The influence of patriarchy (more than any other colonial imposition), so deeply imbedded in our families, communities, and nations, discourages Native people's quest for self-government. Patriarchy, or male centered power, creates imbalance and disharmony within our selves, homes, communities, and nations. Balance and harmony the Elders remind us prayer, ceremony, and celebration are paramount in our quest to govern ourselves.
Native women's autonomy - in her home, community, and nation - has been eroded through very powerful forces. Over the years, those forces have devastatingly impacted on women's lives through institutions like the government, laws, churches, schools, and the media.
My first contact with patriarchal power was at birth when the intrusive "Registration of Live Birth by An Indian" was stamped at the top of my birth certificate. To me, that "Indian" label traumatically altered the course of my life for it was at that point that the Department of Indian Affairs first imposed its patriarchal authority on my life. The Department constructed my so-called Indian identity and in that process attempted to erase countless generations of my maternal relations.
Following the Department's lead, the Catholic church, represented at the time
of my birth by nuns who named me Mary (just like my previous three sisters), flexed its patriarchal muscles by stealing my mother's right to name her children. Furthermore, when I went to residential school my identity was constructed by authorities who privileged my father's history over my mother's. Subsequently, material family connections seemed to disappear from one generation to the next. When I asked my mum questions about her family, I only saw pain and sadness in her eyes.
Anyone who grew up in a Native community knows that women are the center of our cultures. Previous to residential school, my identity was intricately connected to my female relations. When someone wanted to know who I was they merely inquired "who
is your mother." If they were unfamiliar with my mother's name, Chi Fille, they'd ask "well who is your Koochum (Grandmother)." As a result of being brought up and strongly, indoctrinated in the colonial patriarchy however I, like other Native peoples, have been discouraged from honoring and celebrating our connection to our mother's history. Thus our mother's influence, in relation to our sense of self, has become insignificant.
I am most distressed however because our own people allow patriarchal power to intrude upon our relations with each other. Think long and hard about how we continue to allow our sense of self to be determined by Euro-Canadian laws instead of our own ways, according to our connection to all our relations.