Living Conditions on La Ronge Reserve - 1950s-70s


In the interview included, participant Liora Salter reports that she observed that the living and social conditions on the reserve in centre of the La Ronge townsite were extremely deteriorated. Ms. Salter describes the lack of infrastructure on the reserve for basic utilities including sewer, electricity and water provisions. She notes that the houses on-reserve were "the oldest generation of Indian Affairs houses" with one room and newspaper serving as wallpaper. Incidentally, Ms. Salter references Metis activist and La Ronge resident Jim Brady's suspicions that the Department of Indian Affairs officials in La Ronge was deeply corrupt, and incapable of enacting the type of change that was needed.

Ms. Salter also references Mr. Brady's concerns that Indigenous girls, as young as thirteen, were being forced into sex trafficking. The interview with La Ronge resident Verna Richards provides first-hand testimony of the occurrence of sex trafficking. While Ms. Richards believes that she observed this as an isolated incident, the reporting of Mr. Brady indicated otherwise - and it is possible that sex trafficking occurred in locales other than Ms. Richard's restaurant. Mr. Brady stated that this was a result of the tourism industry in La Ronge.

Ms. Richards also testifies as to the prevalence of sexual assault of Indigenous girls and women by American tourists who visited the community of La Ronge. She reports that there were a number of pregnancies that resulted from these assaults. She reports that this was met with little response from both the non-Indigenous community and the parents of the girls who were assaulted and/or became pregnant. She does not mention anything about post-assault psychological support/trauma services or other mental health services in the community. Nor does she mention any of the American tourists providing child support.

There may be many factors contributing to the disparities in living conditions in La Ronge in the time frames referenced in these interviews. The isolation of Northern Saskatchewan results in its invisibility to voters in larger city centres, such as Saskatoon and Regina. As well, the majority of the province is non-Indigenous, and historically, racism has affected the visibility of and concern for Indigenous issues within Saskatchewan. That is, racist colonial attitudes depict Indigenous peoples as resistant to acquiring 'improved' material conditions. Indigenous people who choose to live in remote areas such as Northern Saskatchewan are constructed under this colonial narrative as resistant to processes of integration/assimilation and modernity. Mr. Brady also referenced the presence of corruption within the representation of the Department of Indian Affairs in La Ronge, prohibiting the improvement of living conditions. Insufficient housing and a lack of access to infrastructure services such as electricity, sewer and water (all of which are considered standard services for residents of Canada) can effect psychological and physical well-being, over time the effects of substandard housing and healthcare can negatively impact a person's well-being in all areas of their life.

The lack of response amongst non-Indigenous residents of La Ronge demonstrates the normalization of sexual violence inflicted upon Indigenous women, stemming from stereotypical patriarchal colonial narratives which construct Indigenous women as being highly sexual and thus always sexually available to the colonist. As well, it is possible that the economic stimulus provided by the presence of American tourists was perceived as more valuable than preserving and protecting the well-being of Indigenous women and girl as community members. The profound sense of violation and trauma that result from assault and rape can severely impact one's ability to function, particularly if mental health supports or social/community supports are unavailable. For example, long-term impacts can include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, difficulty relating to others, low self-esteem, alcohol/drug misuse, etc. (please see the entry by the Native Women's Association of Canada below in attached resources titled "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls: Literature Review and Key Informant Interviews: Final Report"). In areas where mental health services are non-existence or rare, other coping mechanisms that pose a danger to health may be utilized.

For further information on the impact of colonialism as it relates to construction of gendered stereotypes of Indigenous women and girls and how this contributes to sexualization and exploitation, please see the entry on sexualization of Indigenous girls in foster care. Please also see the general entry titled "Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls" for further information for a more detailed discussion on the impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Please also see the general entry titled "Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls" for further information for a more detailed discussion on the impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  

Sub Event
Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Girls in La Ronge following the introduction of American Tourism