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Photo by Jasmin

Photo by Jasmin

Challenging Patriarchy

By Giibwanisi and Mari Reeve-Newson

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” -Ephesians 5:22-24

Blessed by the Catholic Church, legislated by Britain, Canada was designed as a Christian colony. European culture has a long history of patriarchy, which translated into the beginnings of Canada and continues today. Currently, Canada recognizes Catholic holidays and millions of Canadians belong to some sect or denomination of the Church. Though political and religious views are supposed to remain separate, Christianity is firmly entrenched in the Canadian psyche.

There is little doubt that patriarchy is heavily rooted in the doctrine of Christian Catholicism, which conflicts with traditional native governance. As the influence of patriarchy spread on Turtle Island (North America) through European settlers, the legislation to enforce patriarchal laws began to invade the native way of life, beginning with the removal of traditional matriarchal governance systems.

The governmental legislation, gender roles, cultural norms, values and beliefs were designed to oppress ALL women across the country, native and non-native, while at the same time entrenching into men that they are superior and should hold these cultural norms as laws that guide their thoughts and actions.

Until a few decades ago, women were prohibited from attending educational institutions that offered law and medicine because those positions were reserved for men. This greatly limited a woman’s career options, ensuring that within a class society women would remain inferior and absent from the political arena; even if their families allowed them to seek higher education and employment. Legislation enforced also restricted women from driving or voting, and sadly left them with little to no voice when speaking out against spousal or familial abuse.

Through the invasion of this land, government policy, cultural assimilation, and residential schools European colonial mentality was shoved down the throats of generations of Native people, making it almost impossible to resist my own inherited patriarchal world view.

There is no question that spousal abuse and patriarchy is prevalent throughout every reservation and Native community in Canada.

As a Native (Anishinabek) man, picking up the broken pieces of a once proud nation, and re-learning traditional, values, beliefs and customs, it is difficult to challenge the colonial perspective while being fully immersed in it.

My own experience has been hard, and uncomfortable when confronting my way of being towards women, but it is both essential and fundamental in restoring Anishinabek Nationhood, and I encourage men and women to do it.

Furthermore it is incumbent upon me to do away with whatever limited patriarchy I am afforded; to stop classifying women as inferior and objectifying them as sexual objects, and instead assist my Native sisters at every opportunity to reclaim their rightful honor and dignity as women, life givers, Clan Mothers and the true foundation of the people.

How can one restore a culture of honoring women without challenging patriarchy on every level at every opportunity. You can’t.

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