Aboriginal women


Today, I am getting ready to do an ignite talk (www.ignitelondon.ca). I am actually not nervous about this (okay maybe a bit) but I am nervous about receiving my mark back from these two other essays I wrote. I think I could have set up my arguments to be a bit more persuasive; however, due to time constraints, was limited. I actually had to ask for two extensions–you would think being unemployed I would have more time. No, that’s not the case. Working part-time and trying to do full-five credits for a school year is tough. At my school, they even consider 3.5 credits full time.

Anyways, I am nervous. I honestly think there is too much pressure on undergrads. This blog post isn’t about that topic though.

I was kind of annoyed when I was writing my second essay. It was on the overrepresentation of Aboriginal women in federal institutions. A bit of background:

Aboriginal women are:

  • …more likely to receive a higher security classification
  • …are more likely to be unemployed (full-time)
  • …more likely to head single parent households w/ less income than non-Aboriginal single mothers and Aboriginal single fathers
  • …overrepresented in the sex trade
  • …are overrepresented in the federal inmate population

One student talking to me the other day said she was angry with everything she was reading (she was writing an essay on Aboriginal women too). On the advice that was given to me, I told her to use that anger to write. I try to write about things that are near and dear to me.

The overrepresentation of Aboriginal women in Canadian institutions is near and dear to me because I met a lot of Aboriginal women who were or have been in prison/jail, either for a short time or a long time.

What made me angry about this paper was that the security classification system is extremely discriminatory. This classification system uses categories such as education, employment, sexual habits, or past victimization, to determine if the individual requires a higher security classification or not. Based on the stats I listed above and the categories listed in this paragraph alone, Aboriginal women then receive a higher security classification than any other prison population.

Oh and should I add that Aboriginal women make up LESS than 3% of the total Aboriginal population, yet 1/3 of the total prison population and 50% of the high-security federal inmate population? Yeah, that is important to remember when you look at those stats and the security classification system.

Just thought I would let you all know. You know, in case you are all wondering about Aboriginal women in Canada again.

Who am I?

Who am I?

A few famous quotes that are useful when trying to answer this question are below

  • “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss
  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.”–Socrates
  • “I think, therefore I am.” — Rene Descartes

In the last few months, I found myself questioning who I am/was. I always hear statistics that tell me Indigenous people face dark, stark, unbearable realities. I have written about some of those realities even sharing some of my own personal experiences and my own personal stories. In sharing some of those personal stories, sometimes a random person who doesn’t know me, messages me to insult me. I just brush it off as that person doesn’t really know me.

Yet, sometimes I don’t even know who I AM.

I had a really empowering, emancipating experience about a few weekends ago. I was surrounding by many strong individuals who had a clear definition about who they were, where they stood and what they stood for. I felt quite little and perhaps even like a puppet existing in my own realities. Before this experience, I had been in counseling or seen counselors that spoke to me in a way that described me as the victim. I just accepted it. I was the victim. Whatever happened before me, defined who I was and it was normal for me to feel and act the way I had. Whatever decisions I made, those that saw me as the victim defined the choices I made as just being choices victims make all the time.

I don’t want to be the victim though.

I remember I did not want to be seen this way after sitting in a few lecture classes at school. We were listening to various public speakers. All these speakers were amazing. Some of them I could relate but then there was one who spoke about Aboriginal girls/women. A white, RCMP officer. He spoke on a topic that I had direct experience with yet he spoke as if all Aboriginal girls/women that had faced these realities were all victims and needed to be saved. At the end, I ask him some questions and politely reminded him that not all are forced to do things against their own will and some are even capable of making their own choices to leave the situation they are in. Key word: SOME. I was a part of that some. I realized the situations I found myself in were not good for me and I made the conscious decision to leave. I literally *snapped* out of it when I asked myself one day, “why do these things keep happening to me?” It was either keep doing what I was doing or change. I left one life behind for a life that was/is better for me…on my own terms.

I guess some people need to be reminded that yes, Aboriginal women/girls as a group experience a lot of bad things or find themselves in bad situations. However, this does not mean that we are all victims. I no longer want to be seen as the victim or being victimized in my experiences. Being constantly reminded that I was “the victim” doesn’t make me stronger, it makes me question myself. Who wants to be constantly questioning their own self or their own existence? I want to be seen as a strong, resilient Aboriginal woman for the decisions I made to help me be a more stronger and resilient woman than I was if I had not made those decisions…both good and bad. We all make bad decisions or experience bad situations; we don’t need our bad decisions or bad situations to define our existence.

Smarts and Beauty

So here I am writing about this topic….yet again. This is a topic that is frequently brought in my courses, particularly in my deviance class. We talk about violence against women and violence against children or how violence affects both groups. I appreciate the way the professor brings these topics up in class. She brings in guest lecturers and also provides stories about the work she has done with women who experience violence. I remember my first year sitting in some of her classes and talking about the same issues.

Without hesitation, I had to leave class several times because of the anxiety of the recollection that her guest lecturers or the stories she shared had re-ignited in my own self. I experienced an abusive relationship. It was a struggle for me to face the reality of what really happened to me. I didn’t want to believe it. I thought it meant I was stupid because I didn’t know what was happening. I learned after a great deal of counseling, it wasn’t my fault and that it wasn’t because I was “stupid.”

Most recently, the last time I had to leave class, to go cry in the bathroom, was when my professor talked about how the abuse begins in subtle ways. My professor mentioned that the abusive partner may try to control the physical appearance or the behaviour of the abused. That means it doesn’t always start as physical abuse. In fact, some individuals can experience an abusive relationship without experiencing physical abuse at all. They could experience emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse, or worse, a relationship encompassing all these types of abuse.

As I sat there in class, the professor began to share a story that it may begin with the abuser saying to the abused, “Oh, I like you much better with natural nails. Why don’t you take off your nail polish?” Sounds innocent right? No? Maybe. With my relationship, I remember I wanted to cut and dye my hair. I used to have long hair right down to my waist. It was virgin hair which meant it had never been dyed. To me at the time, I distinctively remembered I told the guy at the time I wanted to cut my hair and that I wanted to dye it a different color. He looked at me, started to play with my hair and said “No, I like your hair long and natural. It looks and feels so pretty. It makes you look pretty.” When I was sitting in class that particular day, it made me kind of upset again. Upset with myself for not knowing better. Eventually when the abuse started to happen, the one thing that was always there ready for a quick easy grab to pull me around was my long, beautiful, natural hair. If he couldn’t grab my clothing or couldn’t grab my arm or my neck, he could at least grab my hair or pull my hair down, grabbing it by the fistful. As soon as the relationship ended, I went and cut my hair to a shoulder length. I eventually started to dye it different colors too. Blonde. Red. Black. Whatever wasn’t my natural hair color. My mother called it “grieving.” I was grieving all right. Grieving the lost of my old self into a brand new self.

Within the years that followed, I sometimes told myself that I was stupid for not being smart enough, for not realizing sooner and for the better, what was happening to me. The relationship went on like that for about a year and half. Off and on.

Today, I try to tell myself, “Look how far you come… you are smart…you are beautiful.” However, my smarts isn’t about book smarts or streets smarts. It’s about knowing what is best for me and only me. It is looking out for my own best interests. My beauty isn’t about looking great every time I step outside. It is about realizing that I have come this far and I am a stronger person because of it all. That is what being smart and being beautiful is for me. It’s not always about being top-of-the-class or wearing the best clothes and make up but it is about realizing how far I have come and how much stronger I am because of everything, both positive and negative, I learned and experienced.

Did all that really just happen?!

They say everything in life happens for a reason. Last week was an eventful one, especially pertaining to Indigenous issues (it was almost an Indigenous issues overload) but I loved it!

Last week, I was able to attend the Liberal Biennial Convention. It was an amazing experience. I got to meet so many cool new people thanks to my friend Chad! I first met him at my university just randomly talking about policies and issues that were in the media at the time. He eventually convinced me to join the Liberal party. I am really glad that I did.

During the convention, it was all go-go-go. I will admit I even had a mini breakdown after the co-chairs of the APC and other exec, and myself had met with Dr. Carolyn Bennett. However, I was not alone in this. I had the support of the rest of the APC team (as well as some pointers from Dr. Bennett’s assistants). At the convention, there was almost no time to eat. I remember the first day I was sooooo hungry–my little nutrigrain bar and boiled egg didn’t hold over very long and it wasn’t until three in the afternoon did I sit down to have a full meal, and meals always included a time to discuss and meet with others. There was a lot of multitasking. I know that I am pretty good at multi-tasking or at least time management but this was a new experience for me: I had no idea what to expect!

The out-going president did a wonderful job by allowing us to introduce ourselves (I still have to find a French translator to translate my english bio for the Liberal party website–so if you read this and you can help me or know someone who can, let me know!). Hon. Paul Martin sat in the audience while we all introduced ourselves and even the amazing Cynthia C. Wesley-Esquixmaus was there!

When I was sitting in the audience, there was an alteration between French and English. It made me sad because I wish I had taken the french courses in elementary and high school. In elementary and high school, I opted for Ojibwe classes. It made me sad to sit there and think of other Indigenous students who opt to talk their traditional language over French, would they want to one day go into politics and be faced to learn yet another language? Anyways, that’s a different topic saved for a different post (maybe). For a new personal goal, I am going to try to learn french. I know that I should take the time to learn my language but this is one of the decisions that many young Indigenous peoples face and that being, how to walk in both worlds.

Anyways, I think this is going to be a great opportunity to learn from and to gain some definitely useful experience. Since my initial posts regarding the convention and donations, I was able to converse with several individuals on Aboriginal women issues (and also learning about issues that other Aboriginal groups face). Like I said, this is going to be a great opportunity to learn from.

I will cherish this experience forever from the times that we were able to meet with the Hon. Paul Martin to discuss how we can help him or him help us or when Dr. Carolyn Bennett walked up to me and gave me a hug after I shared my personal story, and especially remember those who sat in on the APC biennial on the first day. But most importantly, the wonderful group of individuals who I met this weekend who are all a part of this experience for the next 2 years. When I sit here and think about, I still can’t believe it all happened.

The woman in me

A poem I wrote over this past weekend.

The woman in me
Is the feminine me
The strong confident
Graceful me
The woman in me
Is filled with bravery
The loving trusting
Resilient me
The woman in me
Is the courage in me
The spirit in me
The woman in me

Someone recently asked me what does resiliency mean to me? Well, resiliency to me is having choice and hope, and most importantly making life worth living with what you are presented with. Being resilient is being a female, being a woman. . .

Maisy and Shannon

Photo borrowed from http://www.findmaisyandshannon.com

Today I started reading a book by Warren Goulding called “Just Another Indian.” I cried twice already. It talks about a subject that really gets to me every time I read or hear about: missing/murdered Aboriginal women.

Then, in another post on my FB feed and also repeatedly in my twitter feed, I see this link titled Police Study Link Between Sex Offender, Missing Girls.

I share the feelings with Laurie Odjick because I remember seeing these girls on television during the news casting. For a brief second. I remember thinking something similar to Ms. Odjick, If these girls were not Native, would the police investigative have been more exhaustive or media exposure increased? I remember seeing Maisy and Shannon’s pictures and remembered their faces and seeing this brief reporting on the news channel. I remember because I was scared. I remember thinking about my own safety. At the same time, I had just moved to London, Ontario on my own. No family. No friends. I really didn’t even have a place to call home. I didn’t know much about the missing of Maisy and Shannon or how or where they were first reported to have been missing because not much was reported. So, I had thought they had gone missing in Ontario. Apparently, they were just spotted in Ontario. I wish their pictures were shown in more places and for longer periods. I saw their pictures only twice since seeing their pictures on the news that day. Once on the television that day and another on the back of a transport.

You can read a letter that Laurie Odjick writes and you can just feel the frustrations pouring out through her words. You can read that letter HERE.

The book that I am reading right now talks about the lack of media exposure of the serial killer, John Martin Crawford, who raped and killed Native women. These women were reported missing to the police, police didn’t do much, and even when Crawford was on trial for admitting to killing the women he had killed, there was still very little media exposure. It makes me sad that this is still happening today in a completely different region in Canada almost 10 years ago? You would think that organizations and agencies would learn from the Crawford case.

It is a disgrace, like the article highlights, that young Aboriginal women are allowed to go missing at the present, alarming rates. Amnesty International even has their own campaign to help address this issue at an international level. You can check out the campaign called Stolen Sisters. I talk about this campaign in my post titled Globalization: The Further Oppression of Aboriginal Women. Even though the work that this organization is doing is great, it is still quite new and the latest reports that were generated in support of their campaign even mentioned that much of the previous and initial campaign’s initial report’s recommendations still need to be implemented.

So what can be done to help this particular? There is already a website set up to help raise awareness. You can check the website that was set up by the families of Maisy and Shannon, HERE. Donations have been sent and received and you can help donate to help find the Maisy and Shannon. The link to donate is HERE. Maisy and Shannon’s families have set this all up themselves. The family has done this all on their own time. Frustrated with the policing agencies. Frustrated with lack of accountability. Frustrated with lack of responsibility. The same feelings and similar situations that I read about in this book written by Warren Goulding.

It literally breaks my heart to read about this over and over again: young Aboriginal women going missing and almost nothing done by policing agencies/organizations–families are left to deal with the situation. Canada, it’s time to step up to the plate. First Nations people: you are failing them over and over again. I feel so helpless and I am not even related nor have I ever met Maisy or Shannon’s families or friends. I can only imagine what this woman and her family/friends are feeling or have felt.

Prays for the families/friends of Maisy and Shannon & to Maisy and Shannon ❤

As taken from the article in The Gazette: Anyone with information should call Quebec provincial police at 819-310-4141 or the Kitigan Zibi Police Department 819-449-6000. There is a $15,000 reward, offered by friends and family, for information that leads to their safe return.

Globalization: The Further Oppression of Aboriginal Women

Globalization: The Further Oppression of Aboriginal Women in Canada

Recently a Globe and Mail article dated February 25, 2011 featuring Michael Moore, known for his Academy-award winning documentaries (Michael Moore’s Blog), talks about a Brazilian-owned Mining company in Canada that is known as the “second largest mining company in the world” (Galloway). This is globalization in Canada: large export companies coming in and creating employment for its citizens. In the same article, the mining company’s most recent decision is highlighted. This decision is to remove itself from its mining operations in the small northern community of Thompson, Manitoba, which will reportedly cause its citizens to lose five hundred jobs (Galloway). Upon the company’s exit, Thompson’s citizens will be left without employment and the company will be left with an acquired $17.3 billion (Galloway). Some say globalization is for the betterment of Canada, but what those people fail to see is the exploitation of small towns. Small towns like Thompson, Manitoba are exploited with the promise of opportunity, but when the company leaves the community, the towns are right back where they started: with little to no economic opportunity. What the headlines do not reveal are the town’s hidden citizens, wherein Thompson, Manitoba 36.4% of the population is Aboriginal (Indian and Northern Affairs). Headlines like this, which are concerned with the ways in which globalization helps small towns, take priority over the headlines that are concerned with how globalization is adversely affecting other groups who already lack opportunity within Canada, like Aboriginal women. When people and headlines are more concerned with the general population, one must begin to ask, has globalization benefited women, specifically Aboriginal women?

This essay will argue that Aboriginal women in Canada have not benefited from globalization because of a corporate culture that creates a patriarchy that is adverse to Aboriginal culture, which further oppresses Aboriginal women in Canada. This essay will first demonstrate that globalization oppresses Aboriginal women through its patriarchal corporate culture, which is counter to the values and beliefs of Aboriginal culture. Second, the essay will put forth the idea that Aboriginal women are oppressed because their issues are inadequately addressed in the face of globalization. Finally, this essay will argue that Aboriginal women are oppressed because globalization further limits the few opportunities available to them. Two counter arguments will also be addressed: The argument made by some critics which suggests that globalization does not oppress all Aboriginal women, some of whom are already part of Aboriginal communities that are patriarchal in form; and the argument that globalization helps Aboriginal women because some international organizations use globalization to raise awareness concerning Aboriginal women’s issues. As Aboriginal people fight for their rights and recognition within Canadian society, they must be careful not to further oppress an important group of people key to their own existence: Aboriginal women.

Globalization is an ambiguous term with multiple meanings. When applying ambiguous terms to a specific group of people, caution should be taken because these terms and their concepts may seem to only benefit part of the group, rather than the whole group. A definition of what globalization is and how it pertains to Aboriginal people should be established. In Globalization and Self-Government: Impacts and Implications for First Nations in Canada, Gabrielle A. Slowey points out that globalization is a “common term…with a variety of meanings [and] for some, it is a dangerous euphemism” (266). Globalization as it is relevant to Aboriginal peoples can be defined as the corporate control over resources for profit. Furthermore, Slowely describes globalization as “corporations [assuming] a more dominate role in all spheres of life” (265). This corporate dominated role suggests that globalization is purely profit driven, and in the corporate world, people are unconcerned with the under-privileged, like Aboriginal women. Another question relating to globalization and Aboriginal peoples is what is it exactly that corporations seek to control? As it pertains to Aboriginal peoples, corporations seek to control natural resources. In Globalization as Racialized, Sexualized Violence, Rauna Kuokkanen describes globalization as “a form of oppression that is linked to patriarchy” (218) and “this patriarchal control [is] over those defined as subordinate, whether women, indigenous peoples or the environment (‘natural resources’)” (222). Koukkanen shows that corporations seek to control those who are considered subordinate, which includes women, Aboriginal people, and their natural resources. Aboriginal women are then a unique group to the world of globalization because they are connected to issues relating to women, to race, and to natural resources. Therefore, this essay defines globalization as a purely profit driven, corporate dominating concept that seeks to control the natural resources of Aboriginal people in a top-down fashion.

Globalization’s corporate culture seeks to control subordinate subjects in the corporate-driven world. In the corporate world, Canadian women in general are already underrepresented and rarely reach top-management positions (Catalyst). This may suggest a patriarchal structure, and it is this patriarchy that has oppressed Aboriginal women in the past and will continue to oppress them in the future. In Sisters in Spirit, Anita Olsen Harper states that “many pre-contact Aboriginal societies were both matriarchal and matrilineal [which] ensured women’s authority and legitimate place” (175). Globalization may then further oppress Aboriginal women because it is this corporate dominating world associated with globalization that may cause Aboriginal women to further lose their place in society. If globalization may further oppress Aboriginal women, it does so in a historical context of this type of oppression. The oppression of Aboriginal women occurred when Europeans first came to Canada. In Trauma to Resilience: Notes on Decolonization, Cynthia C. Wesley-Esquimaux highlights that “Native women came under the gaze of missionaries, men who could not see women as equals…Native women were removed from their traditional roles and responsibilities and pushed to the margins of their own society” (16). This shows that Aboriginal women’s oppression began well before globalization, and that if globalization’s corporate dominating world and its suggestive patriarchy were to continue into the future, so will the oppression of Aboriginal women.

One might argue that globalization would not oppress all Aboriginal women because some of their own communities are patriarchal in form. To compare globalization’s patriarchy and an Aboriginal society’s patriarchy is a false analogy. This is because even if some Aboriginal societies are patriarchal in form, Aboriginal women still have a place in society. Harper further states that “other First Nation societies, even if they were patriarchal in structure, were similar to the Iroquoian in their recognition and placing women in high standing” (175). Aboriginal women’s status, since the Europeans colonization, has been oppressed because Europeans did not see them as equals. Globalization is profit-driven, not equality-driven. Furthermore, this comparison is a false analogy because an Aboriginal women’s position was central to Aboriginal people’s existence, even in a patriarchal structure. As Harper further states:

[These societies] considered their women essential and valued economic partners….women took on domestic roles…as well as significant roles in essential livelihood activities….women were personally autonomous, appreciated, and treated as valued members in all aspects of community life. (175-176)

This demonstrates that Aboriginal women have a rightful and equal place essential to Aboriginal people’s existence in their society, whether patriarchal or not. Globalization will further oppress Aboriginal women because corporations are unconcerned with giving status to the subordinates they seek to control or with treating their subordinates as equal and essential to the corporation’s existence.

Aboriginal women are a unique group to globalization. They are unique because they are connected to all three groups: women, Aboriginal people, and natural resources (land). When corporations seek to control Aboriginal people’s natural resources, the issues Aboriginal people are concerned with no longer include gender specific issues, but rather they are concerned with land (natural resources) issues. Aboriginal women are then oppressed because Aboriginal women’s issues are no longer given the attention they deserve. Andrea Smith in Native American Feminism, Sovereignty and Social Change insists that “Native struggles for land and survival continue to take precedence over these other issues” (118) and that “gender justice is often articulated as being a separate issue from issues of survival” (121). Smith shows that the struggle for land (natural resources) and survival is prioritized above Aboriginal women’s issues and that the latter are seen as separate issues all together. If globalization is profit driven and seeks to control the natural resources of Aboriginal people, and if Aboriginal people prioritize their struggle for land (natural resources) over Aboriginal women’s issues, these gender-specific issues may never be recognized and realized, thereby further oppressing Aboriginal women.

Having said this, one might argue that globalization does not oppress Aboriginal women because international organizations are using globalization to bring awareness to Aboriginal women’s issues. Even though other organizations like Amnesty International are helping free Aboriginal women from their struggles, any real change has yet to happen. Amnesty International has been dedicated to helping Aboriginal women and their issues, and its Stolen Sisters campaign speaks out about gender violence against Aboriginal women (Amnesty International 2). It must be highlighted that this is only a recent campaign, and a report subsequent to the campaign highlights the fact that even though inquiries have been conducted, and recommendations put forth, most of these recommendations have yet to be implemented. Work into the Stolen Sisters campaign began in October 2004 (Amnesty International 1), and Amnesty International’s most recent report, dated September 2009, further states that provincial and federal inquiries have “put forth a body of recommendations most of which have yet to be implemented” (Amnesty International 25). The same issues, the Aboriginal peoples and their natural resources, that continue to take priority over Aboriginal women’s issues are the same ones central to globalization, further excluding and oppressing Aboriginal women from the global economy. Therefore, even though other organizations are raising awareness about Aboriginal women’s issues to help relieve them from oppression, this work is still recent, and some of its recommendations have yet to be implemented. It could take years for any real changes to happen, and globalization may make these changes even more difficult to attain.

Globalization further oppresses Aboriginal women because it makes the few opportunities that are available to them even more difficult to obtain. In Sisters in Spirit, Harper highlights that Aboriginal women face “high-unemployment rates and lack of economic opportunity,” in particular on their First Nation (180). The jobs created for Aboriginals living on their First Nation continue to exclude Aboriginal women when corporations introduce male-dominated natural resource industries. Furthermore, globalization and its corporate dominating world are not concerned with Aboriginal women and their opportunities. Slowey highlights that “globalization has provided the government with incentives to make Canada more competitive within the global economy” (270). This shows that globalization is not concerned with Aboriginal women and their opportunities, but rather with where Canada stands in the global economy. This increased competition may lead to the migration of people into Canada and thus to the further displacement Aboriginal women, especially those living off their First Nation and in Canadian cities. Fariyal Ross-Sheriff in Globalization as a Women’s Issue Revisited highlights that “global changes are resulting in greater mobility…and global migration” (133). It must be noted that migration of individuals to Canada is not opposed of or should be rejected. However, globalization and heightened migration into Canada may then lead to Aboriginal women’s competitive advantage to be diminished as people with more skills, education, and experience fight for the same opportunities that Aboriginal women fight for. With increased migration and a focus on making Canada more competitive in the global economy, Aboriginal women are oppressed when their struggles to acquire the few opportunities available to them are more difficult to attain in the face of globalization.

Globalization is, above all else, profit-drive. This essay defined globalization as corporations seeking to control the natural resources of Aboriginal people in a top-down fashion. This essay asked the question: has globalization benefited women, specifically Aboriginal women? The answer is that Aboriginal women in Canada have not benefited from globalization because it is this corporate culture that creates a patriarchal society and control over Aboriginal people and their resources. It is this type of control that is adverse to Aboriginal culture and that further oppresses Aboriginal women. Furthermore, Aboriginal women’s oppression began well before globalization and if globalization’s tendency to dominate and exercise patriarchal control over subordinate subjects were to continue into the future, so will the oppression of Aboriginal women. The counter-argument that some Aboriginal societies are patriarchal in form fails to acknowledge the place that Aboriginal women continue to hold in these societies. Even if some Aboriginal societies are patriarchal, these societies still recognize Aboriginal women and placed women in high standing. As corporations seek to control Aboriginal peoples and their resources, the issues Aboriginal women struggle with may never be fully recognized in the face of globalization. Other organizations are helping to bring attention to Aboriginal women’s issues, but this work is only recent and some of it has yet to be implemented. Globalization focuses on making Canada more competitive in the global economy, and in doing so, it makes the few opportunities available to Aboriginal women more difficult to reach as people with more skills, education, and experience seek out global opportunity in Canada. Therefore, as Aboriginal people fight for their rights and recognition as a group within Canadian society, they must be careful not to further oppress an important group of people key to their existence: Aboriginal women.

If Canada wants to remain competitive in a globalized Canadian economy, they must begin to recognize the implications of globalization on Aboriginal people and Aboriginal women specifically. Aboriginal people must also be aware of these implications and their effects on Aboriginal women, a group that is central to their existence. Aboriginal people should be careful not to fight just for land rights or Aboriginal people’s rights, but also to fight for Aboriginal women’s rights. Amnesty International’s work on Aboriginal women’s issues and gender violence is a start, but the work should not stop there. Aboriginal people should be weary about globalization. They should be weary about allowing corporations to access their natural resources merely for profit. In the past, prior to the onset of globalization, Aboriginal people’s land was taken away from them and their women were controlled in a patriarchal fashion. With globalization and corporate greed, Aboriginal people may no longer have a place to call home. That is, as more people come to Canada for opportunity and a new place to call home, the question we must ask is: where will Aboriginal peoples go? The real and long-term implications of globalization needs to be addressed before allowing corporations, like the one mentioned in The Globe and Mail article, on Aboriginal land. Furthermore, a corporation entering Aboriginal land to access its resources needs to be transparent about what it plans to do with the land and it needs to be transparent with the land’s rightful owners: the Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people need to realize that they cannot leave the most important group of people–Aboriginal women–out of their struggle for existence, because if it were not for Aboriginal women, Aboriginal people would not exist.

Am I "Indian" Enough For You?

I have been single for 2 years. In that two years, I have met some great people, and not so great people. Gone on some great dates and some not-so-great dates.

I have met some people who say to me: Why are you single? You’re such a great girl. And I have met some people who resort to calling me names when I say “No thanks, I am not interested in dating you…” Sorry, but you can’t win them all right?

Then one day, at school, I had a conversation with a Native guy. He was being his inquisitive self and I was being my talkative self. He then asked me a question, which I cannot remember precisely… but I asked him why he was asking me that. He proceeded to say, “I like to find out how “Indian” someone is.” I was kind of shocked. I then proceeded to say to him, “You know I never dated a Native guy before…” And it is true, I never have dated a Native guy before. In fact, my first relationship was with a white guy. And my second, and my third… I haven’t even gone on a “date” with a Native guy.

There are some great Native guys out there. In fact, race or ethnic background isn’t even one of the requirements for me to date someone. I don’t even have “requirements” or a “checklist.” I believe that you know someone is “right” for you, when they are strong enough to be there for you through the good and the bad times. Yet, whenever I think about having a relationship with a Native guy, there always lies that thought or question in the back of my head: Am I “Indian” enough for him?

I don’t know much about my culture. Well, I know what I was taught, and that is different from what someone else was taught. I don’t live at home, and I see my family when I can. Family is a big thing in Native culture. It’s not that I don’t love my family. I do love them and I love them a lot.

So as I sit here in my search to find that someone special, I begin to think: Why am I single? Am I too picky? Am I too busy? Or, maybe it is because I actually am I too “bitchy”… (Bitchy being: saying what is on my mind, standing up for what I believe is right)

Sometimes I practice my culture, sometimes I don’t. For some, it’s not enough. For some, it’s too much.

I remember having breakfast with one Native guy and during that time he said to me, “I come from a long-line of chiefs.” I didn’t know if this was a joke or if he was serious. Am I supposed to be the same, and come from a “long line of chiefs”? I don’t even know my grandparents (but that is because all but one passed away before I was born).

Then in a conversation with my mom about what I should speak about during an event in June, I told my mom what I thought about myself, event aside: I may never be “Indian” enough for a Native guy, and I may never be “good” enough for a non-Native guy.

But then I begin to think to myself, am I even ready for a relationship? I am busy with school, volunteering and working. I love all three of those things. Do I have enough room for anything else? Then I remember what an old friend said to me last year when we were discussing her relationships and my single life, “You might be alone the rest of your life.” My reply to her statement, “I am okay with that.” And you know what, I am okay with that. I have enough love from my family, and great friends who are supportive in everything that I do that if I don’t find that special someone… it’s okay.

It is not the end of the world that I am single, and it is not the end of the world that I am not “Indian” enough…

I am a kind man: Kizhaay Anishnaabe Niin

Here is a site I came across on the internet…

I am a kind man…

Taken directly from the site, it says the following:

We are Aboriginal men from across Ontario who are very concerned about the problem of men’s violence and abuse against women in Aboriginal communities. The overall purpose of the Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin Initiative is to engage the men of our communities to speak out against all forms of abuse towards Aboriginal women.

1. To provide education for men to address issues of abuse against women;
2. To re-establish traditional responsibilities by acknowledging that our teachings have never tolerated violence and abuse towards women;
3. To inspire men to engage other men to get involved and stop the abuse;
4. To support Aboriginal men who choose not to use violence.

I think this is a great site especially that it appeals to kids, youth, and grown men.

Check it out by clicking on the link above 🙂

Aboriginal Women’s Leadership: Lead-HER-Ship

Note: The essay below was written by Naomi Sayers for the Women’s World 2011 Young Aboriginal Women’s Creative Essay Contest.


Leadership to me is something that women have been doing for ages. I take this word and I break it down into three parts. These three parts make up the word “leadership”, or lead-HER-ship. In essence, leadership is not just a quality; rather it is a role that all women undertake. When looked at from this angle, leadership is rather essential to life because women have been doing this for ages; that is, they have been leading HER ship.

The first part of this word refers to an action, namely, to lead. To lead means to guide a group of people or your own physical self in the right direction; it is to learn how to use the resources and the environment around you. To lead, then is not only to better your own life, but also to better the lives of others. This part of the word leadership is rather easy to notice.

The second part of this word may not be evident, but it is implied by the parts or the sounds that make up this part of the word. This part of the word speaks specifically to women, or in other words, speaks directly to HER: lead-HER-ship. Women are the carriers of life. Even though this part of the word is not as easy to notice, I believe that it is there and that it speaks directly to women.

The third part of the word can be understood in a metaphorical sense. Even though the third part of the word is “ship,” it does not literally mean ship. That is to say, women are not captains or leaders of a ship or a boat. Rather women are leaders in their own lives and the lives of others. Women provide the harmonistic balance and the gentle care that is necessary for life in this world. They provide this balance and care in for themselves and for their own community. Individually, they provide a balance for their own selves by maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul so that as carriers of life, they can help raise healthy babies and ultimately healthy families. At a community level, women, specifically Aboriginal women, are central to a community’s existence. Without the lead-HER-ship of Aboriginal women, communities might not be as balanced. Thus, the third and final part of this word–lead-HER-ship–metaphorically means guiding one’s own ship. In other words, their own life, community, and family, on a well-balanced and cared for journey to a destination that is safe.

When I look at leadership from this angle, lead-HER-ship, I begin to see that Aboriginal women’s leadership is important because it is the woman that helps guide her family and community to a safe destination by providing a harmonistic balance and gentle care to herself, her family and her community. Additionally, it can be seen that from this perspective, Aboriginal women have been providing leadership for years. They have been raising their families in a healthy manner, and helping to provide for a healthy community. Without Aboriginal women’s leadership, it would be hard for a community to be maintained. It is with an Aboriginal woman’s harmonistic balance and gentle care in maintaining her own self to raise a healthy family, which in turns makes for a healthy community that Aboriginal people thrive in. Therefore, Aboriginal women’s leadership is essential to a healthy community, a healthy family, and a healthy self.

Unfortunately, Aboriginal women’s leadership and their roles have been undermined because of the effects of colonialism. These effects of colonialism happen in a historical context. In Canada, the arrival of European settlers and their effects of enforcing their patriarchal views have displaced Aboriginal women out of their important roles as mothers, wives and women in their own community. This displacement happened when the Canadian government forcefully obtained Aboriginal children, placed them in residential schools away from their parents because they considered Aboriginal parents to be ineffective. Also, the Christian Church’s insistence on enforcing patriarchal views onto Aboriginal communities has displaced Aboriginal women as wives because of this removal of their children. Aboriginal women were not considered the strong, central figures that Aboriginal people and their culture considered their women to be.

Aboriginal women have been removed from their roles as strong women in their community with the creation of the Indian Act. The Act has undermined Aboriginal women when it removed their status once they married a non-Aboriginal. Only recently did Bill C-31 come into effect, wherein the bill provided the guidelines for reinstating an Aboriginal woman’s identity that was lost once she married a non-Aboriginal man. Also, the Indian Act did not protect an Aboriginal woman’s right to her own matrimonial property. Organizations and First Nations are realizing this lack of protection when it comes to the matrimonial home and some have remedied for their own situations. Briefly speaking because of the complexity of these issues, this is how the effects of colonialism have removed Aboriginal women from their roles as mothers, wives, and women in their own community. This is why Aboriginal women’s leadership is important. It allows for Aboriginal women to regain their identity and their roles as mothers, wives, and women in their own communities.

Two Aboriginal women that I look to for inspiration are Pauline Johnson and Lee Maracle. Johnson is known for writing about “Indian Life” and Maracle has written about life as a member as an oppressed minority. Both women have also written creative pieces, like poetry. Today, I write poetry and write an online blog where I write about my experiences as an Aboriginal female living in present-day Canadian Society. I write about my struggles, my experiences, and I also write creative pieces like poetry and short stories. These women have written about what life was like for them during their time, and today I write about what life is like for me. My goal one day is to write a children’s book that tells Aboriginal history from a younger generation’s perspective. I want to showcase my artwork in this book, and my interpretation of Residential schools and how that era has affected me and my friends. I also plan to include Residential school survivors’ and their children’s perspectives when writing this book. These women inspire me because of their ability to use writing and education to their advantage—an institution that was once created to remove Aboriginal women from their roles, as mothers, wives, and women in their own communities.

In conclusion, leadership to me is not just a quality; rather it is a also role that women undertake. Leadership is rather essential to life because women have been doing this for ages, leading HER ship. Specifically, Aboriginal women’s leadership is important because it helps Aboriginal women to regain their identity and roles as mothers, wives and women in their own community, which was once undermined through the effects of colonialism. Without Aboriginal women, there would be no carriers of life, no family, and no community. If it were not for Aboriginal women, Aboriginal people would not exist. This is what Aboriginal women lead-HER-ship is to me.