Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The lives of aboriginal women, told by aboriginal women

  • Print

Life Stages and Native Women

Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine

By Kim Anderson

University of Manitoba Press, 240 pages, $28

SOME indigenous stories are "story medicine." They hold powerful life lessons and can even heal the wounds of those who listen and embrace their teachings.

Life Stages and Native Women offers just that: "story medicine" for aboriginal people.

Author Kim Anderson, a Cree/Métis woman and educator from Guelph, Ont., came up with the idea while moving into her role as a new mom.

Anderson searched and found very little material about pregnancy, parenting customs or the life cycles of indigenous women.

So with the support of celebrated author Maria Campbell, she interviews 14 Ojibwa, Cree and Métis female elders in their 60s and 70s from vibrant communities in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta (though none from Manitoba).

The outcome is a mosaic of knowledge and stories about the traditional roles and lives of aboriginal women, rite-of-passage ceremonies and the leadership and respect women held in their families and communities throughout their lives.

Yes, this is an academic book, published by the University of Manitoba Press, but don't let "academic" or the footnotes scare you off.

Life Stages and Native Women is an academic read more accessible than the norm, made palatable by Anderson's clear, conversational writing style. Her passion and understanding of her subject is reflected in her writing, to the benefit of the reader.

This shouldn't be categorized as a "feminist" book either. It is more about how women worked and lived within a close-knit family alongside men, elders and children.

The elders' stories depict vibrant, thriving communities that fly in the face of the stereotypes of what native communities are like.

Anderson doesn't include much about Indian residential schools, likely because it is such an extensive subject.

She does briefly touch on how residential schools and the Indian Act dealt such a devastating blow to the self-sufficiency of aboriginal families, and in turn their entire communities.

The family breakdown affected not just people who went to residential school but some of today's youths, who are being raised without the guidance of elders or a sense of pride earned by contributing to their families' well-being. Many youths are also dealing with family dysfunction.

Anderson has achieved what she set out to do -- introduce some cultural knowledge about the roles of women and the idea that some customs can be revived to everyone's benefit.

Aboriginals in Canada are a land-based people. Their survival in a robust land meant adapting to the circumstances at hand. It only makes sense that Anishinabe, Cree and Métis culture can adapt to modern times as well.

Life Stages and Native Women does not try to take the place of an elder's teachings, but rather leads you in the right direction if you want to know more.

If you're interested in a more relaxed and modern look at aboriginal women than you'd find in an introduction to native studies class, you will enjoy this.

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer, filmmaker, North Ender and Anishinabe mother of two.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2011 J7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.
  • RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS June 23, 2011 Local - A Monarch butterfly is perched on a flower  in the newly opened Butterfly Garden in Assiniboine Park Thursday morning.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should confessions extracted through Mr. Big police stings be admissible in court?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google