Complacency No More

25 Mar

Is now the time that Canada’s First Nations civil rights movement has genuinely begun? Initiated by women? The black civil rights movement in the US resulted in extraordinary historical progress. Although aboriginals fight for their inherent rights and title their battle has not met the same progressive result. Caplan (2013) in “There is still time for #idlenomore to learn the lessons of Occupy” says the reason the back civil rights movement was unprecedented was due to the loyalty of white supporters which dramatically augmented their cause. Will Idle No More become the civil rights movement for First Nations he ponders? Too soon to tell but Canadians need to replace complacency with initiative and support for social causes that affect their land and environment.

Historically in First Nations culture the women were paramount in the decision making process. Around the circle of fire, the women sit in the inner circle and the men encircle them. Prior to the Indian Act women were politically involved as chiefs, in women’s councils and sat on advisory councils. Upon enactment of the Indian Act women lost these rights along with the right to speak publicly. “What would the world look like if it were run by women?” asks author Anderson (2005). In 2005 15% of the600 chiefs were women. During a political meeting with all white men a Cherokee chief asks, “Where are your women?” (Anderson, 2000, p1). During these treaty negotiations no white women were present around the table. He sees this as an imbalance and worries about the intentions of the white delegates around the table.

A European cultural model is used as a foundation when researchers examine the socially constructed ways in which we see masculinity and femininity. Walkerdine (2006) points out that girls have various set of attributes to maneuver around while still maintaining a level of femininity. Although they are performing masculine traits while playing video games they must still maintain a feminine balance. Being masculine and feminine is work in itself, but for girls the balancing of both these attributes requires a lot or work. I wonder if it is different for aboriginal women and girls because they originated in a different culture in different socially constructed ways. Or has the assimilation of aboriginal people forever changed the revering of the women? Maybe it has changed forever in some aspects but there is plenty of evidence to indicate that aboriginal women are important figures within their culture and communities. Perhaps they now have to maneuver and balance more of the masculine attributes today as Walkerdine (2006) alludes to. This intricate dance mirrors European culture. For example, the stereotypical metaphor, it’s a man’s world, permeates throughout postmodern times. I cannot help but think of a simpler time devoid of interpreting our social practices. It was imperialism and European racial superiority that changed the history of our indigenous people (Said in Voygeur, 2011). Prior to contact, aboriginal women were seen as important assets within the community, well respected and revered. Women held important roles in determining chieftainships, they negotiated treaties and their opinions were asked for at council and during meetings. Therefore it would seem obvious and natural from an aboriginal perspective that the Idle No More movement was initiated and reinforced by four aboriginal women lawyers.

Both Walkerdine and Foucault talk about jockeying for power and knowledge, knowledge leads to power.  Foucault says that power is compromised because it is regulating us within our socially constructed confines of masculinity and femininity to act the way we do. Putting this into the context of the Idle No More Movement and Occupy Canada how will this type of structure play out? With aboriginal women at the helm of the movement and support of the men and communities the position of power would appear to be in the hands of the women. I wonder if they have to balance the feminine and masculine attributes that women of European descent have to, or is it to a lesser degree? I think inherently aboriginal women still have the sense of power within them that they once had as leaders of their communities.

Anderson, K. (2000). The Powerful History of Native Women. Herizons, 14(1), 15.

Anderson, K. (2005). Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. Herizons, 19(1), 25-45.

Caplan, G. (2013). There is still time for #Idlenomore to learn the lessons of occupy. Retrieved from

Walkerdine, V (2006). Playing the game. In S. Thornham & C. Bassett & P. Marris (Eds.) Media studies: a reader (pp 362-372). London: Panther Books

Voyageur, C. J. (2011). Female First Nations Chiefs and the Colonial Legacy in Canada. American Indian Culture & Research Journal, 35(3), 59-78


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