Colonialism and First Nations Women


Wheeler focuses her discussion on the colonial oppression of Indigenous women across Canada, circa 1850 and onward. Wheeler discusses the avenues of resistance that Indigenous women asserted against missionaries, governments, and their agents. Intentional gender discrimination within the Indian Act instituted a series of paternalistic and dangerous legislation which sought to eliminate First Nation women's autonomy in marriage and politics.

In addition, gender discrimination within the Indian Act sought to reduce the number of Status Indians the Canadian Government was responsible to. By stipulating that status was inherited through the patrilineal line, and that First Nations women could lose their status through various means (eg: marriage), the Canadian Government systemically denied First Nations women and their children access to their communities, and the Treaty Rights which they are entitled to. A must read for those seeking to understand the long-term impacts that Settler Colonial attacks on First Nations women has resulted in.

Excerpt from Author's Introduction:

“The intent of this chapter is to provide a brief overview of the historic colonization of First Nations women from contact to the end of the early reserve era. More specifically, it will describe the goals and rationalizations of colonial agencies; demonstrate how colonial agencies manipulated public perceptions of First Nations women to rationalize their subjugation and describe the process by which the Victorian patriarchy was imposed on First Nations women and societies though federal legislation. This chapter is intended as an outline history; as such, it draws heavily from existing studies on various aspects of Aboriginal women’s history.” (49).

An Open Access version of Wheeler's Chapter is available through Google Books

Publication Information

Wheeler, Winona. “Colonialism and First Nations Women.” in Scratching the Surface: Canadian Anti-Racist Feminist Thought. Eds. Enakshi Dua, Angela Roberts. Toronto: Women’s Press, 1999. 49-80.

Wheeler, Winona
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