National Clearinghouse on Family Violence
Emma D. LaRocque *
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Colonization refers to that process of encroachment and subsequent subjugation of Aboriginal peoples since the arrival of Europeans. From the Aboriginal perspective, it refers to loss of lands, resources, and self-direction and to the severe disturbance of cultural ways and values. Colonization has taken its toll on all Aboriginal peoples, but it has taken perhaps its greatest toll on women. Prior to colonization, Aboriginal women enjoyed comparative honour, equality and even political power in a way European women did not at the same time in history. We can trace the diminishing status of Aboriginal women with the progression of colonialism. Many, if not the majority, of Aboriginal cultures were originally matriarchal or semi-matriarchal. European patriarchy was initially imposed upon Aboriginal societies in Canada through the fur trade, missionary Christianity and government policies. Because of white intrusion, the matriarchal character of Aboriginal spiritual, economic, kinship, and political institutions was drastically altered.
Colonization and racism go hand in hand. Racism has provided justification for the subjugation of Aboriginal peoples. While all Aboriginal people are subjected to racism, women further suffer from sexism. Racism breeds hatred of Aboriginal peoples; sexism breeds hatred of women. For Aboriginal women, racism and sexism constitute a package experience. We cannot speak of sexual violence without at once addressing the effects of racism/sexism.
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