In order to begin engaging in decolonization, it is necessary to identify false stereotypes of Indigenous women in Canada and acknowledge the truth of what has happened in the past.   Gaining a greater understanding of truthful history allows practitioners to link past traumas to continued oppression in the present.

When looking at the historical context of Indigenous women in Canada before colonization, it is apparent that Indigenous relationships operated in harmony with each other and the environment.  Within traditional Indigenous cultures, all genders had a place and value.  Kim Anderson (2000), a Cree/Metis woman, writes that “our cultures promoted womanhood as a sacred identity, an identity that existed within a complex system of relations of societies that were based on balance” (p.57).   Women were seen as life-givers and were admired by children and looked to for knowledge by all members of the community.

Prior to colonization, “Indigenous women had powerful roles within their Indigenous communities; their roles were recognized by all as being important to the well-being of their community” (Wenona, 2007, p. 21).  Gender roles established in many Indigenous societies ensured peace through a balance of power and a mutual respect for one another and their responsibilities within the nation (Horn-Miller, 2005).  Women took on varying roles such as hunters, cooks, medicine people, mediators, and Matriarchs, depending on the nation or community that they belonged to (Gray, 2011).  Often these roles were shared with men or were complementary and depended on respect, cooperation, and assistance (Gray, 2011).

Indigenous women are also heavily involved in many forms of political decision-making, as nations acknowledged the importance of listening to all members of the community.  For example, within “traditional Iroquois system of governance, women’s political authority extended to choosing and depositing the chiefs” (Anderson, 2000, p. 66).   Today, Indigenous women continue to hold powerful roles; however these roles are not always recognized and are often undervalued (Wenona, 2007).  As the next section outlines, the process of colonization has had devastating effects for Indigenous women and their status and positions both within and outside their communities.