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Native students book review- ""Ending Denial""

Nazlee 1 / -  
Nov 30, 2008   #1
Hi everyone! Thanks so much in advance for your help! The instructions were to make a 7 pf essay for a review of a book called "Ending Denial" drawing off other sources to show any missed info in the book. My main area of concern is my opening, as the thesis comes in the second paragraph. The essay is only 3/4 done, but since it's due tomorrow I would appreciate any help! Thanks :)

Colonialism by way of diminishment of women's roles is not a new phenomenon. Frantz Fanon (2003), a 20th century anti-colonial revolutionary, describes this strategy as it was employed within an Algerian context: "[Strong female roles] enabled them to colonial administration to define a precise political doctrine: 'if we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women [...]" (44). Fanon's interpretation of method used by colonizers in Algeria is undeniably parallel to the way colonization of Indigenous communities of Canada has unfolded.

Since time immemorial, women have had defined and significant roles within Indigenous culture. Traditionally, they were involved in every aspect of their community's life- from religious ceremonies to involvement in the economic and political spheres (Mihesuah 2003, 85). In Ending Denial: Understanding Aboriginal Issues, Wayne Warry's prescriptions for overcoming colonialism within Indigenous communities fail to recognize that much of colonialism's success can be attributed to its destruction of women's traditional positions in culture, and that ignoring these problems is in itself the kind of denial that Warry argues against. Women have suffered disproportionate consequences from colonization, resulting in considerable increases in HIV/AIDS rates, rapid urbanization, and loss of self-identity- none of which Warry addresses. Only when feminist solutions are incorporated into Warry's proposed schemata for decolonization will they be truly effective.

Although, as Warry points out, incidence rates among Indigenous populations among Indigenous populations are three to five times higher that national averages for almost all diseases, the problem of Indigenous women and HIV/AIDS is one that merits significant attention (151). In the decade from 1993 to 2003, the AIDS rate among Aboriginal women has increased 270% (Public Health Agency of Canada 2004). Wayne Warry (2007) would presumably attribute this statistic to higher accessibility to screening programs and to a "lag-time" until the results of newly implemented health programs are seen (152). While they may hold for most diseases, the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS causes these assumptions to be fundamentally flawed. The screening hypothesis would require women to volunteer themselves to be tested. The shame which women feel on the issue of AIDS is independent of the decrease in denial around historical events, which Warry (2007) seems to suggest is the reason behind Indigenous peoples' higher utility of health care resources (152). , note that First Nations women avoid using both Indigenous-run and non-Indigenous-run services for HIV/AIDS out of fear that their communities will find out the results (28 SHIP NORTON). Furthermore, "[m]any First Nations women live in secrecy because [...] they carry the additional stigma of being branded 'promiscuous,' 'a bad mother,' and 'deserving of HIV/AIDS'" (28). Therefore, screening of Aboriginal women for AIDS is dependent on their internal views about the disease and their willingness to overcome the gender-based stigmas associated with it, not on the availability of services. Secondly, for a "lag time" to be accounted for, there must be new programs to attribute the lag to. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Aboriginal women with AIDS. One HIV-positive woman interviewed by Ship and Norton said that "[t]here is only one organization in Vancouver that is specifically an AIDS organization for women. All the rest are 90 per cent for men" (28). There are not any new programs being implemented to address the specific needs of this demographic. Consequently, the statistics associated with the rapid increase in AIDS among Aboriginal women cannot be ignored, as doing this would be contributing to the denial that Warry is so adamantly trying to defeat.

Warry (2007) suggests that capacity building in health care is critically dependent on improving "health management, administrative training, and the development of health information programs" (159). However, none of these proposals address the reason behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Indigenous women. Rather, the increased risk that this demographic has for the disease is because of the gender roles which colonialism has created among Indigenous communities. In 1993, the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada stated in "HIV/AIDS and the Impact on Aboriginal Women in Canada" that the underlying problem was Indigenous women's hesitance about approaching their partners about safer sex practices, for fear that it would result in abandonment and violence (11). The increase in AIDS in the decade after this publication implies that this fear is only running deeper into the roots of Indigenous communities. In light of these findings, Warry's plans for revitalization of Aboriginal health care systems are missing the real problem which needs to be addressed. As Andrea Smith writes, it is the gender relationships that Europeans have been able to internalize within Native communities that gave way to colonization (124). Smith goes on to use the Sacred Circle and Boarding School Healing Project and resources which Indigenous women can use to restore their well-being (124-5). Only once gender relationships in Aboriginal communities are restored are Warry's recommendations useful. As Indigenous women become more empowered and encouraged to be accountable for their health, education and community-based programs will be of more value than they currently are.

These distorted gender relationships also serve as the backbone for the rapid urbanization of Indigenous women. Warry gives a limited view of why some Indigenous peoples make the choice to move to cities. He mentions some seek higher education, better access to medical services and mental illness as some reasons (116). What he omits, however, is all of the Indigenous women attempting to flee from the dangerous circumstances they find themselves in on the reserve. These women are not leaving voluntarily, as Warry seems to imply, but rather they are driven out by life-threatening circumstances. Andrea Smith notes, "Indian women suffer death rates because of domestic violence twice as high as any other group of women in this country" (122). Obviously Warry's romanticized view of how to maintain culture and cultural identity in urban areas ignores the fact that, for some Indigenous women, the very fact why they are now living in the city is because they feel a sense of betrayal by their communities. In "Violence in Aboriginal Communities", Emma LaRocque describes that moving to urban centres for some Aboriginal women an escape from their families and communities (82). Wayne Warry ignores this altered social structure on the reserve, in essence another denial of colonialism, and goes on to list ways to improve self-government and cultural resources in cities. However, not dealing with the long-lasting effects of colonial institutions such as residential schools will only perpetuate the alienation of Indigenous women from their communities (and smith 126). Andrea Smith describes these effects in an American context: "The continuing effect of [boarding schools] has been the internalization of sexual and other forms of gender violence within Native American communities. Thus, the question is, how can we form a demand around reparations for these types of continuing effects of human rights violations that are evidenced by violence within communities, but are nonetheless colonial legacies" (126). Smith emphasizes that, in order to defeat colonialism, it is imperative to undo the social structures which it caused. Only then is it possible to make it possible for Indigenous women to remain within their communities, or to go to urban centres but with the intentions of acquiring skills that they will take back with them to the reserve (117).

A large part of Warry's (2007) prescription for accommodating Aboriginal urbanization is based around the possible creation of an Aboriginal self-government within cities (121). The problem with this, however, lies in the possible marginalization of Indigenous women within Indigenous political structures. As Joyce Green describes in "Canaries in the Mines of Citizenship", exclusion of women within bands happened after the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act: "Some bands have refused to accept these reinstated people- "C-31s"- as band members, and three Alberta bands launched a court challenge to the legislative amendment, charging that it was unconstitutional and violated their Section 35 rights in the Constitution Act, 1982" (724). Should urban self-government systems fail in giving Indigenous women back the roles which they once held in Indigenous social and political realms, it will only serve to further the disconnect that these women have from their culture.

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