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Racism, Sexism and how they affect Aboriginal women’s health

The Indian Act of 1867

First, the Indian Act of 1876 was the primary tool used by the Canadian government in its pursuit of assimilation and genocide of the Aboriginal people. Moreover, the Indian Act imposed a sexist ideology of women and defined who was of Aboriginal identity and who was not, disregarding the fact that they had "Indian" blood or not. For example, a person who was of Aboriginal descent could lose their Aboriginal identity solely by joining the armed forces. However, Aboriginal women were more affected than Aboriginal men since they were more likely to lose their Indian status, as an example, following the act an Aboriginal woman could lose her status forever solely by marrying a non-Indian man, or if shed married an Indian man from a different band, she must follow her husband and become band member of her husband’s band. Aboriginal women could also not own propriety and would not gain the full benefits of Canadian citizenship if they married a Non-Indian. Comparatively, this did not apply to Aboriginal men, they could marry anyone, and that person would gain Indian status if they didn’t have it, this was the opposite for women. This legislation merely accentuated the sexist ideals and behaviours that Aboriginal men observed in their European counterparts (Barker, 2006, p. 132). The consequences of this racist, sexist and colonialist piece of legislation had were devastating for Aboriginal women; it was radically different from the traditional Aboriginal societies, most of them matrilineal, it led to the imposition of male-dominated band governments, in which Aboriginal men were empowered on reserves while women were marginalized and devalued. This empowerment of Aboriginal men within the reserves had a dramatic consequence, it led to an increase in violence against women that is still apparent today. Additionally, it changed their traditional role from respected members of the band to housebound wives and an Aboriginal women’s identity was defined according to her husband’s, if he was Non-Indian, she was too. This loss of identity was dramatic for women since it is part of social determinants of health. Aboriginal status and gender are social determinants of health, meaning they affect one’s health, in this case, Aboriginal women’s health (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2011, p.9). In psychology, dissociation with one’s identity lays the groundwork for mental health problems such as depression or anxiety (Bourassa, McKay-McNabb & Hampton, 2004, p. 24).

Here is a video to find out more about the Indian Act of 1867

The Indian Act