The Canadian government responded to Indigenous peoples’ assertions of sovereignty in the region through the implementation of violent and degrading policies. The Indian Act, which was passed in1876, is widely regarded as racist, sexist, paternernalistic and aimed at the assimilation of First Nations culture into Euro-Canadian society (Henderson 2006, RCAP 1996, Milloy 2008). The Act relegated First Nations to reserves where they were to become culturally remade “in the image of a white rural farmer” (Barron 1988: 26). Yet, despite being relegated to lands deemed unfavourable for agriculture, First Nations in Saskatchewan began to thrive in their pursuits. This led to undesired competition, and the implementation of Peasant Farm Policy, in place from 1889 to 1897. This policy was justified on the grounds that First Nations should learn agriculture first on a small scale, using simple tools. It restricted the use of labour-saving machinery and, in combination with the Severalty policy which restricted the acreage of land available to each family, reduced the outputs of First Nations individuals to the extent that most were only able to produce at subsistence levels (and often less) (Tang 2003; âpihtawikosisân 2012; Canadian Museum of History n.d.). Furthermore, a Permit system was implemented which stipulated that First Nations individuals wishing to sell agricultural produce or livestock to non-Indigenous peoples must have a permit signed by their Indian agent or Superintendent to do so. It was illegal for individuals or businesses off reserve to purchase from First Nation farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan under this system, causing “irreparable harm to the emerging initiatives of Aboriginal farmers” (Tang 2003:7).
One of Canada’s most shameful policies relating to First Nations originated in Battleford, less than 150 kilometers from Lloydminster: the pass system. According to this system, individuals were not permitted to leave the premises of their reserve without written consent from an Indian Agent and a signed document outlining the purpose and duration of this absence (Barron 1988; Purich 1986; Tang 2003; âpihtawikosisân 2012). It has commonly been compared to the South African system of Apartheid, and is famously rumoured to have influenced it (Steckley 2016; Horwitz and Newman 2011; Barron 1988). Barron’s (1988) analysis of correspondences between “assistant Indian commissioner” Hayter Reed and surveyor and commissioner Edgar Dewdney appear to reveal that this system originated out of an initiative at Battleford to reduce Indigenous mobility. According to this interpretation, the system was never securely rooted in legislation, and lacked legal sanction. It was justified by claiming to “protect” First Nations from the perceived vices available in urban settings, to separate them for the purposes of “training” them to be integrated into white society, and to protect the property of settlers from destruction at the hands of First Nations. It was enforced by arresting First Nations found off of reserves without a pass on the grounds of trespassing or vagrancy (Barron 1988; Tang 2003; Funk and Lobe 1991). While Barron notes that First Nations often aggressively refused to obey this repressive and unjust policy, and commonly “subverted” or “avoid[ed]” it (1988: 35), Tang (2003) describes it as being effective in restricting the flow of goods and services between settlers and First Nations. The persistent poverty and food insecurity experienced by several First Nations in these regions still today is unsurprising when one considers the painstaking efforts made to effectively and intentionally cut them out of the settler economy (which they were first forcefully incorporated into through the fur trade and other means).
Canada’s residential school legacy also has deep roots to the plains. Although their origins begin much earlier, in New France as early as the 1830’s, the federal government of Canada developed and implemented an educational policy in the 1880’s promoting the model of custodial schools which now make up our nation’s infamous residential school legacy. These schools were operated in partnership with the Roman Catholic, United, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, and began opening in the prairies in 1883. They would later spread to Ontario and Quebec (Miller 2012). Under the residential school system, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit children were forcefully removed from their homes and held in schools where their traditional practices and languages were forbidden. These schools varied in the cultural diversity of attendees and distance from reserves, among other things, and Indigenous children varied in the length of time they spent in these schools and the amount of contact they were able to maintain with their families and communities (Chrisjohn and Young 1997); however, “it is widely accepted that the treatment children [received] in Indian residential schools caused grievous multigenerational harm” (Daniels 2006: 100). In 1920, the Indian Act made attendance in these schools compulsory for all First Nations, who were not permitted to seek education elsewhere. Parents who failed to comply and register their children in these schools or turn them over to Indian Agents, RCMP officers, or church officials faced jail sentences, or withheld food rations and/or treaty payments (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 2015; Owen n.d.). Although Inuit and Metis peoples are not regulated by the Indian Act, and at various points in history there were conflicts between the federal and provincial governments regarding whose responsibility it was to “educate” these peoples, it is known that many Inuit, Metis, and non-status Indigenous children were made to attend residential schools and facilities like them (such as hostels, mission schools, and boarding schools) for the purposes of assimilation at various points in time (Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015; Gadoua 2010; Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015). Two of these schools operated on Onion Lake Cree Nation; one was destroyed by fire in 1943, the other’s doors remained open until 1974.
For inquiries about this history or Megan’s research on food security please contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please read Megan’s other contributions to the Women Warriors newsletter.
- Food Security in Lloydminster – Preliminary Findings
- Reflections From the Tamarack Institutes Evaluating Community Impact Workshop
Additional Resource – Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk, Ph.D.
Women Warriors Updates
1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is Bev Renaud, Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW. Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
- Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th and be doing a presentation to City of Calgary managers and stakeholders on Friday, March 16th at 9 am.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator. Please contact Alicia Oliver for details: email@example.com
3) The Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation are piloting an Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification starting in April. One of our Women Warriors participants, Tara Waskewitch from Onion Lake Cree Nation has been chosen to participate. It’s exciting times for us to be able to offer Women Warriors on reserve with their own fitness trainers.
International Women’s Day: The Power of Mentorship
Today, March 8th, 2018 is International Women’s Day with the campaign theme #PressforProgress. There are several actions that the website www.internationalwomensday.com calls for individuals to act upon today including:
1) Maintain a gender parity mindset.
2) Challenge stereotypes and bias.
3) Forge positive visibility of women.
4) Influence others’ beliefs and actions.
5) Celebrate women’s achievements, more specifically, celebrate women role models and their journeys.
Today I’m celebrating Dr. Lewis Williams, an accomplished Maori scholar, researcher, and overall inspiring woman that I had the pleasure of meeting in November in Saskatoon at the Tamarack Evaluating Community Impact workshop. She is humble, open, and direct – all qualities that I appreciate. She sent me an academic article that literally blew my mind, and I wanted to share with the researchers on my email list for further investigation: Williams, L. (2013). Deepening Ecological Relationality through Critical Onto-Epistemological Inquiry: Where Transformative Learning Meets Sustainable Science. Journal Of Transformative Education, 11(2), 95-113.
In it, she discusses a decolonizing research methodology, Intuitive Inquiry. She states, “Intuitive Inquiry consciously positions the researcher and his or her experience at the core of the research endeavor. Through its reintegration of the inner, subjective, intuitive, and spiritual with the outer, external, sensory, and more ‘‘objective’’ ways of knowing, Intuitive Inquiry (Anderson, 2000, 2004) establishes an intimate dialogue between the knower and that which he or she is attempting to know. It re-establishes knowledge not as the accumulation of facts, but as the integration of all our experiences in the world. This is consonant with ideas in Maoritanga and other Indigenous cultures where knowledge is held sacred, derived from the integration into our centre, of different ways of knowing that include and transcend the world of our five senses (Cajete, 2000; Royal, 2003).
Right now I’m taking my first research methodologies course, and Dr. Williams article has me excited to move on to decolonizing research methodologies. Her article has given me hope that Indigenous ways of knowing and being, through more than our five senses is a valid way to research. The rest of the academic article reads like a story, which is my favorite way to learn. (Also why I love Dr. Karlee Fellner‘s dissertation, Returning to our Medicines: Decolonizing and Indigenizing Mental Health Services to Better Serve Urban Indigenous Communities.) Thank you, Dr. Williams (and Dr. Fellner) for your genius work decolonizing academia and inspiring upcoming academics to explore Indigenous research methodogies.
Born in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Lewis is a Ngai Te Rangi woman and also of Gaelic ancestry. She is the Founding Director of the Alliance for Intergenerational Resilience (AIR) and a Senior Research Fellow with Whakauae Research Services. During 2018 a particular focus is her personal walk of intergenerational resilence with her own whanau/family on her traditional territory of the Tauranga Moana, Bay of Plenty Aotearoa. She is passionate about finding and flowing with the Deep and Life-giving currents that underpin our cosmos.
1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I have been fortunate to have had many – mostly informal, I believe spirit has always guided mentors into my life. Often at first mentorship has not always been evident. Rather, it has gently and gradually emerged, often not even spoken of, yet through the relationship, an understanding built up.
Perhaps my two most fundamental mentors, (if I think of ancestral pou/posts that support the Whare Tupuna/ancestral house) are my Kuias (kuia means woman Elder) Aunty Maria Ngatai and Aunty Ngaroimata Cavill. Both entered my life around the same time when I was in my late 40s. While both have since passed to the spirit world, they remain important guides and mentors in my life.
I am going to talk about Aunty Maria as for various reasons she is very present with me at the moment. Aunty Maria was born in Te Puna in 1930 and named Maria Hokimate Ormsby. Her whakapapa (geneology) is of both the Ngati Ranginui and Ngai Te Rangi tribes and we both whakapapa back to the ancestress Ruawahine Puhi of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe. Aunty Maria was married to Uncle Kihi, the Rangatira (chief) of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe and together they had five children. She was a self-made woman and very about ‘service’ to people and community, and nationally recognized as such. While they had very little money in the early days, Aunty Maria was the one who got their kiwi fruit farm up and going and made it really successful. Larger than life, she never saw the point of going far from home, because to her, the garden of life was plentiful just where she was- on her own rohe/territory. She was outspoken, warm, loving and generous, and very direct and strong.
2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
I found Aunty Maria because I followed a very significant dream I had about an ancestor of mine Jane Faulkner, daughter of Ruawahine Puhi. The dream had me searching on many levels and took me back to our traditional lands at a time when our ancestral fires were just about extinguished. Through a friend I was introduced to Aunty Maria. She made it easy and more or less from the start opened her home to me. At this stage, I had finished work at the University of Saskatchewan and so was free to dig deeply into my Ngaiterangi self. We spend many, many hours together at her house where I would listen to lots of family and ancestral stories, or else we’d go out together round about, walk the lands and she’d get uncle Kihi to show me stuff.
In the Maori wananga (learning tradition) the emphasis is on wisdom – the integration of experience into the heart of one’s being. As my (unspoken) mentor, aunty maria was very much like this with me – journeying alongside, gently providing words of guidance at times, allowing me to access deeper levels of myself and therefore create the new sense of order of self and the universe that I needed to.
3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?
The first lesson would have to be that it’s “all about relationships”. Aunty was continually building relationships with warmth and love.
The second lesson is about staying in connection. Aunty was a very strong and forthright person and spoke her mind. Yes disagreements with others did not make her shy away, she truly believed in maintaining connections.
The third lesson is about humility and service. Aunty Maria was a very spiritual women and no role was too ‘low’ or ‘high’ for her. She took things on, was grateful for what she had and was always so positive.
4. What qualities make a good mentee?
Listen and watch. Be humble, be open, be curious.
5. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
From the mentoring I have received, I have benefited in many ways – feeling seen, a greater sense of knowing where I have been and where I am going.
Both a greater sense of Turangawaewae (place to stand) and also responsibility intergenerationally – to those before me and after me.
As a mentor, I very much believe that life is a journey of spirit and that we all have a unique purpose and contribution to make with our lives. I approach mentoring in this way. So it gives me a great sense of contributing to something worthwhile if I can be a part of helping another being find and stay on their unique path of contribution to the world.
6. What personal development practices do you have?
Yoga, meditation, being with nature, dreamwork, shamanic journeying – all to do with inner and outer listening. Also in particular at the moment taking care with the little things and expanding my capacity to be with what is unpleasant and bringing greater equanimity to life.
7. What book most impacted your life?
That’s a hard one – influential books would be “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tole, and “The Woven Universe. Selected Writings of the Rev Maori Marsden” by Charles Royal.