The native Americans of the Great Lakes region were thankful for the opportunity to trade fur with the multitude of nations that presented themselves in friendship from the 14th to the 17th centuries (Reader’s Digest, 1978, p. 149). It was the conquest of land, ordered by King James I and King Charles II, that negatively affected the indigenous populations (p.149). It was this progressive agenda that marginalized the native Americans and ultimately caused King Philip’s year long war as well as other campaigns against the white settlers of the east coast (p. 152). Throughout this time, many tribal nations were decimated by other nations while competing for trade of the more powerful weapons the white settlers could provide. The tattered tribes would move and join in alliances with other defeated tribes to minimize the possibility of a recurrence and to ensure procreation and ultimate tribal survival (p. 152). This intermingling surely had an effect on the biological make-up of the various tribal nations. I feel that much of the negativity could have been avoided with a simple sense of respect.
Currently, there are many indigenous peoples facing a number of problems with colonization. The aborginal women of Ontario, Canada, are a specific example of how an overall lack of respect leads to the marginalization of a whole culture. “Aboriginal women have a lower life expectancy than non-aboriginal women, and higher incidences of diabetes, HIV/AIDS, tobacco addiction, and suicide (up to eight times the rate experienced by other women)” (as cited in Ontario Native Women’s Association [ONWA], n.d., p. 4). To address these concerns, the community has formed organizations like ONWA and the Native Women’s Association of Canada to provide a unified voice to advocate for improved status for aboriginal women in Canada. As their position paper states, “the ONWA makes recommendations for future actions to begin the process of initiating the necessary changes with a special focus on the need for grassroots control, activism, and leadership development for Aboriginal women” (p. 1). In addition to advocating for the equality of aboriginal women, the ONWA also advocates for the environment recognizing the increasing levels of waterway pollution and other environmental concerns.
Thus far, the ONWA has developed programs to address health concerns, gambling addictions, workforce development, housing and justice (ONWA, 2010). As a grassroots activist organization, the ONWA appears to be gaining ground for the equality of aboriginal women in Ontario.
Ontario Native Women’s Association. (n.d.). Contemporary issues facing aboriginal women in Ontario: An Ontario Native Women’s Association position paper. Thunder Bay, ON: Author.
Ontario Native Women’s Association. (2010, May 27). About us. Retrieved from http://www.onwa-tbay.ca/aboutus.htm
Reader’s Digest. (1978). In J. A. Maxwell’s (Ed.), America’s fascinating Indian heritage. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association.