As discussions continue regarding Bill S-3’s proposed amendments to end sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act, it is vital to understand how the lives of Indigenous women are shaped due to interlocking structures of oppression. The concept of intersectionality provides insight into the experiences of Indigenous women. Intersectionality looks at “the ways in which the social categories of gender, ability, age, race, sexuality, nationality and class symbiotically reinforce one another to produce marginalized subjects”. Race, gender, and class intersect to specifically oppress Indigenous women living in Canada.
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The predominant stereotypes and assumptions about Indigenous peoples that we discussed at the beginning of the semester have “allowed for systemic racism and discrimination to permeate many facets of society”. In addition to this, Indigeneity can involve an internalization of these racist ideas and make it difficult to navigate what it means to be Indigenous in a country that is celebrated for being multicultural and accepting. A dissonance is therefore created between one’s heritage and identity.
This dissonance may be furthered emphasized by one’s sex. Prior to colonialism, some Indigenous cultures were rooted in equality and fluidity, with men and women often participating in roles that were complementary, equally as important and respected, and non-gendered. As settlers came to the land, however, so did notions of male dominance, patriarchal policies, and gendered violence. Indigenous lives became dismantled through colonial efforts and so did the way in which Indigenous men and women related to one another. Violence and abuse became predominant in residential schools and the child welfare system, extending into the families of Indigenous peoples and influencing the way that non-Indigenous men treat Indigenous women. The Indian Act acted as a colonial tool to deprive women of rights and land by enacting a structure of patrilineal descent. These mechanisms continue to impact the way Indigenous women experience life today.
Class distinction further complicates notions of race and sex. Many Indigenous communities both on-reserve and off-reserve face poverty due to a lack of resources and government assistance. This disparity leads to further stigmatization in numerous ways. A recent study regarding healthcare in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver found that many Indigenous patients described a “double whammy” effect where they experienced discrimination from their healthcare provider because they were both Indigenous and from the DTES. These patients found that their requests for medications were denied because practitioners sought to fulfill their own “drug-seeking narratives” and that their requests for treatment were often trivialized. One female participant described this experience as further complicated by “cultural disintegration” in which hospital environments prevent women from receiving care that is culturally appropriate, such as smudging when newborns are delivered.
Intersectionality remains a complicated topic deserving of much more discussion than offered here. What is clear, however, is the structures of oppression that impact the lives of Indigenous women on a daily basis have yet to be dismantled. The ways that race, gender, class, and other positionalities impact Indigenous lives must be understood in order to truly address social inequities and disparities.
Until next time,
Team ReconciliAction YEG
 Lola Okolosie, "Beyond 'talking' and 'owning' intersectionality." (2014) Feminist Review 108:1 (Gender Studies Database) 90.
 Ashley Goodman et al, “‘They treated me like crap and I know it’s because I was Native’: The healthcare experiences of Aboriginal peoples living in Vancouver’s inner city” (2017) 178 Social Science & Medicine (SocINDEX with Full Text) 88.
 John Borrows, Val Napoleon & Emily Snyder, “Gender and Violence: Drawing on Indigenous Legal Resources” (2015) 48:2 U.B.C. Law Review (HeinOnline) at 609.
 Ibid at 609
 Goodman at 90.
 Ibid at 89-90.
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