The global effort to mitigate domestic violence and instill peaceful coexistence among different people has been going on for decades with little success. These interventions have been met by a different narrative where indigenous communities have claimed that cases of abuse and discrimination are still present, with some dating back to the colonial times. Domestic violence is an existential threat to stability and social development among indigenous families that needs to be addressed as it does not reflect well given the advances made in the world today. Regardless of the situation, the free finger has always pointed at indigenous families and has blamed their culture for their calamities and discourse. To neutralize the violent state and create a silent and partially stable condition in Aboriginal families, they tend to evade talking about violence which in real sense is present. A conversation on violence and abuse based on gender is a timely issue to be addressed to rest this matter and devise lasting solutions to this issue that was bred and fostered by colonialism.
History of Indigenous Family Violence and Colonialism
Indigenous women in Canada have since colonial times faced a range of social, well-being and domestic violence issues. Example of groups of women that are referred to as indigenous women are First Nations, Inuit and Metis. According to Leigh (2009), these women remain at risk of getting killed by men during the Homicide in Canada, Miladinovic and Mulligan. Aboriginal women are more times likely to be victimized due to their minority status. The government has been reporting increasing cases of deaths or disappearance of these women, who are at times killed by their own or outsiders. The aboriginal culture has permitted these atrocities to continue unabated, further diminishing and ostracizing women in a society where equity and gender mainstreaming are yet to be fully realized.
European colonial soldiers had a perspective of racism and sexism they used to exploit and control indigenous people in Canada and New Zealand, Australia and the Americas. The First Nation in Canada before colonization were highly respected and were regarded as wise and spirited, a quality that had been passed from their ancestors. However, when European colonialists arrived in North America and Canada, they inculcated their patriarchal perspectives and disregarded the fact that women can be in any way wise or worth or mention. They forced assimilation and chose indigenous men as leaders of their communities as elucidated by Sider and Anti (2005). The respect and honor given to aboriginal women were lost, and they were mishandled and regarded as unequal and or even of lower status than other women and men in their society. Therefore, colonization created an impetus for the continued marginalization and subjection of aboriginal women, a case that continues to the contemporary world as it has become deeply ingrained in their system.
The passing the Indian Act of 1876 brought about burdensome assimilation policies such as residential education programs, which caused unmeasurable harm to women. Similar to the Indian Act is the apartheid regime in South Africa that not only left out minorities but also made weakened the position of women in society. Indian act denied women any right to own marital property unless their husband died. They were not to possess any valuables rendering them objects of men who lived at the mercy of their husbands. The rule remained and tormented women for a long time as explained by Klingspohn (2018), who further proves that such draconian laws from the colonial masters enabled gender-based violence against women. The only amendment made allowed wives to own estates, but it was only after the Indian Rule Agent certified that she is morally upright. Such a high moral bar is not placed on men, again, only men could ascertain that a woman had met the set social threshold making this amendment an insult to gains made on gender equity.
The forced assimilation of the colonial regime was perpetrated using residential schools. Children were forced out of their homes and were abused physically by thorough beating, psychological, and sexual abuse. This maltreatment changed their nature and planted an image of slavery and subjugation, especially for women who were treated with spite (Klingspohn, 2018). This symbolism has put them at risk of experiencing discrimination and domestic violence as the vices have been normalized over time to appear as normal occurrences. Therefore, the education system fostered by the imperial government undermined women and made them weaker and vulnerable in the newly established patriarchal society.
Due to changes that took place over a long time, men in indigenous communities were equally disadvantaged. They lost their traditional jobs in fur trading, and due to insufficient employment in rural areas, men gender roles were threatened as the learned women were now becoming empowered, a situation that created a sense of social, cultural, and economic insecurity that bred domestic violence. Men could not understand how the previously culturally inferior women were now more empowered. Experiences at resident schools left women with mental distress, depression, and some resulted to substance abuse to help them deal with their otherwise unflattering conditions (De Leeuw, Greenwood & Cameron, 2010). Most of them were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and higher suicide risk due to the turmoil and subjection they faced in schools, work, and at home. The predicament and distress faced by aboriginal women are results of social instability created by colonial laws and education.
The Relevance of the Discussion
Evaluating the origin of violence among the indigenous communities in Canada has given scholars and researchers base to address social this thorny yet important topic. This analysis sheds light on why domestic and gender-based violence have taken long to resolve despite the efforts by government, activists, feminists, gender champions, and other special groups. This question is a critical avenue that creates a context to understand what transpired during colonial times and how the entire system affected women experiences (Gordon, 2002). Understanding the history refocuses conversion of family violence and trends among indigenous people to the relationship with colonial regime and social happening. In addition, it helps researchers to reflect on the diverse realities of all indigenous women and understand how to reduce the rate of family violence. At the same time, such a detailed review helps to relate these happenings to other domestic issues associated with the history of domestic violence in this community.
Violence can be reduced by understanding the history behind it and looking for remedies from the grassroots. Such knowledge can reduce the burden of mental deficiencies caused by present but silenced instances of this social ill. Violence can be attributed to a reduction in social health, with minority groups such as Canadian Indigenous groups being the most affected. Their social systems now foster peace and harmonious existence in their homes (De Leeuw, Greenwood & Cameron, 2010). Scholars have attributed knowledge deficiency, and way of life to the negative attitude about school among the indigenous people of Canada whose first impression about school was met with violence, torture and sexual abuse. This circumstance has taken time to resolve, and now the indigenous voices can be heard.
De Leeuw, S., Greenwood, M., & Cameron, E. (2010). Deviant constructions: How governments preserve colonial narratives of addictions and poor mental health to intervene into the lives of Indigenous children and families in Canada. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8(2), 282-295.
Gordon, S. (2002). Putting the picture together-Inquiry into response by government agencies to complaints of family violence and child abuse in Aboriginal communities. Austl. Indigenous L. Rep., 7, 49.
Klingspohn, D. M. (2018). The importance of culture in addressing domestic violence for First Nation’s women. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 872.
Leigh, D. (2009). Colonialism, gender and the family in North America: For a gendered analysis of Indigenous struggles. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 9(1), 70-88.
Sider, D., & Anti, S. L. (2005). A sociological analysis of root causes of Aboriginal homelessness in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Toronto: Canadian Race Relations Foundation.