, Katherine M. 1983. ‘Beast of Burden and Menial Staves: Nineteenth Century Observations of Northern Plains Indian Women’, in Patricia Albers and Beatrice Medicine, eds, University Press of America
Carter, Sarah. 1984. ‘The Missionaries’ Indian: The Publication of John McDougall, John Mclean, and Egerton Ryerson Young’, Praire Forum 9 (1): 27-44
Devens, Carol. 1992. Countering Colonization: Native American Women and Great Lakes Missions, 1630-1900. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Anderson, Karen. 1992. ‘Commodity Exchange and Subordination: Montagnais-Naskapi and Huron Women, 1600-1650’, The First Ones: Readings in Indian/Native Studies. Piapot: Saskatchewan Indian Federated College.
Albers, Patricia. 1983. ‘Introduction: New Perspective on Plains Indian Women’, in Patricia Albers and Beatrice Medicine, eds, The Hidden Half: Studies of Plains Indian Women. Lanham: University Press of America.
Green, Rayna. 1990. ‘The Pocahontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American Culture”, in Ellen Carol Dubois and V.L Ruiz, eds. Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S Women’s History  New York Routledge.
Leave a comment


Welcome bloggers,

My name is Rena Squirrel, I am a first year student attending the University of Alberta, I am currently enrolled in ANTHRO 207: Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology. In this class I have been assigned a term project that is to examine a social and cultural movement.The purpose of examining a social and cultural movement is to create a better understanding and promote awareness to  the movement.

It is not completely understood when asked what is a social movement, prior to doing research for this assignment I would have identified a social movement as a bunch of hooligans waving signs around. After much research I have come to realize that social movements represent much more, a social movement is an effective tool used to create change though awareness.Characteristics of social movements include:

  • informal networks of people,
  • based on shared beliefs and solidarity,
  • mobilize about conflictual issues,
  • through the frequent use of various forms of protest, and
  •  intends to change something that is status quo  (della Porta and Diani 1999:16).

There are many different kinds of social movements, such as womans liberation movement, civil rights movement, and human rights movements. For my project  I am going to focus on an Aboriginal social movements, more specifically Aboriginal womans social movements in Canada.

There are many names to address Aboriginal peoples in Canada, such as Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous. Taiaiake Alfred and Jeff Corntassel wrote an article called Being Indigenous: Resurgences Against Contemporary Colonialism, in this article they state “Indigenousness is an identity constructed, shaped and lived in the politicized context of contemporary colonialism. The communities, clans, nations and tribes we call Indigenous (Aboriginal) peoples are just that: Indigenous (Aboriginal) to the lands they inhabit, in contrast to and in contention with the colonial societies and states that have spread out from Europe and other centres of Empire.”

Aboriginal peoples living in Canada are defined in the Constitution Act , 1982, Section 35 (2) as including the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Aboriginal social movement is a movement created by Aboriginal peoples for various reasons such as: to resist structural violence within the government and to ensure the rights of Aboriginal peoples.

As I have mentioned earlier I am going to focus on Aboriginal woman’s social movement. More specifically I am going to examine the Stolen Sisters social movement. The Stolen Sister social movement is a human rights response to discrimination and violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.

In this blog I am going to explore the history of colonization and structural violence towards Aboriginal women in Canada. How has this history influenced Aboriginal women’s social movement?