Colonialism and First Nations Women in Canada

Topics: Woman, Women's suffrage, Human rights Pages: 5 (1760 words) Published: October 30, 2005
PART I: The Authors Voice
In the article Colonialism and First Nations Women in Canada by Winona Stevenson, the author explains the struggle First Nations women had keeping their culture alive. Upon arriving in America the Europeans suffocated the natives with their rationalisation of female subjugation. Reluctant to give up their traditions and honour the native-American women put up a fight, but their efforts would not be strong enough to triumph over the European missionaries. Stevenson chronologically explains their contact with the ‘colonial agencies'.

The fur traders were shocked by the nature of the Native women. They were used to fragile, dormant women while the Aboriginal women were tough and carried a lot of qualities they considered ‘masculine'. This was unacceptable for the Europeans immigrants (mainly the French and English) and attempts to ‘civilise' the aboriginals began. The French employed many radical efforts to change the ways of the first nation woman, such as forcing young girls to French missionary schools.

The church and the state went to great lengths to create a negative picture of the native woman, she was uncivilised; a savage. Eventually the missionaries went as far as to deprive aboriginal women of food and clothes or publicly beat them if they did not confide with the Christian-European guidelines. The religious morals of Christianity and laws the state provided to back up the morals of the church were too powerful for the vulnerable Aboriginals.

The subject of women's suppression is a key topic in Stevenson's argument. She explains how women's right dramatically changed between first contact and early reserve era. She explains how First Nations women of America were equal to the men. They were strong, capable and independent, which was the contrast of the European ideology. The European women were fragile and delicate; they were nurturers to the male members of their families.

By exposing the contrasting views of each culture Stevenson exposes that the ideal woman of today is possibly controlled by men. She argues what is familiar may not be correct, which so often is combined and confused. The ideal we all strive to live up to suppresses us as woman and puts men on a pedestal, for example a ‘perfect' wife cooks, cleans and looks after the children so her husband can relax. Conceivably the First Nations women, before exposed to the submissive ideology, were on a better track than the Canadian women of the reserve era.

The Natives were also stripped of their culture and force to live abiding to Judo-Christian laws. Women rights, such as voting and divorce, were taken away without warning. The male dominated laws took away their independence. The aboriginal women were very reluctant to give up their customs but inevitably were overpowered.

By writing this paper Stevenson shows us the native alternate way of life that provides us of an example of woman with different rights, equal rights. The European view of woman is so internalized for many that it is hard to imagine that society wasn't meant to be this way. Stevenson shows us this way of life is not acceptable and should be questioned. The truth is women are not equal to men and Stevenson shows us how it became that way in Canada.

Stevenson's article is persuasive in telling the reader that the Canadian female ideal for First Nation's woman was more progressed then the modern woman; the Aboriginal women had equal rights. She shows the viewer the fact women were not always suppressed the way they are today.

PART II: An Evaluative Voice
To evaluate Steven's paper I will study the construction of her arguments. By analyzing her evidence we can then validate her statements. The content of this article seems to be mainly unbiased. Stevenson's uses facts to analyze the first nation women's journey through history rather than personal opinion or personal information. Also she uses a variety of different sources which all...

Cited: Stevenson, Winona. (1999). "Colonialism and First Nations Women in Canada." In Enakshi Dua and Angela Robertson (Eds.) Scratching the Surface. (pp. 49-80). Toronto, Ontario: Women 's Press.
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