"Until Our Hearts Are on the Ground": Aboriginal Mothering, Oppression, Resistance and Rebirth

By Browne, Annette J. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

"Until Our Hearts Are on the Ground": Aboriginal Mothering, Oppression, Resistance and Rebirth


Browne, Annette J., Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Lavell-Harvard, D.M. and J. Corbiere Lavell (Eds.). "UNTIL OUR HEARTS ARE ON THE GROUND": ABORIGINAL MOTHERINQ OPPRESSION, RESISTANCE AND REBIRTH. Toronto: Demeter Press. (2006). $29.95 (p).

Historically, the subjugation of Aboriginal women in Canadian society can be traced to the colonial images used to disparage the morality of Aboriginal women and their skills as mothers and homemakers. Images of Aboriginal women as dissolute, neglectful and irresponsible were often given as rationale for the extreme levels of poverty and ill health in First Nations communities, creating misrepresentations that both blamed First Nations women for their way of life and justified the state's intervention in their lives (Stevenson, 1999).

These colonizing images contributed to the denigration of Aboriginal motherhood, which in turn helped to fuel the widespread placement of Aboriginal children in non-Aboriginal foster homes in the 1960s (i.e., the 'sixties scoop'). These images from the past endure into the present in the form of gendered stereotypes about Aboriginal women and mothers-misrepresentations that continue to influence current social relations, policies and institutional ideologies (Acoose, 1995).

This edited collection of essays by renowned writers, scholars and researchers counters these misrepresentations by offering a multiplicity of perspectives on women's roles as mothers, community activists, and politicized members of Canadian society. Across cutting theme relates to the state's role in controlling women's lives and practices as mothers, and the role of health and social policy in regulating the lives of Aboriginal women. There are also literary depictions of mothering and parenting, and powerful analyses that attune readers to the challenges inherent in forging an identity against a backdrop of dominant norms about mothering.

When read as a collection, it becomes clear that there is no universal or essential experience of Aboriginality or Aboriginal motherhood. At the same time, shared histories of colonization, encounters with racializing and marginalizing practices, and the harsh socioeconomic conditions that shape the lives and well-being of many Aboriginal women provide the authors with a commanding vantage point from which to offer their analyses. As readers progress through these essays, they will learn that reclaiming one's cultural identity as an Aboriginal woman and mother can be a critical pathway to healing, and to developing "strength, creativity, resilience and perseverance" (Lavell-Harvard & Corbiere Lavell, 2006, p. 193).

The essays are grouped into four sections that offer reflections on (i) the significance of pregnancy and childbirth experiences; (ii) continuities between traditional and current parenting practices; (iii) the role of the state in policing the 'performance' of Aboriginal women; and (iv) allegorical representations of indigenous women and mothers. …

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