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Voices of First Nations women : their politics and political organizing in Vancouver, B.C. Cole, Susan C. 1994

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VOICES OF FIRST NATIONS WOMEN:THEIR POLITICS AND POLITICAL ORGANIZINGIN VANCOUVER, B.C.bySUSAN C. COLEB.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1990A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Anthropology and SociologyWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASeptember 1994© Susan C. Cole, 1994In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)__________Department of Anthropology and SociologyThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate 9/30/94DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTAs a contribution to the literature on Aboriginal women and politics onthe Northwest Coast, this study focuses on the experiences of nine First Nationswomen who are community leaders in Vancouver, British Columbia. They areinvolved in political work in various settings: First Nations politicalorganizations on the local, national and international levels, the government,non-governmental agencies, service organizations, tribal councils, and/orcommunity projects.The research methods used are interviewing, the collection of lifehistories and collaboration, with a feminist and reflexive approach. Informal,interactive interviews were carried out with these particular First Nationswomen, and contacts were made with other Aboriginal men and women in thecity of Vancouver. A significant part of this thesis are brief life histories thatinclude the individual voices of the nine participants.These women have moved to Vancouver from reserves or smallcommunities throughout B.C., and most of them have also participated in thepolitical process in these communities. Some are currently active in bothregions. Their narratives emphasize the strong ties they have to their families,communities, and nations. I conclude that these particular women’sconnections to both domains are complex and it is not always easy for them tomove back and forth to their homeland.This research bridges two units of analysis within anthropology:community studies that focus on Aboriginal women and politics on reserves,and urban studies that include the experiences of Aboriginal women in the city.The concerns of these First Nations women span from the urban center to thereserve or small community, although they are residing in Vancouver. They:11need to inform both non-Aboriginals and other First Nations people of theirlinks to their communities and to the land.111TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract iiTable of Contents ivAcknowledgements vDedication V 1.INTRODUCTION 1METHOD 3THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL ROLES OF ABORIGINAL WOMEN 6Historical Background 6Community Studies of Aboriginal Women and Politics 9Urban Studies 11FIRST NATIONS WOMEN AND POLITICS IN VANCOUVER, B.C. 13Introduction 13Life Histories 15DISCUSSION 31Connections to Home Communities 31Concerns and Goals 33CONCLUSION 35NOTES 37BIBLIOGRAPHY 42ivACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis research would not have been possible without the participation ofthe First Nations women who are the focus of this thesis: Fay Blaney, LillianHoward, Tern Netsena, Gloria Nicolson, Susan Tatoosh, Marge White, LornaWilliams, and two women who remain anonymous. I wish to thank themimmensely, not only for their willingness to take time from their busy schedules,but also for enlightening me on matters that concern them as Aboriginalwomen, and their First Nations communities as a whole. I also wish to thankthe other First Nations people I spoke with who offered insights into Aboriginalpolitics.I would like to thank my academic advisor, Dr. Bruce Miller, for all hissupport, guidance, and encouragement not only in carrying out the research andwriting up of this M.A. thesis, but throughout graduate school. Dr. JulieCruikshank has been invaluable as a committee member and as a professor, andI appreciate her interest in my project. Thank you to Dr. Dawn Currie, whooffered many good suggestions initially when she was a committee memberbefore the changes were made to the M.A. program. I appreciate the constructivecomments from Dr. Millie Creighton, the third reader of this thesis. Thanks tothe administrative staff of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology atUBC for their assistance during the two years I was in the department.A special thank you to the many colleagues -- whose names I will notmention, but they know who they are -- in the Department of Anthropology andSociology who provided encouragement and a friendly atmosphere while Ipursued my Master’s degree. Many thanks are in order to my family and friendsin B.C. and California (and one sister in New Haven) who put up with meduring the two years I was moving back and forth between the two communities.I would like to thank Sylvia Vane from Cultural Systems Research, Inc. andBallena Press for agreeing to my reduced work schedule while I completed thewrite-up of this thesis.I am especially grateful to my husband, Michel, who has supported me onmany levels in my academic pursuits as an undergraduate and graduate studentin the last few years.vIn loving memoryof my father,Sidney K. Cole(1914-1994)viINTRODUCTIONCherokee anthropologist Rayna Green claimed that there was a paucity ofliterature from the Northwest Coast in her 1980 review of academic and popularliterature on Native American women in the U.S. and Canada. In the lastdecade, some significant research has been carried out on the economic andpolitical roles of Aboriginal women from British Columbia and Washington.’This literature consists primarily of community studies that focus on thepolitical processes occurring on reserves or in small communities in rural areas.There have been no recent anthropological studies undertaken on Aboriginalwomen and politics in urban centers in this region -- an important area ofinquiry. As a contribution to this literature, this study focuses on thecontemporary experiences of nine First Nations2women who are, or have been,leaders of First Nations political organizations and/or community programs inthe city of Vancouver, British Columbia. They belong to a network of FirstNations women who are actively engaged in Aboriginal political, social,economic and educational issues in this urban center on the Northwest Coast.These particular women have all moved to Vancouver from reserves orsmall communities on the coast, in the interior and northern regions of BritishColumbia where most of them also participated, and in some cases are currentlyactive, in the political process. Central to this research is their relationship totheir home communities and how they mediate between the city and theirhomeland. Although these women are working and living in an urbanenvironment, they emphasize how their political organizing extends from thecity to the reserve or home community (and in some instances, nationally andinternationally). An analysis of their narratives demonstrates that these womenare connected to both domains in complex and difficult ways. It is evident thatall of them have significant ties to their own communities. Two of the women1express the desire to return to assist in community political, economic and socialdevelopment; two state that they have been asked to move back to their reserves,and three of the women maintain that they are able to continue to work in bothregions. One woman had an extremely difficult experience when she movedback to her reserve after several years absence because, in her view, thecommunity did not want to face its own problems.I conclude that, for these women, moving back and forth to their homecommunities is not always easily accomplished. They are viewed as educatedurban First Nations women and are sometimes rejected by others who do notlive in the city. The women’s words suggest that they need to communicate toboth Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people their links to these smallcommunities and the land. These complex connections need to be examinedfurther in order to understand the women’s lives, and how they situatethemselves in both urban and reserve or community politics.The women in this study share some concerns and goals, but there are alsodifferences. All of them are making an effort to bring about changes to thepredominantly male-dominated Aboriginal political institutions and structures.However, none of them is concerned solely with women’s issues of genderequality, discrimination or subordination; rather, they are working to end theoppression of Aboriginal peoples, both men and women. These women’snarratives indicate that they have differing views on the efficacy of some of theAboriginal political organizations on the local, provincial, and national levels.Some of them are actively involved as directors or Board members of FirstNations organizations, while others are participating in various communityprograms that are not affiliated with one particular association, or they arewithdrawing from the organizational structure to achieve their goals. KarenHansen’s findings (1979) that Aboriginal organizations provide th setting for2Native American women to pursue their interests in Seattle, Washington doesnot hold true for all of the these First Nations women in Vancouver, B.C.The feminist redefinition of politics is relevant to this study. For example,anthropologists Sandra Morgen and Ann Bookman, who examined workingclass women’s grassroots political activism in the U.S., refer to politics as “anattempt to change the social and economic institutions that embody the basicpower relations in our society” (1988:4). In this instance, the power relations arebetween the non-Aboriginal society and First Nations communities in Canada.This paper addresses how these female community leaders are effecting changein this power struggle.There are three primary purposes of this research: 1) to fill the gap in theliterature and show the experiences of First Nations women and politicalorganizing in B.C. in the 1990s; 2) to bridge two units of analysis withinanthropology: community studies that focus on Aboriginal women and politicson reserves, and urban studies that include the experiences of Aboriginal womenin the urban environment, because the two domains are linked in thesewomen’s own expressions of their political work; and 3) to include theindividual voices of the women who have participated in this research project,because they are important spokespersons for First Nations communities on theNorthwest Coast.METHODI began this research project with the intention of interviewing a numberof First Nations women who currently live and work in Vancouver, B.C. to gaina better understanding of their participation in Aboriginal politics. The criteriafor selection was that the participants are, or have been, in a leadership positionin political organizing, that they are from communities within the province of3B.C., and that they have moved to Vancouver. These women are all from smallcommunities or reserves, and they have been involved in the political strugglefor self-determination of Aboriginal peoples for many years.I am primarily interested in their relationship to their homecommunities, and how they became involved in politics. I asked whichcouncils, organizations and programs they have been active with in Vancouver,in their own or other small communities, and on the provincial, national andinternational levels; and what their views are on these institutions. Do theymanage to work in both the urban and reserve settings? What are their personaland collective goals and concerns?3Rather than contacting the First Nations political organizations orcommunity programs at the outset, I located two of the women through referralsfrom people outside of the First Nations community, and these women, in turn,referred me to others (i.e., the Hsnowbal1I sample). I also contacted women whoare not well-known leaders within the community. Some women I initiallycontacted were reluctant to participate: they either did not wish to tell their ownstory, to be a part of an academic research project, or they did not have any freetime. The First Nations women who participated in this study were eager toinform non-Aboriginal people about their concerns and goals, and they tooktime out of their busy schedules to meet with me.I conducted informal, open-ended interviews with one woman in theSpring and Fall of 1992, and with eight women from February to June, 1993. Allof the interviews took place in the greater Vancouver area; I did not traveloutside of the city to their reserve or home communities. I met two of thewomen in their homes, one in her daughter’s home, four in their work-places,and in two instances, in cafes. The discussions lasted from one hour to fivehours each, and I met with three of the women for a second interview. Half of4the conversations were interactive exchanges rather than a standard questionand answer format.4 Seven of the interviews were tape-recorded withpermission of the participant, and field notes were taken for the remainder.Although I observed four of the women at work, the research was not based onparticipant observation. I also consulted with other First Nations women andmen, and these discussions sharpened my thinking about First Nations womenand politics in the reserve and off-reserve settings.Most of the nine women who participated in this study know each other,either through their social networks or community projects. This relationshipvaries from friends or colleagues to merely knowing of the other person.However, at the time of their interviews they were not aware of who the otherparticipants were. The actual names of the individuals have been includedwhen the participant elected to include her own name, and pseudonyms havebeen used in two instances. For purposes of anonymity, the names oforganizations and tribal affiliations have been altered, or left out completely.Other research methods I have used are the collection of life histories andcollaboration, with a feminist and reflexive approach. I am concerned aboutethical issues of representation, authorship, authority, voice, and the powerrelations that exist between the researcher and the participants, and I havediscussed these issues with some of the women.5 Brief life histories arepresented in the thesis to contextualize their individual experiences. I haveincluded some of their comments verbatim to give these women a voice. Thewomen I interviewed have had the opportunity to make editorial changes to thisdocument, and I have incorporated some of their suggestions into the questionsand analysis.It is difficult to produce a truly collaborative -- i.e., multi-authored -- reportin the context of an academic thesis initiated by the researcher within an5anthropological analytical framework. It is also problematic writing up researchof this nature because there are two diverse audiences: the academiccommunity, and the participants in the study. My intention is not to be criticalof these women’s experiences, but to present an analysis of complex issues.6Initially, I briefly discuss the historical background of the economic andpolitical roles of Native American and First Nations women. As this research isconcerned with First Nations women involved in both urban and communitypolitics, I review the existing relevant community studies of contemporaryAboriginal women and politics, and some of the urban studies that have beenconducted in Canada and the U.S. regarding First Nations peoples and NativeAmericans.THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL ROLES OF ABORIGINAL WOMENSince the mid-1970s, with the growing interest in women’s studies andgender relations, there have been a number of contemporary and ethnohistoricalstudies, life histories and autobiographies, that focus on the economic andpolitical roles of Aboriginal women in Canada and the United States.7 Asmentioned earlier, there has been a recent interest in Aboriginal women fromthe Northwest Coast of B.C. and Washington.8Historical BackgroundAccording to the ethnohistorical literature, European colonization in theUnited States and Canada has had an impact on Aboriginal women’s base ofpower in different ways -- in some groups women’s status rose during and aftercontact, and in others it declined.96The data indicate that where local populations evolved specializedeconomies dependent on European markets, and where femalework was subsumed under a labor process dominated by men, thestatus of women declined. In situations where a dependency onthese markets was secondary, or where it did not alter existing socialformations, the status of women remained stable and in a fewsituations may have been enhanced (Albers 1989:140).Many of the case studies in Etienne and Leacock’s landmark volume (1980)emphasize the displacement of Native women from social production and theirsubsequent subordination to men under colonization in Canada and the UnitedStates. Norton (1985) examines the significant economic activities of Aboriginalwomen of the Northwest Coast in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Van Kirk(1980) and Littlefield (1991) emphasize the important role of First Nationswomen in the maritime fur trade.Native American researchers M. Annette Jaimes and Theresa Halseyclaim that “it is women who have formed the very core of indigenous resistanceto genocide and colonization since the first moment of conflict between Indiansand invaders” (1992:311). In an essay on the traditional roles of First Nationswomen in Canada and the impact of colonization, Somer Brodribb maintainsthat researchers must “take as a starting point the experience of Indian womenwithin their cultures”, and that “it is important to remain aware of the full rangeof economic and ideological forces which limit and constrain women’s lives, forfemale power and reality cannot be separated from the broader social context”(1984:98). For example, in matrilineal societies that valued female autonomy theeconomic and political roles of Aboriginal women may have differed from othersocieties during and after the contact period.Research also indicates that Aboriginal women’s status declined with theformation of reservations or reserves in some regions of Canada and the UnitedStates in the 19th century, while it did not change substantially in others.107Among Native American tribal groups in central U.S. there was a decline inwomen’s status because:.the combined impact of church and state policies transformedcommunal property relations into private ones, and in so-doing,transferred the means of production in farming (e.g., tools, land,knowledge) from women to men. This, in turn, brought aboutchanges in family structure, and in the role of women in theirhouseholds and communities (Albers 1989:145-6).In Canada in 1869, the Indian Act enabled the colonial government todetermine the status of “Indian” men and women. It was stipulated that onlyIndian men had voting rights in band politics, and that Indian women whoeither married non-Aboriginal men, Indian males who were not legallyrecognized, or married out to Indian men from the U.S., lost their legal status(Krosenbrink-Gelissen 1991).”Since the 1970s, numerous studies, reports, and autobiographies have beenpublished in Canada by anthropologists, sociologists, researchers from otherfields, and political activists -- both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal -- that eitherfocus specifically on, or include, a discussion of the status of First Nationswomen as spelled out by the Indian Act.12 Kathleen Jamieson maintains thatthe Indian Act did not allow women to be politically active until after 1960:[TJhe perpetuation of a system excluding Indian women from accessto political power was probably the major impetus for theemergence in the seventies of a dynamic social movement amongNative women -- status, non-status and Métis -- aimed atimproving their social and legal position and at obtainingimmediate improvements in living conditions at the communitylevel. The emergence of this force among Native women whichappears to transcend the political, geographical and cultural schismsin the male-oriented organizations has been largely invisible tonon-Natives and most Native men (1979:160).In some Aboriginal communities on reserves and in urban centers inCanada and the U.S., Aboriginal women “have expanded their political and8economic influence since the 1960s,. ..although in others it appears to remainquite limited” (Albers 1989:139). For example, Bruce Miller discusses the reasonsfor the “variability between culturally related tribes and bands in [Coast Salish]women’s access to public authority” in Washington and B.C. The variables are:“local historical differences in the relationship of Indian groups to whitegovernments”, the size of the tribe, median household income and the size ofthe fishing income (1992:367).In ethnographic research among the Tlingit in southeastern Alaska, LauraKlein (1976) found that principles of public participation in the economic andpolitical life of the town apply to both women and men throughout the society.Contrary to many studies that view colonization as an impediment to the statusof women (Etienne and Leacock 1980), Klein maintains that the range ofactivities open to women has been broadened by modernization. Klein’s claimmay be open to dispute because “the sexual division of labor is less rigid” amongthe Tlingit than among “Euro-Americans”, in that “roles are structured more onthe basis of ability, training, and personality” than on gender (Klein 1976:179).Community Studies of Aboriginal Women and PoliticsIn his ethnographic study of politically active Northern Paiute women inthe Great Basin area of Nevada, Robert Lynch maintains that “[ainthropologicalstudies have not given adequate attention to contemporary Native Americanwomen’s participation in political life” (1986:352). He describes the specificdynamics of power relations that occurred when a group of related NorthernPaiute women successfully managed a small tribal council for over a year duringthe late 1960s.9Two significant community studies that focus specifically on theparticipation of contemporary Aboriginal women in the political process in theNorthwest are Miller’s research on the formal political role of women fromCoast Salish communities in western Washington state and B.C. (1989, 1990,1992), and Jo-Anne Fiske’s research on the central role of women in publicdecision making in a Carrier community in central B.C. (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992).’3Miller argues that since the 1960s there has been an “opportunity structure”whereby some Coast Salish women in western Washington have become headsof family networks and thereby obtained political support -- he refers to thisgroup as “traditional” -- while others have emerged as “technocrats” who receivecommunity-wide political support. The women from the latter group havetechnical training and some college education and most of them had noexpectation of playing a leadership role in tribal affairs.Fiske’s research in a Carrier community in B.C. (1989, 1990, 1991) alsofocuses on First Nations women’s influence in kinship groups, their social rankand their roles in the elected council and administrative structure. According toher findings, there are three factors that contribute to women’s public presence:“women’s economic autonomy (which includes control over critical domesticresources), the prevailing ideology of respect for older women’s knowledge andwisdom and the socio-economic structure, in which public and private interestsare essentially undifferentiated” (1989:ii). In a more recent paper, she claims thatAboriginal women have “developed a political culture in which metaphors ofmotherhood are central to claims for political equity” (1993:4).Both Miller and Fiske center their work on Aboriginal women who are inelected positions on tribal councils on reserves or reservations, or who arecommunity leaders of local level voluntary associations.14 Little attention hasbeen given to women who are politically active in voluntary associations or10other non-elected (or elected) positions in a multi-cultural urban center on theNorthwest Coast.’5Urban StudiesIn the 1960s and 1970s a substantial number of studies on First Nationspeople and Native Americans in the urban setting emerged in Canada and theUnited States. Sociological in nature, they focus on the assimilation andacculturation of Aboriginal people relocating to urban centers from reserves, andon the whole they are not particularly relevant to their experiences in the 1990s.Generally, this research does not consider the individual experiences of men andwomen who are migrating between these two environments, their ties to theirhomelands following relocation to the urban center, gender differences in themigration process, and the nature of Aboriginal women’s political and economicroles on the reserve and in the city.’6Despite some continuing interest, the number of published articles orvolumes is still relatively small. Two studies that point to the problems of anacculturation model were conducted among Navajo women in urban settings.The researchers emphasize how these women’s ties to their Navajocommunities continued to be strong despite their movement to cities (Metcalf1982; Griffen 1982). Wynne Hanson, a Rosebud Sioux, discusses thecontemporary Native American urban woman and includes five case studies ofwomen (Lakota, Chippewa, Blackfeet, Creek) who have migrated to variouscities, and moved into leadership positions. She claims:The lack of literature on Indian women leaves many unansweredquestions. What are her aspirations, her goals, her conflicts, andher successes? It is important to the Indian community to be awareof where women are going and what impact they have in the areasof education, law, health, politics, employment, and family life, andthis information is not readily available (1980:478).11Diana Bahr (1993) responds to Hanson’s plea for more literature about urbanAboriginal women in her significant life history research with three generationsof contemporary Cupeno women who were born, raised and currently live inLos Angeles, California. Through these women’s narratives, she concludes thaturban Native Americans redefine themselves, and an ethnic identity emerges ina new form (1993:142-43). 17The only urban study that is relevant to the experiences of contemporaryAboriginal women on the Northwest Coast is Karen Tranberg Hansen’sdissertation on how the setting of urban occupations, associations, and politicsaffects the ethnicity of Native Americans in Seattle (1979). She profiled womenwho have been upwardly mobile in the Native American urban opportunitystructure and are in positions of leadership. But, her analysis of ethnicity is nowoutdated; the study is focused on an American urban center, ajd because herargument is centered on the role of the associations, the Native Americanwomen’s experiences are merely supporting data.The present study focuses directly on the experiences of First Nationswomen who are community leaders in a Canadian city on the Northwest Coast,and whose political work spans from the urban environment to the reservecommunity. Faith et al. (1991:182) notes:As we near the end of the 20th century, Native women arebecoming increasingly visible as acknowledged leaders within theirbands, through national associations, and within communityservice professions. Such women are at the front lines of resistanceagainst assimilationist policies that have had devastating effects ontheir people, and they are central to the healing from routinetragedies that beset Native communities across Canada.12FIRST NATIONS WOMEN AND POLITICS IN VANCOUVER, B.C.IntroductionVancouver, B.C. has an extensive network of community leaders amongthe more than 5,000 First Nations women who reside in the city.’8 They arevolunteers, Board members, directors, or consultants for one or more of themany First Nations organizations, non-governmental agencies or governmentoffices in Vancouver.19 There are also First Nations women in positions ofleadership in education, health care, media, business, and law and those who arewriters and artists. Many First Nations people do not view the arts or educationas separate spheres from politics, but rather that Aboriginal politics encompassesall of the other arenas.20Fiske’s research on voluntary associations among the Carrier in centralB.C. was focused on the reserve setting, nevertheless her summary of theorganizations’ mandates is useful:.voluntary associations enter into political dialogue with the state.In conjunction with provincial and/or national umbrellaorganizations, the associations lobby for better communityconditions, for legislative changes which could improve women’sstatus, and most significantly, for protection and/or extension ofaboriginal rights and resource territories. The latter struggle isinherently tied to the broader struggle to retain cultural identity andto re-establish economic autonomy (1992:209).Other issues of concern to the leadership of urban associations are: education,employment training, child welfare, service delivery (i.e., health care) andspiritual healing (e.g., healing the wounds experienced in residential -- orboarding -- schools and/or from domestic violence).2’The women who participated in this study in Vancouver have beenpolitically active in urban organizations, education, the government, businessand the arts in the city. They have also been involved with tribal councils,13provincial and national First Nations organizations,22environmental groups,multi-cultural and non-Aboriginal associations, the United Nations,international indigenous peoples’ organizations, and in one instance, the NativeAmerican grassroots movement in the United States. They are from variousnations and bands from the coast, the north and the interior of B.C.23 Theyrange in age from 35 to 70, with the average age in the late 40s. One of thewomen who is in her 40s maintains that many of the political organizers arefrom her generation.All of these particular women grew up on reserves or in smallcommunities, and one is from a small city in B.C. Most of the women attendedresidential schools or religious boarding schools, and one lived in foster homes.They all have stories of the oppression and atrocities that they -- or others closeto them-- endured. They initially moved to Vancouver for education oremployment purposes. All but one of the women have completed high school,four have attended university, and three have completed their Bachelor’sdegrees. One woman has attended graduate school, and another was tocommence her graduate education in a few months.Five of these women are single parents24,and one woman was married toa non-Aboriginal man for a period of time. Although three of the women in thestudy are, or were, considered non-status or non-registered First Nations people,they were not affected personally by Bill C-31 -- the 1985 amendment to theIndian Act that reinstated legal status to First Nations women who had marriednon-Aboriginal or non-status Aboriginal men. All of the women have children,and they have become politically active either prior to becoming mothers, orduring the raising of their children.14Life HistoriesThere is not a single, “correctt’Native voice but a diversity ofperspectives on a wide range of issues. If anthropology purports tointerpret the lives and aspirations of Native peoples, then it mustendeavour to discover ways in which these diverging andsometimes contradictory viewpoints can be given voice in ouraccounts (Dyck 1993:201).Four of the women will be introduced through brief life histories and theremaining five women’s experiences and concerns will be highlighted.Lillian Howard is a young grandmother at 42 years old25; she has twodaughters, nineteen and two years old. She is from the west coast of VancouverIsland, and is a member of the Mowachaht band from the Nootka Sound inNuuchahnulth territory. She attended residential schools in Tofino andMission, B.C., and high school in Port Alberni, a town on Vancouver Island herparents moved to in order that their family obtain an education. Lillian claimsthat at that time racism drove most First Nations people from academic coursesin public high school; she left school in Grade 11.When Lillian was 18 years old she was involved with the Port AlberniFriendship Center’s26 teenage club that held dances and other activities. Shemaintains that as First Nations people they had no place to go in the town, sothey had to establish one themselves. When she was 19 years old, the FriendshipCenter sent her to a conference in Ottawa. This was the beginning of her politicalinvolvement and it coincided with the large-scale movement of First Nationspeople to cities and towns. She upgraded her high school education at acommunity college, and at 20 years old she became the band manager in hernation for one year. Lillian found it to be an extremely difficult job because of15overcrowding and the social chaos resulting from drugs, alcohol and domesticviolence.After she left this position she moved back and forth between Vancouverand Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Meanwhile, she became interested inorganizations such as the Union of B.C. Chiefs in Vancouver, and on the westcoast, the B.C. Association of Non-Status Indians. In the mid-1970s Lillianworked with the West Coast District Council -- now called the NuuchahnulthTribal Council -- as a land claims worker and community worker, and shetravelled to most of the communities in B.C. She was listening to people talkabout their territories, what the land and the ocean meant to them, whathappened to their resources, and about communities in transition politically,socially, and economically. She comments: “I was pulled into the wave ofworking with my people.. .When I was 24 years old I told myself that for the restof my life I would work with Indian people on Indian issues.” Lillian claims thatit was one of the best experiences in her life because she was able to meet manyelders, community workers and young people.Lillian got married and settled in Vancouver working with the Union ofB.C. Chiefs until 1981 as a fieldworker, coordinator and researcher. According toLillian, this experience was extremely educational because of what she learnedabout First Nations people and non-Aboriginals and the political infrastructureof B.C. and Canada. The issues she and her co-workers at the Union of B.C.Chiefs were focusing on were education, social conditions, self-government27self-determination, and Aboriginal rights. Additionally, they worked on fishingrights, environmental concerns, and resource development and how it effectsFirst Nations peoples. They were attempting to be an information service andthis is when she learned that “information is power; it can be abused or abenefit.” She travelled to many of the communities in the province of B.C and16realized that they were all being badly treated by the federal and provincialgovernments.Lillian divorced her husband and decided to leave the Union in 1981.From 1982 to 1986 she attended university and majored in Canadian history.Lillian also took many political science courses and focused on Aboriginal issues.For three and a half years she worked with the School Board as a Native SupportWorker. At this time she was more determined than ever to continue to workfor her people.In 1990 Lillian became involved at the “continental” level and sheattended a conference in Mexico with the Indigenous, Black and PopularResistance Campaign -- a major turning point in her life. She claims that sheserves as a representative of an international indigenous organization becausethe people who have Aboriginal rights, land claims settlements, or non-treatyareas were not being represented. According to Lillian, indigenous peoples are:“looking at the environment, land, colonization, youth, women,education.. .issues. It’s just so broad.. .relations with the state.”After attending an international conference in Guatemala where shefound the indigenous peoples’ situation to be “horrendous”, Lillian’s anger andconcerns prompted her to begin speaking publicly. Many of the groups shespeaks to today are non-Aboriginal, e.g., church groups, students, women’sgroups, environmental groups, labor people, or International Women’s Daycommittees.Lillian describes her role in political work variously, depending on heractivity: “When I have to do a bit of a profile for myself, I’m a researchconsultant, or a public educator or if it’s related to Aboriginal issues then I’m anactivist. I guess I’m more of an activist.” Although she is primarily involvedwith the international organization, she also is active locally in land and17environmental issues, and as a “defender of Aboriginal rights issues.” Sheintends to return to her home community next year to concentrate on local levelpolitics because the elders have asked her to return, but she will still continue towork for the indigenous peoples’ organization.28Lillian discusses some of her goals and concerns:That’s really what we want is a healthy people living in theirhomelands without having to live in fear or having to live likewe’re living in a stranger’s land. We’ve become strangers on ourown land, in a sense, because we’ve been relocated or pulled awayfrom our land. But, I really feel that it’s important for Native andnon-Native people to come to understand, to work together, tobridge build, just so that we can protect what we have left -- ourlands.As women we have responsibility to bring up our children. Whyshould we let it continue, why can’t we break that cycle? It issomething that as indigenous women we have to talk about. And Ido a lot of communication with women in the First Nationscommunity and most of the women leaders, organizers, artists inB.C. I’ve been involved for over 25 years. We find that in order tobreak that cycle we have to look at ourselves personally. Thatwhole healing process right now is so much a part of the survival ofwho we are as First Nations peoples, who we are as women, whowe are as mothers of our children, who we are in terms of family,with the men, the relationship with men and women. We have toquestion why is there so much domestic violence, why is there somuch sexual abuse? Why is there so much turmoil? And we haveto go to the root cause. ..way back, which is colonization. We haveto do a lot of evaluating and analyzing, personally, and thecommunity, and as a whole group of First Nations people. So,that’s really helped empower our people.Susan Tatoosh is a 54 year old Shuswap woman from Kamloops, a smallcity in the interior of British Columbia. Her mother lived on a reserve until shemarried Susan’s father, then they lived off-reserve because they were non-statusIndians, as defined by the Indian Act. Susan was the first First Nations person tograduate from a public high school in Kamloops. She began nurse’s training and18she then went in to the Air Force for five years as a radar control operator andshe met her husband, a non-Aboriginal man. They had three children andtravelled across Canada and overseas, and returned to settle in Kamloops. Sheworked for the B.C. Telephone Company and became an active member of thetelecommunications union.In 1972, her “uncle” informed her that it was time to bring her strengthsback to her First Nations community. She became involved with the FriendshipCenter movement and was elected as a leader at the local and provincial level.At the age of 35, after the death of her husband, Susan enrolled in a BusinessAdministration program. At this time, she and three First Nations men formeda “Native owned and operated” construction company that was in operation forfive years. The manager at the Canada Employment office in Kamloops askedSusan to run a Native Outreach Program for Native Women, the first of its kindacross Canada. She stayed in that administrative position for three years andthen became involved in the “Native women’s movement” with the B.C.Native Women’s Society. For eighteen months she filled the position as the firstNative Women’s Employment Coordinator for B.C. and the Yukon.According to Susan, in the 1970s First Nations women lacked access toinformation about Aboriginal peoples’ employment, training and educationalopportunities. Instead, information was disseminated to the primarily male-dominated band councils by the local, provincial and federal non-Aboriginalinstitutions, and Aboriginal political organizations. She travelled throughoutthe province providing information to First Nations women on employmentand training. She led personal development workshops to benefit not only theindividual, but also the family, the community, and their nations. Susan claimsthat she was met with some opposition by First Nations men, especially in thenorth.19In 1981 Susan re-married a First Nations man; the marriage did not last.She originally moved to Vancouver for reconciliation purposes, and remainedin the city after her marriage broke up. She became the Coordinator for UrbanImages for Native Women, an employment training organization, for abouteight months. Her peers asked her to apply for a position with the employmentdivision of the federal governmenfs Public Service Commission. Susan hasbeen working at the Commission for six years, specifically with First Nationspeoples.Susan calls herself an advocate. She has been in political roles in FirstNations and non-Aboriginal organizations at the municipal, provincial andfederal levels, although she emphasizes that she has not been a provincial ornational leader. In both Kamloops and Vancouver she has served on the Boardof Directors and on the executive staff of various First Nations organizationsworking on issues such as education, employment, training, economicdevelopment and social justice. Susan indicates some of the concerns of FirstNations peoples throughout the province of B.C. and in Canada:The overall development throughout the years has been personaldevelopment -- needs and growth -- community, social andeconomic development (and input into the community).. .Thesocial issues are housing, education, and health. Economic issuesare employment -- meaning contribution to the community, moneyinto the community rather than outside. Grassroots level ofcommunity development as opposed to government; not theexperts’ point of view.In the last four years Susan has reduced her political activities and she isstepping back to allow younger knowledgeable and experienced people to takeover. She maintains that in the past there was a “strong sisterhood, a real trustthat is missing now [in the First Nations Women’s organizationsj. It is morecompetitive rather than cooperative, more power of information as opposed to20sharing.” She states that “some of the women’s associations are taking strongstances that don’t represent the collective.”, but emphasizes that this is notoccurring at the grassroots level but on the provincial and national levels.Susan claims that she is withdrawing from organizational work and thatshe has been drawn to the spiritual teachings of her elders. She has been adoptedby an elder into a reserve that is closer to Vancouver than her homeland. Sheviews it as her second home and travels there every weekend “to get grounded”and “to reconnect with the issues and concerns of a small band.” She needs this“for balance -- spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.”Fay Blaney, a 36 year old married woman with two children, three andeight years old, is from the Homalco Band, a northern Coast Salish group. Shegrew up in an isolated area with no running water or electricity, and learned tospeak English when she started school at the age of 6. Fay attended residentialschools intermittently throughout her teens. She first came to Vancouver whenshe was 15 years old to escape from her “violent and abusive” home community.She finished her high school education and attended community college for twoyears in the city. Fay first got involved with political organizing when she took asummer job carrying out historical research for the United Native Nations. Shewent to an annual assembly attended by First Nations people from all over theprovince. “That was really inspiring. The lights went on all over the place forme.” Fay then took on contract work and became aware of “the real glaringinjustices, the things that had been done to [her] people.” She has continued towork with various organizations and programs since that time.Fay was involved with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs on a child welfarestudy; she performed health consultations, and carried out land claims research.She helped to organize the Indian Child Caravan and the Constitution Express.21Travelling to various communities, she conducted workshops to educate FirstNations people. It was at this time that she became concerned about issuessurrounding Aboriginal women and she focused on indigenous and women’sorganizations. For three years, she worked with the Native Education Center asan instructional assistant and tutor, and for shorter periods with other Nativeorganizations that are concerned with issues such as employment training andcounselling.On more than one occasion Fay has left her job due to internalorganizational problems. She maintains that she has had a career ofconfrontation because she challenges the injustices taking place, both within andoutside the organizations. “Now it’s really clear to me, I see this going on timeand time again. In different organizations, it becomes a stat[istic]s game ratherthan a concern for the people that we’re serving.”Her discouragement with some of the First Nations organizationsprompted her decision to return to school. She took History and Women’sStudies courses and became involved with a First Nations Student Association atuniversity. Fay comments: “the only way that I am going to be able to beeffective in the First Nations community is to take a position of leadership insomething, and the only way I will do it is if I have a piece of paper in my hand,my degree.” On the other hand, with some First Nations people she “getsshunned for being in university and for speaking different.” Fay’s experience atuniversity has been beneficial: “it’s really opened my eyes to a much largerworld than I would have been exposed to just consigning myself to Nativegroups.” She is planning to pursue a graduate degree in Education.At the time of our discussion, Fay was working on a research project withthe Indian Homemakers Association, one of the First Nations women’sorganizations in Vancouver.22Fay left her home community years ago because of the destructiveactivities she was witnessing. Today she feels the need to return:I would like to go home, I wouldn’t want to stay there, but I’d liketo go there and work for maybe five or ten years, and work with thedevelopment of the new community. But there’s just a crisis andchaos constantly with the people from the community.. .So, it’sreally divided right now.. .I’d like to get some cultural programshappening while there’s people around to teach the language, skills,crafts, values and stories. ..I really have a belief in upgrading becauseI’ve seen what can happen to people and how their attitudes canchange.Fay discusses some of her concerns:I find self-government really scary. I don’t particularly support theway it is unfolding. I don’t like the way that these prominentNative men leaders are negotiating these agreements and theyaren’t seeking the input of the community. They are developingthese little dictatorships within the community, and ours is a primeexample of it.. .The corruption is incredible that is going on in ourcommunity.I really believed in what the national Native Association ofWomen were advocating in the Charlottetown Accord.29 Whenthey were advocating the ‘No’ position [on the Referendum]30andthey were saying that if self-government is going to become a realitythen they better consult with the women. We’re quoting these statsright now that nine out of ten Aboriginal women are victims ofwife battering and yet we’re excluded from the process. And I’veseen it for myself in the work that I’ve been doing all these years. Ifind that our politicians, they exempt themselves from the healingprocess and they’re the ones that still carry on abusing women.Tern Netsena is a 39 year old mother of three, from the Tahltan nation innorthern B.C. She did not actually grow up on her reserve because her parentsmoved away due to the community’s isolation and lack of opportunities foremployment. She attended a residential school in the Yukon and beganwaitressing at the age of fourteen. Tern got her first job with a band office in23southern Yukon when she was seventeen years old. She describes how she feltafter she landed this job, in which she was initially filling in for her friend:I was given a break and I think it really was a God-send...I reallyliked the idea of improving the situation because up to that point Ididn’t know of any Indian women who worked in offices; it wasjust beginning. We were chamber maids and waitresses, andanything else. ..So, it was really like a wonderful thing for me to bedoing something other than waitressing.For a brief period of time Tern moved to Vancouver to go to college, and thenshe returned to the north. She became involved in First Nations politics incommunities in northern B.C. and the Yukon, including a short period whenshe served on her own tribal council. Tern moved back to Vancouver foreducational reasons because she “decided that in the political arena there wasn’tmuch room for advancement for me as a woman, and I would probably be asecretary forever, and I wasn’t being treated fairly or recognized... So I went touniversity. ..and I graduated four years ago in economics and a minor inlinguistics.”Some of her family had moved back to her reserve community so aftergraduation she decided to return home, but she soon realized that it is not “sucha wonderful place.”.It’s just like living in the dark ages. It’s extremely oppressive, thepolitics are as oppressive as you can get. And I went in there withall these wonderful ideas of stuff I learned in the south, and theywere not acceptable. Sexual abuse was not talked about. Advancingpeople was never considered. You get in there and you dosomething for yourself, and your family, and your immediatefamily, but it was not a big concern about advancing the group as awhole, I didn’t see.I had a very, very heart-breaking experience going through all ofthat.. .1 really came up against a code of silence and that was reallytough. It took me quite a while to come out of it, but it was a reallyimportant learning thing for me and I don’t think I’ll ever have tolearn that again.24You know that women there in my home [community], they’ve gota very distinctive role.. .It’s changing. There are women now inleadership roles, but they’re viewed as.. .they’re just mouthy, they’realways gossiping, or starting trouble, they’re not viewed as highlyregarded.. .They’re not used to women speaking out.Tern is certain that she does not want to return for some time, after aperiod of living in both the city and her community: “Whereas before I livedback there and I lived here, and it was like I had my foot in two worlds; and it’s atough situation to be in.” Her university education has not been readily acceptedin her home community, especially by the male leaders: “Once you get aneducation, it’s almost as if they view you as you’ve learned these white ways.. .It’sa big threat to the men’s positions because they had a very secure position, Ithink, up to that point.”Tern moved out of her community and she got a position with a tribalcouncil in central B.C. working on economic development. She returned toVancouver a couple of years ago and six months prior to our meeting, shebecame the Coordinator of the Aboriginal Women’s Council -- the first time shehas worked in a women’s organization. The Council serves as an umbrellagroup for other First Nations women’s associations in B.C. Their mandate iscentered around family violence, sexual abuse and healing, and justice projects.They network with many different kinds of organizations, First Nations andnon-Aboriginal, and the government.Tern discusses some of her personal goals and concerns:What’s important to me is that women have the opportunity todevelop their potential, to become what it is they want. To decreasethe barriers from keeping women oppressed, keeping themuneducated, keeping them in a victim role. For my daughter...I seethe difference with some of the young girls of her age in thecommunity.. .1 guess what we need are the role models. We need togive some women opportunity to become whatever they want to be25and do the jobs they want to do, without having to think, ‘Am Ismart enough?’ What about, ‘Can I move out of this community?’To give them the freedom to do that; [to] give them the choices andopportunity is my personal objective.We lived under oppression since we were put in residential schools-- since the Europeans came here -- and it’s tough to get out of,because we’ve become oppressive people as well. Our systems arenot totally free of oppression. People still are in there for their owninterest; people are still in there to control and damage and hurtother people, because that’s the way we’ve been treated. But I don’tthink that’s an excuse any more. We need to analyze our systemsand our governments and look at the fairest way possible becauseother than that, if we don’t, then we’re just really duplicating whatis out in the broader society.I couldn’t vote ‘Yes’ [on the Referendum], because the problem isthere’s too much oppression in our government, the bandgovernments, there’s a lot of nepotism. And with self-government,I think we would be putting ourselves at the mercy of the maleleaders. I can’t say that I could put my life in their hands, or mykids, or what’s going to come of it. There’s got to be a lot of changes.The system’s got to be thought through before we can go to self-government. Otherwise, we’d just be foolish. It would be nice if wecould say ‘Yeah, we have something there that is traditional’...Butwhat our traditional governments were is not what they’re going togo back to today.Lorna Williams is from the St’at’yemc Nation in Mount Currie, B.C., asmall community a few hours north of Vancouver. She is 45 years old and hasone child. She first became politically active when she organized a youth groupat the age of sixteen. A few years later she counselled First Nations studentsfrom boarding homes. Lorna then focused primarily on education andcurriculum development and training. She has been on the Board of Directorsof numerous First Nations and non-Aboriginal organizations for many years.She moved to Vancouver initially for educational purposes; she took a coursetoward a nurse’s degree and has completed the coursework for a Master’s inEducation.26Currently Lorna holds an important position with an educationalinstitution in Vancouver. She maintains that her First Nations’ program workis not only focused on the urban environment, but that it also encompasses thereserve communities.I don’t think that you can really divide.. .there’s no boundary. I’mlocated here, I do a lot of my work here, I do a lot of work outside ofVancouver...I do some training in [her home community] but that’swhere my family is, that’s my homeland.Her main concern is to be:Committed to children.. .that our children’s children will be able tolive in a world where they don’t need to fear poverty and violence,where they can continue to be creative, to be full participants in anysociety they choose.Lorna’s views on self-government:The way that people perceive self-government is a continuation ofthe paternalistic system of government that was imposed onAboriginal people. Our way of governing ourselves was very muchdifferent and so the only way that it’s going to be respectful to allpeople again is if we can articulate, document, codify thosetraditional systems and then take a look at how we’re living todayand how our people have to live in this kind of a system, which isvery paternalistic. ..So, whenever people use tribal councils, bandcouncils, and that form of government it will not be respectful andkind to women and children; just the same as in your system, inyour world, in the Euro-Canadian world.Fran Parker (a pseudonym) is also a young grandmother at the age of 35years old, with three children aged 16, 12, and three. She is Coast Salish fromVancouver Island. She got her start as a political organizer when she was only 16years old: she travelled from her reserve with a group of young First Nationsmen and women to Ottawa, to protest the federal government’s control overAboriginal affairs. She has been extremely active in various capacities -- locally(in her home community and in Vancouver), nationally, in the United States,27and internationally -- since that time. Fran is primarily involved with theenvironmental movement and human rights issues, and she is concerned aboutcolonization and maintaining peace and freedom for indigenous peoples. Sheclaims that her ability to become an important leader and a delegate for herpeople all around the world -- even though she does not have Grade 12 -- isdetermination. As she states it: “It was not the chiefs, not the Indian Affairs, northe women’s groups that got me there, but determination.”Fran maintains that she is carrying out all her work so she can go home [toher reserve community]: “What we’re working on in all these venues ofpolitical arenas and community arenas, the environmental arena, is thechildren.” She feels that she and others have been “doing the organizationalpaper work for many years but now we have the spiritual in one hand and thedocuments in the other. We are trying to find the balance between the heart andthe mind.”Gloria Nicolson is 55 years old and is a member of the Tsawataineuk bandin the Kwakuitl nation. She grew up in a remote village on the mainland of B.C.adjacent to the northern part of Vancouver Island and attended a residentialschool. She claims that she became involved in “village politics” when she was“young and idealistic.” Her mother’s participation on the band council initiallysparked her interest in the divided politics that were taking place on her reserve.She became a band council member and worked with her community, and onVancouver Island for a number of years before moving to Vancouver when sheseparated from her husband. She has five daughters and two step-children.Gloria has worked in the field of education, and has been a volunteer andBoard member for various First Nations organizations and governmentalagencies. Along with her political work as Executive Director of the Professional28Native Women’s Association, she has become a facilitator of healing workshopsfor First Nations peoples:A priority is healing...we cannot move forward until we’ve gonethrough the healing process.. .Most important is healing, to clear thepath for the reclaiming of our heritage that was almost lost. It ishappening now.Sandra Brown (a pseudonym) is 70 years old and has seven children. Shehas been politically active for a number of years in Vancouver, in her homecommunity, and on the national and global levels. She is from a high-rankingfamily -- her grandfather was the chief of her nation -- and she has served as thehead of her tribal council. She claims that she has responsibilities to her familylineage to be involved in politics, and she moves back and forth between herreserve and the urban center in her leadership roles. Sandra maintains that shealways has ties to her reserve even when she lives in Vancouver, and as a resultshe has been “torn in half” in her political work. She has acted as arepresentative for her tribal council and was involved in political decision-making during the time she resided in Vancouver. When we had ourdiscussions in late 1992, she was planning to move back to her reserve to assistwith community development.Sandra is concerned about colonization, land rights, sovereignty, women’sissues, child welfare and the environment. She believes that “there needs to bea balance with both men and women working in the Native movement. We arenot going to get anywhere without that balance.”Marge White is 57 years old and has two daughters and twogranddaughters. She is Huu-ay-aht from the Nuuchahnulth tribe, and was bornin Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. She began her career working with First29Nations communities years ago in a social service agency that assisted Aboriginaland non-Aboriginal people who had moved to the city. She was instrumental inestablishing the Friendship Center in Vancouver.Marge has devoted at least thirty-five years of her life to the socialconcerns of First Nations people in the city of Vancouver. Since 1957 she hasbeen active on the Board of Directors of various voluntary organizations, andassisted as a founding member either on a local, provincial, or national level.She was appointed by the federal government to the position of CitizenshipCourt Judge, the first time an appointment was bestowed on a First Nationsperson. Marge has also worked with the local justice system in Vancouver, andshe is currently the director of a First Nations service organization in the city.Her concerns are centered around the family; her work is not targetedindividually to women, men, or children. She describes herself as being in theservice field and not a political person, but she admits: “what area do we work inthat doesn’t at some point become a political issue?”Marge feels strongly about her identity and connection to her homecommunity:Although I’ve lived in this city for so long, I still have a lot of verystrong feelings about how we did things a long time ago, and ourtraditional systems and our customs and our culture. And I thinkI’ve become more aware of it over the years... Although I workedwith our people in the city for a long time, I was really just helpingthem get adjusted to this kind of a lifestyle. But, I think now moreand more I’m turning to what’s happening at home, and reallygoing back to find out a little bit more about what is going on.She returns regularly to her community for brief visits. Her “dream” is:To eventually return to my home area because I think that there is alot of potential for development, but it’s really lacked a leadershipvision. And the majority of the people that are on our reserve arepeople who have always lived there and have not experienced lifein the outside world, so to speak.. .1 was asked by a couple of people30if I had ever thought about going home, and one of them said Ithink it’s time you came home to work. So, I think there is thatneed for us to go back and bring home some of the knowledge andexperience that we’ve acquired while we were outside, and some ofthe resources that we’ve acquired while we were out here. And Ithink that each one of us has a dream about returning and certainlyabout how we would like our reserve to progress.DISCUSSIONConnections to Home CommunitiesIt is evident from this research that these particular women who havemoved to Vancouver from reserves or small communities are closely tied totheir nations or bands, even if they have been residing in Vancouver for manyyears, or if their home communities are experiencing internal strife.31 Thewords they use to describe this relationship suggest how strong their connectionsare. Although expressed differently, all of them talk about the responsibility theyhave to their families, communities, bands, or nations. Other First Nationswomen in the city also emphasize how their identity and world-view areconnected to their communities, and one woman describes this relationship as aform of “loyalty.” She claims that in her political work she does not look for citywomen, but instead values those who look to their home or reserve for theiridentity.Two of the women in this study claim that they have been requested bytheir families and other community members to return to their communities toassist with political, economic and social development because of the expertisethey have gained in their political work in the city. Two other women havechosen to return to their communities when it is convenient to break away fromtheir activities in Vancouver, and their national and international affiliations.32Fran Parker maintains that she is carrying out all of her political work so she can31return to her homeland. As stated above, Marge White feels that all of her peerswould like to return to see their reserves become healthy and viablecommunities.Three of the participants claim that they are politically active in the urbancenter and on their reserves concurrently. Susan Tatoosh is involved in bandpolitics in a small community closer to Vancouver than her hometown tobalance out her life in the city. Lorna Williams states that there are noboundaries between her work in the city and in her small reserve community,and she does not indicate any problems working in both regions. A discussionwith another First Nations woman indicates that she also feels that she is able tobe involved with community development and other activities in her homecommunity although she is not residing there. On the other hand, SandraBrown finds that she has been pulled in two directions because she always hasties to her nation even when she is living and working in Vancouver.Two of the women explain that they are criticized by other First Nationspeople because of their formal education and experiences working in Vancouver.They maintain that some of the men on their reserves are threatened by thembecause they have become leaders in mainstream society. To these women,corruption of band politics makes it difficult for them to return to their homecommunities at this stage in their lives. Fay Blaney wishes to go back to assistwith cultural programs for a period of time in the future. Tern Netsenaattempted to live and work on her reserve after she obtained a universityeducation and assisted with economic development in other communities. Shedescribes her‘theart-breaking experience of returning to her reserve and beingconfronted with community members who do not want to address their ownproblems. This situation caused her to remain in the city on a full-time basis.32Nevertheless, in her organizational work she is engaged in activities thatinvolve First Nations women from various communities in the province of B.C.These women state how deeply connected they are to their respectivecommunities, and how their work spans both the city and the reserve, yet itappears that it is often difficult for them to actually return to those communities.The various responses of the women indicate how complex the situation is forpolitically active First Nations women who live in an urban center.33 As statedabove, some of the women directly discuss the difficulties of moving back andforth between the two regions, while others do not. Will any of the women facesimilar problems when they return to their communities in the future? MargeWhite visits her community frequently and dreams of returning with some ofthe knowledge and experience she has gained in the city. Although unstated, itmay be difficult for her to actually live there, even though she has been asked tomove back.These First Nations women have the need to talk about community andland while living and working in Vancouver, B.C. in order to explain to a non-Aboriginal researcher, and others -- both First Nations peoples and nonAboriginals -- that they are competent to speak about these issues. They begantheir political organizing in small communities, and for the most part, they arestill engaged in community work, although they are now situated in a large city.They want it to be known that their participation in Aboriginal political,economic and social development is not restricted to the off-reserve population.Concerns and GoalsThe words of the individual women presented above indicate that theyshare some concerns and goals, but there are also evident differences. Each ofthem is making an effort to bring about changes to the predominantly male33dominated Aboriginal political institutions and structures in their leadershiproles in First Nations political associations, service organizations, women’scouncils, education centers, the government and non-governmentalorganizations. It is apparent that some are focusing on the maltreatment ofwomen in both reserve and off-reserve settings more than others. Yet, none ofthese women is concerned solely with women’s issues of gender equality,discrimination or subordination. Rather, they are working to end the oppressionof Aboriginal peoples, both men and women, and they share a common goal ofresistance to colonization. Many of them express concern about how their owncommunities are replicating the oppressive values of the broader society. Somewomen are fearful that acquiring the right to self-government will not free FirstNations peoples, because the Aboriginal leaders have created another form of“paternalistic” government without consulting the community at large.These women do differ in how they choose to effect change. It is apparentthat some have been more active in grassroots political organizing than others.A few of them have been involved primarily with First Nations women’sassociations, others with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal social justiceorganizations or non-governmental agencies -- either locally, nationally orinternationally (or all three) -- while others have been elected members of tribalcouncils before coming to Vancouver. Some are, or have been, in governmentalpositions at the civic, provincial or federal level and provide services forAboriginal peoples and/or the multi-cultural population of Vancouver, B.C., orCanada.As stated above, the findings from this research do not coincide withHansen’s conclusion that for Native American women in Seattle, Washington,organizations provide th setting in which to pursue ethnic interests (1979).Some of the nine women I interviewed and others I consulted are moving away34from First Nations organizations, and are pursuing their interests in theircommunity by other means. They are consultants, political organizers, oractivists and are working on various community projects that are not affiliatedwith one particular association. The women who are critical of some of theseorganizations are aware that other First Nations women who are committed tothe goals of various women’s associations or single-issue interest groups do notshare their views. Some women express resentment that the power andinformation are located in the hands of the elites of the political organizations,and that the collective or community are not participants in the decision-makingprocess. This issue appears to have caused a division among the population ofFirst Nations women who are community leaders in Vancouver. Those who arewithdrawing from active participation in political organizing state that they arefocusing on their own personal development and spiritual growth, while othersare seeking the strength to heal themselves and their communities from withinthe organizational structure.CONCLUSIONAs a contribution to the existing literature on Aboriginal women from theNorthwest Coast, this thesis has aimed to demonstrate the contemporaryexperiences of nine First Nations women involved in Aboriginal politics inVancouver, B.C. It is essential to hear their individual voices to gain a betterunderstanding of the goals and concerns of some of the influential First Nationsfemale community leaders in B.C. today.The significance of this research is that it shows how the anthropologicaland sociological literature cannot be separated into two units of analysis --community studies and urban studies -- when focusing on First Nations womenand Aboriginal politics. This is not the way these women experience their lives35in the 1990s. They are working and living in an urban environment, yet theymaintain that their political organizing and leadership roles encompass both thecity and the reserve. In some instances they are actively involved on thenational level and with the global concerns of indigenous peoples. Thesewomen express how they have significant ties to their home communities notonly with respect to their families, but also in their concern for the well-being ofthese communities.In analyzing the women’s narratives, I have concluded that theirconnections to their own communities are complex, and that moving back andforth between the city and the reserve is not always easily accomplished. Theyare often viewed by community members and others as educated urban womenwhose political work is limited to urban issues. These politically active womenneed to emphasize that they find value in working for First Nations peoples inboth the urban center and the reserve or small community, despite residing in alarge city.These women have worked in various leadership roles in their efforts toeffect change in the power relations between the non-Aboriginal society and FirstNations communities in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Canada. Althoughthere are differences in the focus of their work and in their personal goals, theyare all concerned about improving the conditions of reserve and off-reservecommunities, and removing the limits that have been imposed on Aboriginalpeoples by colonization.36NOTES1. Bataille and Sands’ 1991 annotated bibliography and research guide on NativeAmerican women includes only five studies from this region.2. The terms of reference for First Nations peoples change rapidly in Canada andare regionally based. There has been a shift from the term “Native” to“Aboriginal.” In the U.S. ‘indians” and “Native Americans” are the termsprimarily used. I have chosen the term “First Nations” when referring to peopleliving in Canada, “Aboriginal” for people in Canada and the U.S., and “NativeAmericans” for people residing in the U.S. only.3. Other topics including feminism and the women’s movement, traditionalroles of Aboriginal women, and leadership were also discussed but are notincluded here.4. See Anderson and Jack (1991) for a discussion on the interactive process ininterviewing. “Realizing the possibilities of the oral history interview demandsa shift in methodology from information gathering, where the focus is on theright questions, to interaction, where the focus is on process, on the dynamicunfolding of the subject’s viewpoint” (p. 23).5. I am constantly aware that I bring my biases to this research project because Iam a non-Aboriginal academic. I am also aware that many First Nations andNative American people are discouraged with anthropological studies thatappropriate information merely for academic purposes. See Haig-Brown (1992)for an important discussion about a non-Aboriginal researcher conductingresearch with First Nations communities in B.C., and Weibel-Orlando’s (1991)ethical dilemmas working with Native Americans in Los Angeles, California.6. See the essays in Gluck and Patai (1991) for significant discussions aboutethical problems encountered in carrying out feminist oral history research, i.e.,dual allegiances, the crisis of interpretation, and the research product (or writeup).7. Aside from review essays (Albers 1989; Green 1980; Jaimes and Halsey 1992;Kidwell 1975) and volumes (Bataille and Sands 1984, 1991; Green 1983; Medicine1978; Verble 1981) that cover many regions and tribes, this literature includesresearch on Navajo women in Arizona (Griffen 1982; Lamphere 1989; Leighton1982; Shepardson 1982; Stewart 1980); Paiute women in Nevada and Utah (Lynch1986; Knack 1989); Native American women from the Plains (Albers 1983; Weist1980); and the Dakota (Albers 1985) and Oglala (or Sioux) (Powers 1986) in SouthDakota; Tlingit women in Alaska (Klein 1976, 1980); and life histories ofAthabascan and Tlingit female elders in the Yukon (Cruikshank 1990); an37Inupiaq (Eskimo) woman in the Arctic (Blackman 1989) and an autobiography bya Lakota woman in South Dakota (Crow Dog 1990).8. Ethnohistorical studies include research on the economic roles of Aboriginalwomen from the 18th to the 20th centuries (Donaldson 1985; Littlefield 1991;Mitchell and Franklin 1984; Norton 1985; and Van Kirk 1980). The contemporarystudies include the first life history of a Northwest Coast (Haida) woman(Blackman 1981, 1982, 1992), and research on Coast Salish women and politics(Miller 1989, 1990, 1992). Other studies on Aboriginal women close to the coastalregion include the Colville (Plateau) reservation in Washington (Ackerman1988), the Carrier in central B.C. (Fiske 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993; Moran 1988) and theKamloops area, also in the interior of the province (Faith et al. 1991).9. Cf. Albers 1985, 1989; Donaldson 1985; Etienne and Leacock 1980; Klein 1980;Lamphere 1989.10. Cf. Albers 1983, 1989; Etienne and Leacock 1980; Klein 1980.11. It was not until 1985 when Bill C-31 was enacted, that some First Nationswomen were able to regain their legal status. This amendment to the Indian Actremoved the sexually-discriminatory Section 12(1) (b) described above.12. This significant literature pertains to First Nations women’s “quest forjustice” (Faith et al. 1991). The following is not an exhaustive list of the academicand non-academic literature. See, e.g., Aquelarre 1992; Bonney 1976; Beresford1992; Campbell 1973; Canadian Woman Studies Special Issue 1989; Cheda 1977;Faith et al. 1991; Goodwill 1971; Green 1985; Hammersmith 1992; Jamieson 1978,1979, 1986; Jeffries 1991; Krosenbrink-Gelissen 1991; La Chapelle 1982; Nahanee1992; Ontario Native Women’s Association 1982; Silman 1987; Turpel 1990;Weaver 1983. I have not included the many unpublished reports that have beenwritten on Aboriginal women by various organization and agencies in Canada,e.g., Professional Native Women’s Association 1985.13. Another important essay is Karlene Faith’s roundtable interview with fourFirst Nations women from the interior of B.C. “whose lives have been directlylinked to the goal of justice for Native people” (Faith et al. 1991:171). Faith addsan introduction and some editorial comments to an otherwise verbatimconversation. Sharon Mclvor, a participant in Faith’s interview, is currently theJustice Coordinator on the Executive Committee of the Native Women’sAssociation of Canada.14. Fiske (1993) also analyzes the political strategies of the national organization,the Native Women’s Association of Canada, in a discussion on Aboriginalwomen and the ideology of motherhood.3815. The journal Aquelarre published an issue on “First Nations Women of theAmericas” (1991/2) which includes interviews with politically active womenfrom Vancouver. See also Secretary of State (1975) for brief biographies ofprominent First Nations women in Vancouver and throughout B.C., and Papefor a list of “Vancouver Networkers” -- Aboriginal women who “support justicefor First Nations” (1992:8).16. See, e.g., Chadwick and Stauss 1975; Dosman 1972; Hawthorn et al. 1960;Sorkin 1978; Stanbury 1975; Waddell and Watson 1971; Yerbury 1980. Stanbury(1975) and Yerbury (1980) include significant statistics on First Nations womenwho have migrated to the urban center -- mainly Vancouver -- from reservesand communities within B.C., and Yerbury is critical of the acculturation modelsthat many social scientists have used in their studies of the First Nations urbanpopulation. Yet, because their research is highly quantitative and generalized, itis not especially relevant to this study.17. For other relevant studies in the U.S., see Weibel-Orlando’s (1991) researchon how Native Americans maintain an ethnic community in a “complex”society in Los Angeles, California; and Guillemin (1975) for an account of urbanMicmac men and women in Boston, Massachusetts. For research carried out inCanada see Meadows (1981) who focuses on the coping strategies, role strain andconflict incurred by First Nations women adapting to urban life in Calgary,Alberta; and Krotz (1980) who includes case studies of First Nations men andwomen in Edmonton, Alberta; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Winnipeg, Manitoba.The experience of contemporary First Nations peoples is also well documentedin an anthropological study by Kern (1978) that includes life histories of Indianand Métis women and men, also in Winnipeg, Manitoba.18. According to the 1986 Census there are 5,605 First Nations female inhabitants(Statistics Canada 1990). This does not include residents from the outlying areasof Vancouver. The First Nations population in B.C. is approximately 93,000persons (Taylor and Paget 1989:300).19. To name some of the organizations, forums, education or resource centers,there are (the following are in no particular order): the United Native Nations,Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Urban Representative Body of Aboriginal NationsSociety (URBAN), Legal Services Society - Native Program, First NationsSummit Task Group, Aboriginal Council of B.C., the Allied Indian and MétisSociety (AIMS), the Native Education Center, and the First Nations House ofLearning at the University of British Columbia. Some of the women’s groupsare: B.C. Native Women’s Society, Urban Images for Native Women,Aboriginal Women’s Council, Indian Homemakers Association, and theProfessional Native Women’s Association.3920. Many First Nations men and women informed me on this issue. See Jensenand Brooks’ 1991 collection of First Nations contributors that covers a wide rangeof topics including language, education and political activism.21. Another extensive body of literature that consists of essays and volumes onFirst Nations political organizations, Aboriginal rights, public policy, and politicsin B.C. and Canada, serves as a background reference for this study. See, e.g.:Ahenakew 1985; Asch 1984; Boldt and Long 1985; Cardinal 1977; Daniels 1986;Dyck 1981, 1983; Dyck and Waldram 1993; Engelstad and Bird 1992; Frideres 1988;Jeffries 1991; Jensen and Brooks 1991; Krosenbrink-Gelissen 1991; Little Bear,Boldt and Long 1984; Ponting 1986; Price 1975; Sawchuk 1993; Taylor and Paget1989; Tennant 1991; Weaver 1990.22. Many First Nations political organizations in Canada came into fruition inthe 1960s when significant funding was first made available by the federalgovernment, i.e., the Department of Indian Affairs -- now referred to as theDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). Currently,the national Aboriginal organizations in Canada are: the Assembly of FirstNations (AFN) (formerly the National Indian Brotherhood) (NIB) representing“status Indians”, the Métis National Council (MNC) representing the Métis, theNative Council of Canada (NCC) representing “non-status Indians”, and theInuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) representing the Inuit. The Native Women’sAssociation of Canada (NWAC) represents First Nations women from all partsof Canada and the Inuit Women’s Association (IWA) represents Inuit women(Sawchuk 1993). From 1974 to 1981 there were two national Native women’sorganizations: the NWAC and the National Committee on Indian Rights forIndian Women (IRIW). After IRIW dissolved on the national level, itcontinued as an Alberta Native women’s group (Krosenbrink-Gelissen 1991).23. There are approximately “30 tribal groups and 200 bands” in BritishColumbia (Faith et al. 1991:169), and “1,628 reserves located in all parts of theprovince but [they are] concentrated in the southwest, along the coast and alongthe major river systems” (Taylor and Paget 1989:300).24. “Almost one-third of Native families are headed by a single female parent,compared to 10% for Canada as a whole” (Faith et al. 1991:171).25. The ages indicated for the participants and their children are at the time theinterviews took place.26. Friendship centers were self-help associations set up in the 1960s and 1970s toprovide assistance to First Nations people who were migrating from reserves tocities across Canada.27. Ahenakew (1985:24) provides a useful definition of this term: “The conceptof First Nations self-government is usually understood to mean two broad40groups of jurisdictions: each First Nation governing its own people and theiraffairs, and governing their land and its use. Traditionally among First Nations,these two concepts are combined.”28. Approximately six months after I met Lillian Howard, she was elected as aCo-Chair of the Nuuchahnulth Tribal Council on Vancouver Island. She is oneof three political representatives of the Council, and the first woman to havebeen elected to this position. She is currently residing on Vancouver Island.29. On August 28, 1992 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, an agreementwas reached by the Canadian government’s First Ministers, Territorial andAboriginal leaders on changes to be made to the Canadian Constitution. Thiscame to be known as the Charlottetown Accord or Constitutional Agreement.One of the components of the Accord was Aboriginal Rights. They proposed thatAboriginal peoples within Canada have the inherent right to self-government.The Native Women’s Association of Canada was not given a seat at theconstitutional table. (See n. 27 and 30.)30. The Referendum was held in October, 1992 for the citizens of Canada to voteon the proposed changes to the Canadian Constitution made at theCharlottetown Accord. A single yes/no vote was required on issues thatincluded Aboriginal rights, parliamentary reform, and federal and provincialgovernment jurisdiction. (See n. 27 and 29.) The Native Women’s Associationof Canada, in opposition to the male-dominated Aboriginal leaders, voted ‘No’on the Referendum. They believed that First Nations women’s individualrights would not be protected under the proposed Constitutional Agreement andthe Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. The 1992 Referendum did notpass.31. These findings concur with Griffen’s research (1982) on Navajo women inFlagstaff, Arizona. On the other hand, Meadows (1981) maintains that thewomen in her study lacked strong reserve bonds after living in Calgary, Albertafor a number of years.32. As stated above in n. 27, Lillian Howard has moved back to work in her tribalterritory.33. Anthropologist Julie Cruikshank has observed that Aboriginal women fromthe Yukon experience the same dilemmas when they return to theircommunities after living and working in the city (personal communication,November 1993).41BIBLIOGRAPHYAckerman, Lillian A. 1988. “Sexual Equality on the Colville Indian Reservationin Traditional and Contemporary Contexts.” In Women in Pacific NorthwestHistory: an Anthology, ed. by Karen J. Blair, 152-169. 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