Marie: A disenfrancised First Nation woman from Kipawa
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Abstract The Indian Act of Canada specifically targeting First Nation women has been blatantly discriminatory. In 1951 section 12(1) (b) was successfully passed and dealt specifically with First Nation women, effectively disinheriting them when they married non-status men. Conversely, Native status was not only retained for their brothers, but also passed on to their non-Native wives. It remained that way until 1981 when the United Nations, an international body, deemed it sexually discriminatory. Though challenged by Native women across Canada, there was little effort from the courts, band councils and Native advocacy groups to correct this injustice. It wasn’t until 1985, when Bill C-31 was introduced to deal with this injustice. This thesis followed Marie’s experience as she was disenfranchised. Disenfranchised women were forced to make do in urbanized communities where opportunities were few and poverty the trend. In Marie’s case poverty, loss of identity, lack of education, abuse and dislocation from her community affected her greatly. She could neither belong in the Western world, nor return to her community. Such Women fell under the full effect of colonization. Their communities crossed them off their membership lists and they were rejected not only from their communities, but often from within their own families. Section 12(1) (b), as it dealt with First Nation women had the deleterious effect of dividing communities and families from within. Though she eventually regained her status, Marie shared reflections about her journey back and acknowledged that her healing came from giving back and serving others. It is what made her resilient. Marie was interviewed over the summer of 2016 and her experiences written as narratives and collected by Catherine Davis, her daughter and author of this study. As the stories of mother and daughter intertwine in the writing of this thesis, it became an autoethnography where personal experiences intersect with the public domain. This study has implications for any Canadian teacher who interacts with First Nation people. Experiences, like Marie’s, offer balance iii and is the first step in the Truth and Reconciliation process. Stories have the power to heal and telling the truth is where we start.