Women and Inequality in Aboriginal Society

Aboriginal people are the first nation of Canadian population researched by many (Steckley, 1997) and today they suffer greatly from prepossession against them. But “it seems to us that the continuing existence of aboriginal nations is a political and legal reality as well as a historical fact” (Erasmus, 2002). Moreover, more and more people all over the world start to recognize the real meaning of the harmony with nature that aboriginal people have created and talk about trying to create their own world on the model of Aboriginals. “Aboriginal people across Canada and around the world speak about their relationship with the natural world and the responsibility of human beings to maintain balance in the natural order” (Erasmus, 2002). And their great feeling of responsibility for our Earth brings them some benefits like peace in their society and long harmonious life of its members that people all over the world cannot get.

However, in spite of peace among them and long life, they cannot feel themselves as happy citizens of Canadian state due to preconceived attitude to them of white Canadians. They fight for their rights, self-determination and land, but their competing as well as legitimate rights, are effaced (Turpel, 1999) by long historical background. These are the problems the whole aboriginal community was faced and these are the problems that break the harmony of their natural harmonious life.

It is a real fact that all aboriginals have the same problems but, at the same time, not all of them are equal to one another. There are two types of unequal groups. The first group divides all aboriginals into registered – who are under the responsibility of the government – and non-registered, without “Indian status” – who are under the provincial hand. The second group of inequality divides them into men and women. And if the first appeared decades ago, the second has ever existed. Aboriginal women have never had the same rights like Aboriginal men, who have respect to pass on “Indian status” to their children. Such discrimination of all Aboriginal female at law affects enjoyment of them – of their rights to their lands, the profits of land claims, culture, and many other economic and social benefits that are provided to Indians.

Furthermore, aboriginal women are considered to be the poorest women of Canada. They are marginalized into the labor force, working mainly in lower paid as well as unstable jobs, with lower incomes and higher unemployment rates. The level of their educational attainment is not the same, as that of Canadian non-Aboriginal women. These social reasons, coupled with spreading diseases between aboriginals, lead to their life expectancy becoming lower.

As a result of all, mentioned above, aboriginal women are recognized as people of inferior quality that brings to violence and abuse against them that has already reached epidemic proportions. And this violence has some number of forms involving physical assaults between males. More often it can involve the victimization of children and women as the least strong members of the society. So, more than 500 women of aboriginal community in Canada have been murdered or gone missing during the last 15 years (Statistics Canada, 2005). The lack of Aboriginal women’s human rights protection and their social and economic marginalization let the cycle of sexualized and racial violence to go on.

It must be mentioned that earlier women played the same part as men did in aboriginal family as well as in aboriginal government and spiritual ceremonies. Male along with female were able to enjoy personal autonomy, performing vital functions for the survival of Aboriginals. Male provided family with food, clothes and other important things. Women equipped the domestic sphere with necessary facilities taking care about life. Being husband and wife meant to respect, being kind and honest. Then, women were not considered to be inferior in Aboriginal community.

But after Europeans’ arrival at the beginning of the 17 century, relationship between men and women changed greatly. In European society this period is characterized as period of a man like social, political as well as legal master of a woman. Any woman’s right was derived via her husband. Such discrimination against women in Canadian state went on till relatively recently. These new standards in cultural sphere brought terrible historical and social changes those became destructive to Aboriginal society.

As Dr. Longstaffe writes: The razing of Indian societies and their traditions is … evident in high rates of unemployment, suicide, alcoholism, domestic violence, and other social problems. This loss of tradition has seriously damaged the oral means of preserving cultural norms… Native peoples often appear reluctant to adopt “white” solutions to problems that stem from the latter’s apparent destruction of their societies (Longstaffe, 1987).

Aboriginals were gradually removed from their lands. Such changes to their lifestyle distorted their traditional male-female roles. So, as a result of various economic factors, cultural changes had a great influence on the Aboriginal woman’s role.

Culture is life. It alters every day… Stasis is not possible (Bissoondath, 1994). Inequality between men and women in society of Aboriginals was a result of European colonists’ influence. And today the only way to stop this kind of racism is to start recognizing Aboriginals as a part of Canadian nation but not as a separate group of poorly educated Aboriginals.


Bissoondath, N. (1994). Selling Illusions: the Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada, Penguin, 78-97.

Erasmus, G. (2002). Why can’t we talk, Globe and Mail, 121-125

Longstaffe, S., Hamilton, B. (1987). Children’s Hospital Child Protection Centre, A New Justice for Indian Children. Final Report of the Child Advocacy Project, Winnipeg: Department of the Solicitor General of Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2005) Women in Canada 2005: A Gender-Based Statistical Report at 190-199. Web.

Steckley, J. (1997). Aboriginal Peoples. Angeleni, P.: Our Society: Human Diversity in Canada. Toronto: Nelson, 131-158.

Turpel, M.E. (1999). Does the road to Quebec sovereignty run through aboriginal territory? Brym, R. Society in Question: sociological reading for 21st century. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, 208-11.

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