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Mi'kmaq & Indigenous Studies: Gender, Power, and Indigenous Law

This guide was created for students, faculty, administrative staff, and our community members.

Canada’s Residential Schools: Reconciliation

Quotes from The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Volume 6 

Gender, Power and Indigenous Law (pp. 52-54)

The high levels of discrimination and violence against Aboriginal women and girls that exist in their own communities and in broader Canadian society have been well documented (p. 52)

Chapter 5. Public memory: Dialogue, the arts, and commemoration (pp. 157-192)

Aboriginal women are inspiring models of resilience who work to address legacy issues even as they revitalize matriarchal systems, cultural traditions, ceremonies, and laws that ensured gender equity prior to colonization [...] Despite making inroads over the past three decades, Aboriginal women continue to be marginalized and misrepresented in Canada’s public memory and national history. (p. 161)

Research Questions

Emily Snyder, in her report, offers questions that we can think about for a gender analysis. She notes:

[…] a gendered analysis encourages one to pay close attention to power dynamics. To further show what a gendered analysis involves, I include below a list of questions. These questions could be used to bring gender into conversations on Indigenous law – to talk about gender and legal process, legal reasoning, and legal principles. The questions can also be used to reflect on written materials, recordings, or stories. People of all genders can engage with these questions about power.

  • Who is included in discussions about Indigenous law? Are women present?

  • Who is leading these discussions? What is the gender of the leaders or of authoritative decision-makers?

  • Are there specific contexts in which men are considered authoritative speakers and decisions-makers? Specific contexts in which women are?

  • How are women and men involved in the legal process similarly and/or differently? What are women talking about? What are men talking about?

  • Is gender talked about? If so, how is it talked about? Is the discussion limited to two genders? How might the discussion change if gender was discussed more fluidly?

  • If legal decisions are made, are women and men impacted differently by them? In the short-term? In the long-run?

  • How are legal principles (for example, respect, reciprocity) talked about? Is it possible that women and men are not held to these principles in the same way? Do contradictions exist between what is being said in principle, and what happens in reality?

  • What is missing? Does gendered conflict need to be acknowledged? If it were, how might it change the discussion?

  • Are the specific gendered challenges that Indigenous women face necessary to acknowledge in your analysis? How do you think they relate (or not) to what you are analyzing?

  • Are the legal processes, interpretations, and decisions empowering for Indigenous women? Do they treat women as complex legal agents who possess valuable knowledge and opinions?

  • Is there space in the legal process for people to disagree with one another? Is there space for women to challenge the process if need be?

To read the entire report, visit: Snyder, E. (2013). Gender and Indigenous Law. [A report prepared for the University of Victoria Indigenous Law Unit, the Indigenous Bar Association, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.] Retrieved from http://indigenousbar.ca/indigenouslaw/

Suggested Books

Suggested Scholarly Articles

Suggested Subject Headings:

Feminist theory
Indigenous women -- Legal status, laws, etc.
Feminism -- Law & legislation
Indigenous peoples -- Societies, etc.
Indigenous peoples -- Canada -- Legal status, laws, etc.
Indian women--Canada
Indigenous women -- Crimes against