Mothers of Nations

Mothers of the Nations: Indigenous Mothering as Global Resistance, Reclaiming and Recovery
Edited by D. Memee Lavell-Harvard and Kim Anderson

I: Healthy Beginnings
1. The Meaning of Motherhood Among the Kabyle Berber, Indigenous People of North Africa

In Europe, for example, we refer to the theory of the Greek philosopher Plato (428/427-348/347 B.C.), which describes man and woman as two parts that originally formed a whole Sphere. This concept of two parts that are complementary has many regrettable consequences on all levels. With this theory of complementarity, a man is incomplete without a woman and a woman is incomplete without a man. In this way, a human being is incomplete or “unfinished” and he always searches for the other half (Makilam 137-138). This theory of complementarity is inherent to patriarchy, and is strange to the Kabyle understanding of gender. Kabyle women and men are seen as complete entities in their own rights, though of the same nature. This explains why a Kabyle woman is never compared to a man. She feels as a part of the female community, which is distinguished from the men’s community. The representation of the human society in the Kabyle mind consists of two communities, but not with complementary gender logic.
Indeed, it is typical for the mother-centered Berber society that women and men work in different fields at different tasks. Like in Native and Mesoamerican societies, the genders in Kabylia have their separate economic sphere and authority–and these do not interfere with one another. Each group works separately, but for the same goal: the continuity of the mother’s line.
Women in Berber society do not want to be men or to take over masculine values, as in patriarchal western societies. A Kabyle woman does not want to be complementary to a man and, we will see later–as a mother–she teaches their daughters an artistic secret script, which is the proof of the honor to be born as a woman.

We can observe how the Berber men’s community support the values of maternity and, also, that the distinction of two genders around the mother clan create an egalitarian form of society. In contrast, the complementarity of genders in the modern western society create opposition or violence between the genders, because the women do not have their own sphere and have to turn down their female and maternal values for patriarchal values.

2. “We Practically Lived Off The Land”

By the 1830s, the British Colonial Office had already begun to put forward a policy of assimilation that encouraged First Nation communities to become settled in permanent villages and be educated in the English language, Christianity, as well as in agricultural methods. The Anglican Church Missionary Society was very involved during this period in the area and set up a number of agricultural, pastoral communities along the Red River/ Tje Saulteaux Chief became head of this “Indian Settlement” that included a school, mission houses, a church, grist mill, and farm.
Treaty Number One was signed in 1871.

Plant resources in northern Canada have historically played a less prominent role in terms of overall sustenance than wild meats and fish, in the diets of Indigenous groups in Canada. For many of the primarily northern communities previously studied, agricultural activities may have been directly tied to the operation of residential schools and/or church missions. This Saulteaux community, along with others in the same region, however, had a long history of successful agricultural practices.

…the group of grandmothers mainly referred to the foods they planted, tended and preserved for their families, when they were young mothers, as those most associated with health benefits. it did not seem to make any difference to the grandmothers whether or not these foods were part of the diet prior to European contact. The practice of preparing and eating these foods, grown with their own hands, seemed to inform a sense of pride and tradition and identity as mother and caregiver.

The practice of learning by example from parents and grandparents was destroyed by the residential school system, including the transmission of food propagation and preparation skills. According to survey data collected from Cree communities in north-western Ontario, mothers were the principal teachers of these skills, accounting for two-thirds of transmission patterns.

3. Risk and Resistance

Over one hundred years ago, American colonists waged a war against cholera in the Philippines. It has been argued that there was little differentiation between the 1902 “war against cholera and the pacification of Filipinos.” To combat Asiatic cholera, infected houses were burned, residents were strictly quarantined in detention camps, medicine needed to be administered with “the use of force”, and bodies of the deceased were burned. However, each of these measures threatened the integrity of indigenous Filipino identity and belief.
From the anthropologist Mary Douglas, we can identify that what is being threatened in this example are cultural systems of order that contain understanding and meaning. These systems of order essentially facilitate the ability for any given group to navigate through life. These ordered systems of understanding and meaning may be considered foundational to the integrity of social structure. Thus, Filipinos resisted these threats to their order, and inadvertently facilitated the further spread of cholera.

Hence, in each instance that the Americans attempted to control cholera by following their own system of order and meaning (biomedicine and public health), they threatened the local ordered systems of understanding and meaning and were duly resisted. For even though the American colonists perceived their paternalism as not only justifiable but also beneficent, the dominance and acceptance of biomedicine in the West was irrelevant in a context wherein such biomedical measures were perceived as alien, threatening and the justification of a colonial form of control. Thus, the American insistence on imposing an alien order of safety for the good of the native Filipino ultimately resulted in chaos.

In the ensuing years, the fields of anthropology and development studies matured. We have supposedly learned from the egregious and naive errors of our colonial pasts. We believe we no longer engage so blindly in ethnocentrism and dominance. We do, after all, include asset-based approaches and community participation in our development projects. We pride ourselves on embracing the inclusivity of aspects  of local knowledge in modern development projects. Yet, the hegemonic dominance of biomedicine has been curiously shielded from most post-colonial critiques as if it is somehow outside of culture and devoid of ethnocentrism.

When western systems of order are present, they tend to dominate all others. Brigitte Jordan identifies that, even though “equally legitimate parallel knowledge systems exist”, people may “move easily between…[often] one kind of knowledge gains ascendency and legitimacy”. She identifies this phenomenon as the domination of “authoritative knowledge”. A consequence of authoritative knowledge “is the devaluation, often dismissal, of all other kinds of knowing…as backward, ignorant, naive”. The power, then, of authoritative knowledge is not that it is “correct,” per se, but that it is valued, reified and universalized as normative and “truth”.

The hegemonic control of biomedicine in singularly determining the standards of safety for all health care can, at least in part, b e traced to the 1910 “Flexner Report,” which attempted to standardize and control biomedical education in North America. Backed by the Rockefeller Foundation, the recommendations of the Flexner Report were implemented, which led to the subsequent closure of over half (eighty-four) of North American medical schools from 1919 to 1928, as well as the majority of non-biomedical schools. Of the seventy-six schools remaining, all offered the same curriculum, set the same academic standards, and followed the same entry requirements. Thereby, they constituted a coherent ordered reflection of the biomedical Self.

This new policy toward [Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA)] training and integration was formally announced in a 1992 joint WHO/UNFPA statement, declaring that the training and use of traditional birth attendants should only be used as an interim measure until all women have access to “acceptable, professional health services” (WHO). “Four years later, WHO policy leaders insisted on ‘skilled’ rather than ‘trained’ birth attendants”. This was a significant policy change, as it is believed that (globally) “two-thirds of all births occur outside health facilities”.

An independent analysis of neonatal and maternal mortality from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), at The University of Washington, used “three times as much data as the previous researchers” and demonstrated a marked reduction in both neonatal and maternal mortality during these reported periods of stagnation from WHO and UNICEF. Furthermore, any identified stagnation in maternal and infant mortality is demonstrated after WHO/UNICEF TBA training had ceased.

Several women stated that they preferred to stay home because they specifically did not want a Caesarean delivery, and they did not want to “get cut” referring to the obstetric procedure known as an episiotomy. Informants reported that Caesarean deliveries were commonly performed in Philippine hospitals, regardless of women’s wishes. Food restrictions, lack of privacy, not being allowed to bathe, being treated poorly, the presence of male obstetricians and not being allowed to have children near or restricting the number of visiting family members could all be perceived as issues that would dissuade women from delivering in hospitals or birthing clinics. One 30-year-old female in Anabel, Sadanga stated that the policy would be feasible only if the “government forces women into the facility.”

One noteworthy limitation of the western construction of safety is its reliance upon the idea of the liberal rational “individual” of the Enlightenment, which simply does not exist in many non-Western cultures and, even after 450 years of western colonization, does not commonly exist in the Philippines. Furthermore, what those who implemented both the colonial cholera policy in the Philippines and the policy for the eradication of hilots refuse to consider is the policies that defy local systems of order and understanding will ultimately be resisted.

Western modernity functions via a moralistic imperative to reorder the perceived disorder of the non-western Other for their own well-being and protection. But, arguably, imposing authoritative knowledge on other systems of order, regardless of the intended paternalistic beneficence, has never really wandered far from the swamp of colonialism. Colonizing Indigenous women’s bodies and minds through the proven prescriptions of modernity has not shifted dramatically in the last hundred years. Is there really a marked difference between the American colonial obsession with toilet-training the Indigenous Filipino to sit on a commode in a particular way, and the current restriction toward birthing on one’s back? The difference, mainly, appears to be in the packaging of the intent. Good medicine that is globally sanctioned by trustworthy experts could hardly be refuted as bad for the pregnant patient. However, it is important to consider what the expert may learn by witnessing the structure(s) already inherent in societies and perceiving the potential values that lie therein.

4. Indigenous Midwifery as an Expression of Sovereignty

A new cycle is starting–it will be a hard one, but in the end a powerful one… What will save us in the end is coming together and putting our stories together…we will start a new kind of healing. (Maria Campbell)

Today, Aboriginal midwives are re-constructing the central role they have played in their communities since time immemorial. Their work demonstrates that Aboriginal frameworks of governance and approaches to research are effective when put into action. The result is increased access to quality care–with quality defined in our own terms. This, in turn, leads to more positive birth experiences and healing from the negative impacts of colonization in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Asserting their leadership in the creation of new standards for culturally inclusive care and education, Aboriginal midwives are challenging status quo policies. Together with their allies, they are unearthing, re-telling and sharing time-honored Indigenous knowledge for the well-being of generations yet to be born.

We all carry a piece of the puzzle–if we come together, we can piece back the puzzle that was scattered by colonization. There is no such thing as no culture, story, language–it’s not lost–it’s out there and everyone has a piece of it. (Maria Campbell)

In preparing for the For Seven Generations visioning meeting, I found the colonizers’ tools to be very difficult to use, because they do not acknowledge or value many of our Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. Going through the various stages of getting approval, preparing a package for the ethics review board and writing a “report,” were all things that challenged the intuitiveness of our vision, because the easiest way to move through the system was to use their formula. Their formulas don’t work for our context, however, so we challenged that system by creating new tools, writing around policies, finding loopholes and, when all else failed, cried, only to re-group and try again. The interconnection of our stories demonstrates the powerful impact the restoration of Indigenous midwifery is having on personal, professional, family and community levels. Indigenous midwifery is empowering the next generations of Indigenous peoples and once again (re)building strong, sovereign Nations.

Storytelling is the medicine we need now–What will help us through are the stories that we will say to each other. Even if you feel you have no story or culture, you do have the piece of it. Don’t believe that your story is not important–it does not matter what kind of story it is. We need it–it’s a little medicine that comes out. (Maria Campbell)

The recognition of the spirituality of sacredness of birth poured into the framework and objectives of the meeting. It provided clarity and intent about its underlying purpose: to include, respect, and incorporate Indigenous values into midwifery practice. Throughout the three days, grandmothers, aunties and  community participants shared many stories. The grandmothers reminded participants that teaching our communities and young people about the significance and power of birthing is firmly rooted in our cultural traditions.

Many times mothers recalled how during the birth of their children they themselves were reborn:

I could hear and see everything my baby saw and I felt a great peace as I knew my baby was okay. And when he was born, I was born. In my birth I found a new meaning to life. I will not go one more day without speaking my language or let a history book we did not write define myself or my people It is we, the real people, who can delivery who we are within ourselves.

There were many reminders that midwives are often the heart and centre of a community, particularly when we are attempting to weave back together disrupted webs of Indigenous culture and ways of living. Katsi Cook told us how Indigenous midwifery knowledge encompasses the full environment of women’s bodies and is not limited to just the physical but also includes dreams, relationships and ecology. maria Campbell recalled how the midwives in her community, her aunties and grandmothers, were strong and gentle, wise and soft-spoken, laughing and singing. Maria described for us how midwives worked as advoates and provided security for our children and our communities–intervening in the community when this is required. Traditionally, they had medicines to treat sick children, counselled people who were fighting, taught about the culture through storytelling and attended to death as well as birth, transitioning the body from, and eventually back into, the spirit world.

II: Voicing Resilience
5. Stories of Mothers Living with HIV+ in Kibera, a Mega-slum in Sub-Saharan Africa

These mothers live every day with their children and chronic illness. Chronic illness challenges a general western view that life is lived as a linear progression of events from birth to death in a predictable order. Life is no longer predictable when one has been infected with HIV. The disappointment, frustration and depression that may occur during and after a period of crisis is not to be underestimated; “one consequence of chronic illness is that the responsibility for all aspects of management–physical, mental and social–increasingly falls on the shoulders of those who have the illness”. That said, the reader is reminded that during the absence of crisis, individuals living with HIV+ must continue to care for themselves and their children, and resume what could now constitute a normal life.

6. Towards the Wellbeing of Aboriginal Mothers and Their Families

What we heard most often from Aboriginal mothers in this project was the need for enough time to heal from the enduring colonial legacy that is widely understood to be a major contributor to the contemporary social ills that plague Aboriginal peoples. For Aboriginal women in particular, these ills include countless experiences of discrimination, violence, involvement with the child welfare system, mental health challenges and substance misuse.

Four separate qualitative research projects by Rutman et al., conducted in 2005 and 2007, reveal that both child welfare and substance misuse treatment systems are unrealistic in their expectations of Aboriginal mothers carrying so many traumas. They highlight concerns associated with risk assessments that demand a fast, linear process of recovery, critiquing the predominance of “traditional” abstinence based models which do not recognize that “recovery and healing take considerable time and tremendous effort and are fraught with backslides”.

The substance misuse treatment counsellors we interviewed added a great deal to this conversation, stating that the timelines for mothers are unrealistic and that typical twenty-one day programs are “ridiculously short.” They called attention to the misconceptions that a woman will be “mysteriously healed after  a few weeks or a few months.” This perception that “one size fits all” is embedded in most treatment programs when it comes to time. Treatment counsellors explained to us that the general public, policy makers and child welfare workers do not understand the individualistic nature of the healing process. they suggested that mothers have the opportunity to try a variety of programs until they find the right fit for them and take these programs more than once if they wish. Once counsellor explicitly explained this position by comparing it to her own learning process: “Each time I’ve attended the very same training, I’ve gotten something different out of it. I don’t think the number of times matters at all.” Another agreed, stating that the necessary time it takes to connect a woman to appropriate services is not given, so “we try to make her fit into a program and if it doesn’t work out, we say she’s not ready [for help]. But really she’s just not ready for our idea of what we’re rushing her into.”

One [Children’s Aid Society] worker, Charlene, commented on this dilemma:

It is going to take her years and years to look at all her trauma. Drug abuse isn’t the problem. It’s a solution to the problem. There’s something underneath that, and if we’re not looking at that, we’re wasting our time because there’s going to be an underlying issue that’s always there. Meanwhile, there is no time to look at the underlying issues.

Another major component of Aboriginal worldviews is a holistic approach when addressing healing, which includes connections to family and community. A thorough approach needs whatever time it takes and is particularly significant to services at NCFST and Aboriginal counsellors in other agencies. Simply focusing on a presenting problemp can mean missing co-occurring problems. Workers at the NCFST discussed how the period of time given to complete holistic assessments is insufficient to cover family struggles, substance misuse, relationship stressors, concerns with children and mental health challenges. After assessment, workers have very little time to determine what direction to take with their family.

Some CAS workers discussed educating themselves about Aboriginal mothers and their environment so they can work collaboratively. They noted that, at present, only the mothers have to learn, as they must know about CAS and their mandate. One admitted, “I think maybe we see it as a one-sided thing–like everyone has to work with us for our agenda.” Others agreed, stating there is not much of a difference in their approach with Aboriginal mothers as compared to anyone else. They referred to CAS as “predominantly a white agency,” and deliberated on how they could better engage with Aboriginal mothers.

One counsellor offered a poignant reason for this:

A woman says she wants her children to go to her brother, but he has a criminal record. When we look at the Native population and the racist criminal justice system, we see another barrier because he can’t take the children. Therefore, the children are removed from their family. Instead why aren’t we learning about what does the brother need to provide a successful family environment for the children?

This chapter includes important information and experiences from Aboriginal mothers, substance misuse treatment counsellors and child welfare workers. The concerns that each of these groups raised were all connected to time: having enough time to heal, to build partnerships, to implement holistic approaches and learn from one another. There is a need for all service providers working with Aboriginal mothers for professional development where both groups can come together to educate each other about what they do, about who they service, and about the barriers that they face in their everyday work, but this requires a commitment to the time to do so. Having time to come up with protocols that work for everyone involved could create much needed collaborations benefit Aboriginal mothers and their children.

7. The Impact of Sexual Violence on Indigenous Motherhood in Guatemala

The reason underlying the use of gender violence as a war tactic is oftentimes because of how “effective” it is. In sum, sexual violence in conflict is a means of attacking men by proxy–as it aims at humiliating or degrading the men for their failure in protecting the women in their families. This stems from a largely prevalent notion that women are “property” and become “damaged goods” post-violence. Gender violence effectively breaks, humiliates and destroys both the mental and physical health of the person it is inflicted upon. When this impact is further extended by the sheer volume and magnitude of occurrences in a conflict zone, the whole social fabric of a community is destroyed. When women are subjected to sexual violence, in many instances, the family is broken, and social functioning comes to a grinding halt.

While it is definitely not for anyone to lay claim that the impact is worse on one community in comparison with another, this argument holds water in the Maya Ixil context:

The war has left the people of Guatemala years behind in development, especially the Maya. Maya women may feel the effects of their people’s history even more acutely than the men. Many men died or disappeared during the war. Women were killed as well, but more often their husband and sons were killed, while mothers and daughters were raped and tortured, then left for dead. Many of these female survivors bear physical and mental scars. Maya women are also considered to be the most marginalized individuals in Guatemala. They have two strikes against them. Despite the fact that the civil war is over, tehre are still major problems with racism in Guatemala. Many of the ladinos (people of mixed European descent) view themselves as far superior to the indigenous Maya. There is also a problem with machismo in the country. Men view themselves as superior to women. Therefore Maya women suffer not only because they are indigenous but also because they are women in a male dominated society and, under these circumstances, the women have begun to view themselves as inferior.

Certain rituals under the Mayan spiritual faith have assisted in providing solace and comfort and have contributed to reparation. For one of the Maya Ixil women, the “cleansing powers of burning pom (resin) and lighting candles means: Now I don’t feel dirty any more, I feel that my body is innocent, my body is all right because it is clean and I am clean.”

An ex-rebel explained in painful words what the impact of the armed conflict has been on Mayan community life: “Our village never recovered. It was as if our communal heart had been cut out.” Yet as much as they suffered, Guatemala’s Maya Ixil women have been resilient and strong in their fight to survive. One clear-cut example of counter-hegemonic behaviour and the resilience of the Maya Ixil women is their acceptance of the children born out of rape. This stems from the resilience inherent in their culture. The Maya Ixil community has a complementary dynamic between women and men–and the connection between our human species and the ecosystem to which we belong. This interdependence is central to Ixil philosophical thought, and has been a source of resilience during war, genocide, repression.

8. Camera, a Collective, and a Critical Concern

III: Othermothering Spaces and Multiple Moms
9. Storying the Untold

Our research thus confirms a fact that is publicly disavowed: most street sex workers are mothers. Though little data has been collected on this subject, three researchers based in the U.S. found that 69% to 91% of street sex workers are mothers. Despite these findings, there is little research, writing, or programming aimed at understanding and supporting women at the intersection of mothering and sex work.

Colonization is a gendered process that sets Indigenous mothering in the crosshairs of racist invasions legitimated through government policy. The Gradual Disenfranchisement Act (1869) and the Indian Act (1876) removed some of the recognition, authority, and responsibilities from women that had been long established in Indigenous communities. A long history of legislation aimed at colonizing the family has deteriorated traditional governan ce systems, with resultant displacement of Indigenous women’s central political, economic, and social roles in traditional (and contemporary) Indigenous societies. Indigenous mothering has long been a particular target of the colonial state.

Indigenous mothers in street sex work face the ongoing colonial violence perpetuated through child welfare, the criminal justice system, and other structures they may interact with. Street sex work in Canada is inextricably bound up with colonization, and, specifically, the dispossession of Indigenous land, and the violent sexualization of Indigenous women. These streets are not neutral, and the violence enacted upon them is not neutral or momentary, but historical, systematic, and strategic.

Sex work was their only option when it came to putting food on the table, as illustrated by a mother from Edmonton:

There’s a lot of women out there too that do, that work because they need food for the house or you know, they need to feed their kids or you know what I mean? Like pay the rent or whatever…

This participant’s words are echoed in the literature, as Marie Ashe notes, “while caring for children is never easy, being poor makes it harder; experiencing racism makes it harder; experiencing homophobia makes it harder; and experiencing the fear of violence within one’s own household makes it harder still.”

This woman depicts the intimate connectedness between mothering and leadership precisely: a leader takes care of those around her through mothering. This maternal role is learned through a lifetime of caregiving. This “momma” lives through a “complex web of relational practices” including inclusive definitions of mothering in a colonial context (NCCAH). This way of being flies in the face of colonial models of family and mothering to specific bodies and spaces. This woman’s story shows us that mothering is a process and an action, a role learned and earned, not a codified identity that can be given and taken by colonial powers.

This mother’s story clearly urges us to recognize how these communities, connected by time, place, culture, identity, and by sex work, generate their own leadership. Often street sex work communities are portrayed as merely surviving. Left out of these characterizations is the understanding that surviving requires spiritual, mental, and intellectual work; it is culture and tradition.

…numerous studies have shown that the colonial roots of poverty, displacement, and violence are obscured by child welfare authorities and the effects of poverty are mistaken for the effects of neglect.

The role of extended kinship relations in raising children in Indigenous communities is largely unrecognized by child welfare systems in Canada. As the final arbiters of the ideology of motherhood, courts often ignore kinship relationships and impose dominant ideologies when assessing the mothering practices of Indigenous women.
One grandmother we spoke with, who had been in the sex industry herself, shares her perspective on what needs to change in the child welfare system:

But I think there needs to be like something where womena re more united with their children rather than like apart, you know, because it makes it harder. Everybody has kids you know and then they take their children and then they have…I guess like there’s no point in staying out there, there’s no point in trying to better yourself you know and find a different life.

Many women we interviewed disclosed that they experienced a profound loss of identity, purpose, and hope as a direct result of having their children apprehended.

10. Motherhood, Policies and Tea

the Old ones pokes through charred debris
reflections emerge provoking long ago desires
she pauses as ancient tongues whisper daintily
slowly she gently sifts and carefully pulls
one rooted word after another
(Wendy Proverbs)

11. The Power of Ancestral Stories on Mothers & Daughters

in the Indigenous cultural worldview, there is no separation from the events of the past and of now–these Origins Stories and their images of women are as real and connected to mothers living today as we daughters are.

The punishment of Eve by the Judeo-Christian god in Genesis of the Bible set the stage for generations of women’s oppression. Centuries of biblically-sanctioned misogyny culminated in events like the European witch burnings circa 1400 to 1700. The Roman Catholic Church’s witch burnings, where perhaps up to several million women were tortured, then burned at the stake, were in full swing when the Pilgrims arrived on our shores. In Mary Daly‘s work, Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Beacon 1990), she recounts the history of the European witch craze and its devastating impact on others and daughters at the time. In her work, she notes how daughters were forced to watch thetorture and murder of their mothers who were accused of practicing witchcraft, and how this intergenerational, psychological wounding of the mother-daughter bond continues up to today.

We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn't burn

“We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn’t burn.”

12. Rebirth and Renewal
Finding Empowerment through Indigenous Women’s Literature

see: Neither Indian Princesses Nor Squaw Drudges (Janice Acoose)

A couple of winters ago, on a journey that took me half way around the world, the vibrant, tenacious spirits of two wonderful old Koochums (Grandmothers) came to me in a dream and directed me back to my home communities, most importantly, my sense of self. Throughout most of my life, I’ve felt those energies, whose spiritual directives prompted my journey home. When at last my feet touched the earth from which I came, I felt the spirits of Kah’ Ki Yaw Ni Wahkomakanak (all my relations) welcome me home. (Jennifer Brant)


It is only through my culture that my women’s identity is shaped. it is the teachings of my people that demand we speak from our own personal experience. That is not necessarily knowledge that comes from academic study.

These stories, however, are not always the most settling for the students, especially during the first section of the course that focuses on the element of resistance. This makes sense if we think of the theory of identity formation as decolonizing and healing journey. Before we can begin such a journey, things tend to get messy. Healing is not an easy or painless process. The students must first learn, or perhaps be reminded, of the stereotypes of Indigenous women from which negative definitions of being arise. Throughout mainstream literature and media Aboriginal women have been portrayed as promiscuous, drunk, lewd, licentious, prostitute, easy, available, willing, dissolute and dangerous and of Aboriginal mothers as unfit and uncivilizing.

IV: Building on the Past to Create a Future
13. Maori Mothering

The socialisation and nurturing of children within traditional Maori society was shared amongst many family members (both kin and non-kin), and the notion of a nuclear family was anathema.

Racial amalgamaton and interracial marriage also eroded much of traditional Maori kinship practices and family structures. Indeed, as Wanhalla asserts, racial amalgamation can be viewed as an instrument of colonization.

14. Nimamasak

In addition to generating information on the intergenerational effects of the schools, the project served a therapeutic purpose for the women. They discovered a sense of healing, as they journeyed through the project together. The women’s stories called attention to their emotional detachment from their mothers and their reconnection with them; their own journeys into motherhood; their reconciliation of childhood and adulthood trauma as intergenerational survivors; their strength, determination and resilience transmitted through mothers; and their move toward spiritual healing for mothers, families and all community people who have been affected by the residential school legacy.

15. Indigenous Principles for Single Mothering in a Fragmented World

I raised my children, alongside their natural exploration of the world, to conceive of and recognize the spiritual essence of reality through physical and emotional sensations, intuitions and visual attention, to identify the experience of all-knowing, sentient and loving light as the source of that reality, and referred to it as the Creator.



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