Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women

Beginning in the late 1800s, Euro-Canadian government officials found various reasons to victim-blame Indigenous women for widely felt poverty and distress. Officials claimed that they were dirty, gossipy, had no understanding of money and the economy, and most of all were immoral. This is exemplified in an 1886 controversy that arose from a newspaper article published by missionary Samuel Trivett, in which he wrote about the promiscuity of Indigenous women and the frequency of their inappropriate relations with NWMP officers, without consideration if . Canadian officials responded by denying inappropriate behaviour on the part of the NWMP. Although, they conceded that if there were incidents of such behaviour, the blame rested with Aboriginal women, who were inherently sexually promiscuous and seductive, thereby taking advantage of male police officers. Please see related database entry titled "History of Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women."

Date Explanation
This event documents perceptions of Aboriginal women in the 1870s.
Leads

The Facts Respecting Indian Administration in the North-West, (Ottawa: 1886), quoted pp. 9, 12. William Donovan to L. Vankoughnet, 31 October 1886, NA, RG 10, vol. 3772, file 34983.

Result
This is evident of long-standing popular misconceptions about Indigenous women and their morals regarding sex and sexuality. These misconceptions were commonly perpetuated in news, literary and visual media, uniformly portraying Indigenous women as highly sexual individuals. These perceptions were widely accepted by and influenced the actions of government and settler society at large. As it relates to power imbalances between Indigenous women and colonial officials, political actors failed to recognize the disadvantaged position of Indigenous women, who the state considered morally inferior by virtue of their race and gender, and the enormous power of NWMP officers who possessed a greater perceived credibility as well as the moral authority as 'officers of the law.' NWMP officers also possessed the ability to engage in abuses of power in an unaccountable manner and the government failed to protect Indigenous women as a vulnerable population from these abuses.
Rural or Urban
both
Start Date
1870-00-00
Community