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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Colonization is such a personal process" : colonialism, internalized abuse, and healing in Lee Maracle's Daughters Are Forever Vranckx, Sylvie


In Canada, almost everybody is familiar with stereotypes about ‘Native social dysfunction’. Canada’s present-day “Imaginary Indian” (Francis) is indeed associated with substance and welfare dependence as well as family violence and neglect. However, the mainstream tends not to wonder about the actual social suffering behind the image and about the causes of these supposed patterns. In Daughters Are Forever, the Sto:lo / Squamish writer and activist Lee Maracle deconstructs these racist clichés by emphasizing the impact of the colonial process on real-life Native populations. Through a Sto:lo social worker’s attempts to understand how colonial policies have affected Aboriginal motherhood, Maracle demonstrates the roots of Indigenous social ills in collective traumas inflicted over several centuries and transmitted intergenerationally. The conclusion of the protagonist, Marilyn, that “[c]olonization is such a personal process” (216) summarizes the ways in which collective trauma and cultural genocide largely condition individual traumas and grief. Her parallel journeys to help an Anishnaabe woman patient, prevent the abductions of Native Canadian children by mainstream welfare services, and mend her own toxic relationship with her daughters further demonstrate the interrelatedness of Indian policy, patriarchal institutions, and personal and familial spiritual illnesses. They also enable Maracle to show the dangerous ethnocentrism of mainstream psychology and the need to create cross-cultural methodologies and therapies appropriate to the diverse Native North American cultures. By depicting the “unresolved human dilemmas” (Preface 11) of Aboriginal characters, she strives to create social change by drawing her readers into her stories to shock them into awareness.

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