Violence - Native Woman of Canada are NOT FREE!

Sharon Lewis
Posted December 6, 2018 from Canada
Seeking Freedom without Violence
Native Women of Canada endured the longest and most violent act of Cultural Genocide: the Indian Act.

I would like to see a Violent Free Environment for Aboriginal Women of Canada! I grew up with racism, conflict, and corralled on a reserve. A reserve is for wild-life, to protect and preserve, yet it feels more like a concentration camp. We apparently have protection under the Government of Canada, but it feels more like control under the Indian Act, with no freedom being born a woman. According to Culture and Traditions within our Territory, native women carry a lot of power and strength in her name, within her family. But, not under the Indian Act. Freedom for Native Women is not a reality.

I went to school for 14 years, off-reserve for college & university. I paid my own way through college and university. Because, our First Nation band usually favors their own families for tuition costs; so neglect and poverty is man-made, regardless of age, class or race. I lived, worked and traveled across Canada and my work carried me back and forth; I raised my children alone. Racism is violent, and I experienced a whole lot of racism in the work force, which is 30 years of discrimination, sexism, and racism. 

Canada is not so free, at least not for native women. Our health care is diminishing, homelessness is growing for native women, and our children are being apprehended at an alarming rate today. The oppression is not only from the Indian Act, but from the controlling majority of Canada, and its not Native Peoples controlling Canada. 

Violence Against Native Women is very real, and poverty is always there! The Indian Act creates this pool of poverty, that never ends for Native Women. The Indian Act controls my whole person, my whole life, and dictates every move I make through-out my life. I choose not to marry, because of the losses many Native Women experienced before I did. Many native women became disenfranchised, by their fathers or band upon marrying. Yet, within Coast Salish Territory - women carry the "names" used by men or names given to children are chosen or carried by women within the house/longhouse and territory. I choose to remain single, because of the discrimination under the Indian Act. 

Sexism is rampant toward native women, on the job and within Canadian Society; its very real. Employee's can be very harmful, and native women, especially myself, have been deeply effected by Sexism and Discrimination on the job. 

"The Indian Act disrespected, ignored and undermined the role of women in many ways. This dissolution of women’s stature coupled with the abuses of the residential school system has been linked as a significant contributor to the vulnerability of Indigenous women."

“Under the statutes and policies of the Indian Act, women were not only discriminated against as Indians but also as Indian women.” [3] Indian Act policies subjected generations of Indian women and their children to a legacy of discrimination when it was first enacted in 1876 and continues to do so today despite amendments. Federal law in the late 1800s that defined a status Indian solely on the basis of paternal lineage - an Indian was a male Indian, the wife of a male Indian, or the child of a male Indian -  continues to be a quagmire of discrimination and disrespect towards women.  

As a result of the 1869 Lands and Enfranchisement Acts, and ensuing Indian Acts and amendments, the following bullets outline the ways and means Indian women have been disregarded, dishonoured and dismissed:

If an Indian woman married a non-Indian man, she and the children of the marriage were denied Indian status.

An 1884 amendment to the Indian Act stipulated that an Indian man could write a will bequeathing his possessions to his widow but she had to have been living with him and to be “of good moral character” as judged by federal authorities; if not, the possessions would pass to his children. 

If a woman’s husband became enfranchised, she and their children were also automatically enfranchised, regardless of their feelings about being enfranchised. 

A male, upon enfranchisement, was eligible to receive an allotment of land whereas his wife, upon enfranchisement, was not. 

If her enfranchised husband died first, the land went to their children in fee simple, not to her. 

The widow of an enfranchised man could only regain Indian status and band membership through marriage to another Indian man. 

Women were unable to vote in band council elections; this remained in the Indian Act until 1951.

Under Section 12 of the 1951 Indian Act, an Indian woman who married a non-Indian was not entitled to be registered, and thus lost her status. Section 12 also removed status from a woman whose mother and paternal grandmother had not been status Indians before their marriages. These women could be registered but they lost their Indian status as soon as they turned 21. Indian men, however, did not lose their status when they married non-Indian women. "Between 1958 and 1968 alone, more than 100,000 women and children lost their Indian status as a result of these provisions." [4]

For more information on the outcome of federal attempts to rectify this discrimination, please read Indian Act and Women’s Discrimination Bill C-31 and Bill C-3

My story, as a result of deeply rooted racism and sexism, my whole life experience and education, work, or places I ended up whether a meeting, a job or invite to a conference placed me in situations or opportunities to give Voice to the Silent Women or it gave me the ability to Speak and I started my campaign slowly. I started campaigning for Native Women of Canada about 30 years ago! I do not get paid. But I keep going voluntarily. I guess I started campaigning for the many native women beaten down without a voice; for my mother who was hurt without justice and nobody cared. I carry my own private pain silently for my mother and for my sisters, including myself. I campaign because I am a stronger woman and over-looked my own self-drudgery, because I have gained a small grain of opportunities to advocate. One voice is all that is needed, for the many after! Creator has give me that voice! Creator has given me that opportunity. I do for the next generation of women growing up. Many Non-Native Agencies grab for Native Funding, because they are very organized, and use native people as a number, or statistic and they usually have a stronger foundation of recognition within the Provinces of Canada to gain huge funds; native people usually campaign at a "grass roots" level; and that is where I am. Native women have been pushed down so hard since colonization, its a hard road to walk when you advocate for Native Women. Native women are invisible in Canada. I have suffered with police raids, police stops, police brutality, and I have been watched 24/7 for advocating, but I keep going! My heart is with my people, our women and of course my children. I hope the next generation do not suffer like we did in our life-time! 

Its not an easy road to campaign for human rights, we silently support one another across Canada. What I hope - is Freedom! Freedom to Be Women without Violence.


This post was submitted in response to A World Free of Violence.

Comments 3

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Dec 07, 2018
Dec 07, 2018

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for sharing your sad, but informative story about native women's rights, or lack thereof. I'm so glad that you continue to be the voice of the oppressed. What solutions do you have in mind that are working already? What ideas could be implemented to speed up change?

Perhaps you would be interested in creating a corresponding 1 to 2 minute YouTube video speaking to your commitment to ushering in a more equitable world for women?

Good luck with your story submission!

Sharon Lewis
Dec 10, 2018
Dec 10, 2018
Sharon Lewis
Jan 17
Jan 17