Colonization as Sexual Assault
By Tanya Coulter
I offer this article to you in late May to acknowledge Sexual Assault Prevention Month by drawing your attention to an upcoming date: June 3, 2020. This date will mark the one year anniversary of the closing ceremony of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Two Spirited and Trans people. It seems further away in time than one year ago since the last few months have been so focused on the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic has brought to light many things and we can use it as a definite marker in time of what has changed, what has remained the same and what has gotten better or worse. Unfortunately, sexual assaults continue and we are seeing evidence that they are more likely to occur with this pandemic, as those who are already vulnerable peoples become even more isolated and vulnerable during times of lockdown and social distancing.
The National Inquiry into MMIWG highlights the vulnerability of Indigenous Women, Children, Two Spirited and Trans people. But how did we get here? How did we get to a place where Indigenous Women are more likely to face abuse and sexual assaults committed against them then women of other ethnicities?
I think the answer lies in understanding two historical world views, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. I want to challenge you to travel back in time some five hundred years. From the Traditional Indigenous world view, it is understood that Women are life-givers and they are to be respected and protected. We (humans, the two legged) have a responsibility to protect the land, who is our first Mother and from that premise all potential mothers. We all have a belly button; it is a physical reminder of that connection to our Mother.
Those who came from Europe carried a very different mindset upon arrival on Turtle Island AKA The Americas- Canada, USA and Mexico. We know from history that their mind set was Colonial-including concepts like Manifest Destiny, Terra Nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery. Colonists came here to extract value from the land and send it back to their empires as timber, fur, meat, and minerals. Thus when they viewed this new land, they didn’t see the Indigenous peoples as a community of people. Instead they saw them as part of the land that they had arrived to control. The colonial settler mindset took what it wanted by force without consent; colonization is essentially sexual assault upon the land and the Traditional Peoples of Turtle Island. Since that time we have seen some recognition and work toward Reconciliation but the levels of abuse and Sexual Assaults we see on MMIWG continue and are – as the final report state – a Genocide.
When Sexual assault is committed it is a perpetuation of the colonization mindset. We need to recognize the root causes of our behaviour and work toward undoing the harm that our history has taught us. Please stay safe during these uncertain times and check in on people who you think might be vulnerable, offer a helping hand in whatever ways you can to ensure the safety of our whole community. Such acts of kindness and respect move us all toward embracing the Traditional Indigenous teachings of Turtle Island. Miigwetch!
Tanya Coulter is the Indigenous Healing and Wellness Program Coordinator at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre