Oppression among First Nations peoples in Canada The detrimental enforcement of colonialism sparked an era of oppression that has altered, even destroyed years of cultural and spiritual traditions by creating a forced lifestyle that changed the face of First Nations peoples forever. Forced European culture resulted in the diminishing of Firsts Nations values and rights. A cycle of social, physical, and spiritual obliteration resulted from the dispossession of First Nations lands and the implementation of foreign methods of government.
Poverty, poor health, and substance abuse are some of the long-term side effects that came about from this oppression. European settlers came overseas, unwelcome into First Nations territory with absolutely no respect for their traditions and ways of living. Over time children were taken away from their families and native homelands to attend residential schools; Native students were given new names and taught to speak English. Residential schools attempted to brainwash First Nations children to erase their native culture and traditions.
First Nations peoples were defenseless under the power of the Europeans; their rights were ignored and their values were completely demoralized. First Nations peoples were forced down the path of violence and educational failure, which eventually led to poverty. These effects were a direct result of the disrespect and insensible attitude put forth towards First Nations peoples by the European settlers. The introduction of Residential schools to the First Nations peoples of Canada was a system that began in New France in 1620, and was known as “the experiment of education of Indian Children in residential establishments. (Timeline: Canada’s Residential School History) These schools had a system that was based upon the idea of “kill the Indian, save the man” (Capt. Charles Pratt, founder of the Carlyle Indian School. ) European authorities were trying to Europeanize the First Nation occupants of Canada by instilling in the minds of young First Nations children the beliefs and values of the European culture. The Clash of two different cultures brought upon destructive trauma amongst the First Nations peoples and their future.
The government formed a rule that prohibited the First Nations people’s ability to develop their own culture through their rich traditions. Cultural genocide resulted from years of oppression, and social violence. According to Dr. Leslie Korn, “Community development that is not self determined precipitates intergenerational trauma in individuals and communities. When this occurs people suffer loss and grieve over ways of life. Families divide and rituals of celebration and healing lose meaning” (Dr. Leslie Korn: Community trauma and development).
The development of a culture is jeopardized when change is implemented on a certain group by another group. This reflects the result of European influence on First Nations peoples. By 1870, the government and missionaries shared the same objective of lowering First Nations children into the reaches of society. By 1920, First Nations children aging from 7-15 years were forced away from their families by priests, Indian agents and police officers as it was now compulsory to attend residential schools. As the years moved along, residential schools slowly faded away.
It wasn’t until 1980, where sexual, and other forms of abuse were finally removed. In 1996, the last residential that was federally ran was closed. Most First Nations children, from birth, are surrounded by the attitude, and social obligation of being faithless. The short story Traplines, written by Eden Robinson, is about a young aboriginal boy named Will. Will is falling deeper and deeper into a dark lifestyle that seemingly has no hope. Surrounded buy substance abuse, alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse, Will is caught up in a trap that many aboriginal teenagers misguidedly find themselves falling into.
Will is an adolescent teenager that seems to have a silent side of him that wants to change his life. Will doesn’t partake in alcohol or drug consumption, but seems to be desensitized to what is taking place at home and in the community. Will contemplates whether or not he should take the offer put forth by his English teacher, Mrs. Smythe, to move into her and her husband’s household and receive a priceless opportunity for a better start to his life journey. An opportunity that offers much safer and more rewarding lifestyle filled with love and morals.
It seems Will doesn’t feel deserving of that deliverance from the violent, detrimental lifestyle he is surrounded by at home. The frequent abusive confrontations Will experiences at home are evident in the text, “Are you a sissy? I got a sissy for a son. Look. Like cutting up a chicken see? Pretend your skinning a chicken” (379). Will’s father is verbally abusive when Will shows the slightest discomfort towards skinning the marten they had trapped. Accompanied by abuse, alcoholism is also evident in the text.
Wills explains the tendencies of his parents on the weekends, “They’ll probably find a party and go on a bender until Monday, when dad has to go back to work” (380). This shows that his parents who are supposed to guide him and raise him properly, would rather waste their weekends away by drinking and doing drugs. Will is forced to stay at his friends house when his parents are drinking in order to avoid the violence that follows alcohol, “I’m not going home until tomorrow, when mom and dad are sober” (388). In doing so, Will is exposed to watching his friend smoke crack.
When confronted by his father about the offer presented by Mrs. Smythe, Will is immediately accused for telling her about the abuse occurring at home. Will’s father uses intimidation to overwhelm Will with fear towards sharing with others what takes place at home. Instead of apologizing, and sensing that his son may not want to live at home anymore, Wills father shows anger towards Will. All of the conflicts involved in this short story are a direct result of hundreds of years of colonialism and oppression. The European system that was taking over First Nations peoples and their lands was that of patriarchy.
A male dominated social system brought about massive sexual exploitation amongst First Nations women; prostitution is a graphic example of how deeply patriarchy has wounded the lives of this particular group of women. First Nations women, and men for that matter, did not have the power to overcome the forceful European invasion. Prostitution in First Nations women is obvious evidence of oppression and colonialism that is still very visible today. Ever since the first European contact, First Nations women have been sexually exploited.
The first brothels in Canada were set up around military bases and trading posts, European men demanded sexual accessibility to the defenseless First Nations women. In order to supply the business of prostitution, a low self esteem and demoralized group of women is required. Through the power of colonialism, the oppression involved allowed the First Nations women to fall into this lifestyle. Colonialism, childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse and neglect, family addictions, husband violence, and alcoholism are all vital ssues that lead First Nations women into prostitution. Lorne Crozier’s “Dark Ages of the Sea” reflects First Nations peoples as a metaphor of being children that fall into wells, “there was a time when / children fell into wells” (6-7).
This reflects First Nations peoples helplessly falling to the power of the European invasion. A race of people who had no education about the effects of what was happening to them, hopeless like a child falling into a well. When Europeans came overseas and found this new land, they were blind to the ways First Nations peoples lived their lives: nd a faith in things invisible, be it water never seen or something trembling in the air (12-15). The excitement of the European people when finding this new land blinded them towards the rights of First Nations peoples. The new waters travelled to arrive at this new land, was the “water never seen” (13-14). Regardless of what happened to the First Nations peoples and the land that is rightfully theirs. Sensing opportunity, the Europeans wanted to expand into this foreign land they have stumbled across, “something / trembling in the air” (14-15).
Once realizing the unstoppable power of the Europeans, the First Nations spirits were severely damaged, “We are born to fall / and children fell” (16-17). This resembles the wounded spirits of the First Nations peoples, slipping into the realm of violence and abuse. The surviving members of the First Nations community passed along the stories of suffer and change that came about through the establishment of colonialism and oppression, “Some surviving / to tell the tale” (18-19).
Like a new born calf whose mother passed at birth, blinded and wet, experiencing a new world outside its womb with no guidance; the First Nations peoples were abruptly introduced into a new world, blind towards the harsh reality in which the Europeans were about to instill upon them with no guidance, “Wet and blind with terror / like a calf” (22-23). Over the past 400 years, First Nations peoples have been struggling to improve their lives. Re-establishing old traditions and values that have been lost throughout years of oppression has been a very slow process.
With the help of non-First Nation peoples in Canada, realizing the detrimental damage that has been caused, there are establishments and groups all across Canada joining the fight to replenish what has been torn apart. The teachings and rich traditions that the First Nations peoples have developed are being shared and taught at a rate that is increasing as time passes along.
“Timeline – Canada’s Residential School History. ” virtualmuseum. ca. virtual museum, n. d. Tues. 16 Nov. 2010.
“History of Indian Residential Schools. ” afn. ca. afn, n. d. Tues. 16 Nov. 2010. Lynn, Jacqueline. Prostitution of First Nations Woman in Canada. ” sisyphe. org. sisyphe, 17 May. 2005. Tues. 16 Nov. 2010. Dr. Korn, Leslie.
“Community Trauma and Development. ” centerfortraditionalmedicine.org center for traditional medicine, Aug. 1997. Tues. 16 Nov. 2010.
“Aboriginal Issues. ” socialjustice.org social justice, n. d. 16 Nov. 2010. Robinson, Eden. “Traplines. ” The Wascana ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION. 1999. 378-395. Print. Crozier, Lorne.
“Dark Ages of the Sea. ” Cyr, Annette. “Long Term Effects of Residential School. ” suite101. com. suite101, 3 Mar. 2009. Tues. 16 Nov. 2010.
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