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Canada's Dominant Ideology from 1867-? Uncovering the Roots of Racism Against Indigenous Peoples

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

Canada's Dominant Ideology from 1867- ?

Uncovering the Roots of Racism Against Indigenous Peoples

By: SDC EAHR 440 Critical Theory Professor Paul Kolenik University of Regina December 15, 2009

Please note that using the term 'Indian' is not socially acceptable when describing Indigenous peoples today. Original context has been kept while quoting from other sources from the past.

Challenging Dominant Ideology

Dominant ideology according to Karl Marx is the ideas of the ruling class, which are, "in any age, the ruling ideas applied to every social class in service to the interests of the ruling class" (Wikipedia). Dominant Ideology is used as a mechanism for social control. It is a “set of common values and beliefs” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 72) ingrained into the very fabric of societies' thought life. The majority principle, “the assumption that if most people agree with an idea or course of action it is probably right” (p. 72), is a vehicle to carry ideology. Ever ask a waitress/waiter what the most popular item on the menu is? Or ever enroll a child in a program because it was highly esteemed by people of personal adoration? “People live naturally and spontaneously in an ideology without realizing [it]” (p. 73). As the ideology of the dominant society is rolled out, repressive apparatuses such as the legal system, police force, education system, media, and religious institutions are deeply affected. Once this is realized, a strong sense of hopelessness sinks in. How can these apparatuses be fought if the dominant minority (the 1% and those who strive to please them) control the repressive apparatuses? This fact is all too true and is lived out every day by Indigenous peoples.

Ever since television has found its way into our living rooms, the great powers to be who choose what is played and what is not played have sought out ways to portray the Indigenous people. The dominant ideology of this powerful minority group has shaped the public's perception of Indigenous peoples in many harmful and deliberate ways. I will be concentrating on the false identities imposed on Indigenous women. I will also try to help you understand how these false images has made the non-Indigenous public think of Indigenous women in general. I aim to challenge the very ideology that holds many of these women in bondage, bondage to fictional images and false European concepts. Be open to self-reflection as this paper may uncover some of your repressed thoughts and self-talk about the Indigenous women around you. Ideology has little to no power over lives until the “dominant ideas are learned and lived in everyday decisions and judgments and when these ideas (reinforced by mass media images and messages) pervade the whole existence” (p.94).

Using critical thinking, we can identify these different categories of false identities relating to Indigenous women and really see the different ways in which they were, and are still viewed, through the lenses of the dominant society. Pitawanakwat (2007) states that Federal policies such as the Indian Act reflect certain ways of thinking from the creators of the document. "In order to fit Indigenous peoples into the known, there needs to be easy reference through the use of terms. But, terminology reflects the values of the society that created them and terminology, in the case of Canada's Indigenous peoples has for the most part, been imposed on them by those outside of the communities" (Pitawanakwat, 2007).

Connecting Past to Present Interracial cooperation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries encouraged good relations between Indigenous and newcomer. The newcomers “in the northern part of the continent were dependent on the Indigenous population for the conditions that would allow them to harvest fish, furs, and souls” (Miller, 2006, p. 62). However, with the eighteenth century came the shift to diplomacy and military alliance. “It was precisely Natives’ skills in transportation, diplomacy, and warfare that made Aboriginal warriors valuable to the various European and colonial leaders who contended for control of North America” (Miller, 2006, p. 61). The fact remains, when protection was a necessity, the Indigenous were valuable and accepted for who they were. However, the end of the War in 1815 and the arrival of an age of peace rendered a convenient relationship inconvenient. Indigenous peoples were now an “obstacle to the newcomers achievement of their economic purposes” (Miller, 2006, p. 62). British colonies expanded their farms in the various forests the Indigenous called home. This began the war over the now coveted land “that hitherto had been the exclusive preserve of the Indian, the fur trader, the priest, and the soldier” (Miller, 2006, p. 62). “The point of view of the European, [was that] the Indian had become irrelevant” (Patterson, 1972, p. 72). In 1830, “jurisdiction over the management of Indian affairs shifted from military to civil authorities” (Miller, 2006, p. 63). Britain and its Upper Canadian administrators (Sir John A. Macdonald and crew) concluded that the metamorphosis that they desired for the Indigenous peoples would be done through “residential schools, institutions under the benevolent, and of course inexpensive, care of the church” (Churchill, 2003, p. 63). The 1870s treaties between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian Government were signed to enforce Federal rule over a devastated people. These treaties were a very important part of European colonization and an attempt to legitimize their sovereignty over Indigenous peoples. In most cases, these treaties were in disadvantageous to the Indigenous peoples, who often did not fully understand the implications of what they were signing. Next was the blind side and polarization of a race of people who were soon to fall victim to a failed attempt at cultural genocide. The Canadian Indian Residential School System, introduced in 1879, was brought into existence in a final attempt ‘to get rid of the Indian problem’. The larger goal was always not only "the control of native peoples, but the ‘consensual’ –i.e., ‘legal’-theft of their properties” (Churchill, 2003, p. xiv). Through the last re-formulation of the civilizing system that came to an end in 1860, “the Department envisioned increasing numbers abandoning their communities through enfranchisement and being placed on their own land, assimilated into the colony” (Milloy, 1999, p. 19). This was attempted through aggressive assimilation. The children in these schools suffered through cultural disconnect, self-hatred, constant fear, hunger, physical, spiritual and sexual abuse, malnutrition, disease, death, and loneliness to name a few. For more information on what occurred during this shameful time, please read my paper titled, Indian Residential Schools: Truth be Told.

Cultural Genocide...Really?? Federal policies, such as those in Canada that initiated the aggressive assimilation of Indigenous children through residential schooling, are now characterized as examples of cultural genocide. Cultural genocide is the destruction of the specific characteristics of a group. The Fourth Geneva Convention of the United Nations describes genocide as follows. “...acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” (United Nations, 1948:1). “The convention bans a number of acts of genocide including taking group members’ children away from them and giving them to members of another group” (Chansonneuve, 2005). “Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population, which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals (Churchill, 1997, p. 68)". The “systematic process of dislocating Indigenous peoples and/or destroying the economic basis of their survival” (Churchill, 1997), was well on its way before the first residential school came into existence. The goal of this silent cultural genocide was stealing what the Indigenous occupied, their land. So as you can see, a people who were at the point of starvation, destitution, and brokenness in most cases were forced to sign pieces of paper that were negotiated based upon pre-contact practices and customs and were in their eyes guarantees of protection from extinction. They had no idea of what was to come. These signed Acts formally initiated the Federal Government's dominant ideology into both Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of life.

Canada’s Dominant Ideology on Indigenous Woman Accepted by Civil Society

As the picture of the cartoon, Pocahontas depicts, this is the image of 'Legendary [Indigenous] Beauty', an ‘Indian Princess’ who was lured away from her tribe to join the European quest and eventually marry into its culture in hopes of 'civilizing' her people. It is so easy to readily accept what we see as absolute truth when people like Walt Disney put their stamp on a DVD.

Brock Pitawanakwat, a past Professor at the University of Regina created a course in 2007 in Indigenous Studies and dove deeper into the context of how the term 'Indian Princess' came to be, here are his findings. The origins of the Indian princess/squaw dichotomy took the shape of a metaphor for the land. The vulnerable, naked image of the Indigenous woman was used as a metaphor for the New World. We have all heard of the phrase "virgin land" right? This association was not only derogatory in relation to soliciting the land but also in relation to soliciting its virgin brown skinned inhabitants. European dominant ideology was starting to form and revealed its ways of thinking and speaking of Indigenous women to civil society. To learn more about the early contact years and the devastation it brought, I invite you to read my University paper on The Gradual Unveiling of Truth: Christopher Columbus, a Legacy of Horror and Shame, Not Pride. "The feminization of the land is a poetics of ambivalence and a politics of violence" (McClintock, 1995, p. 28). "Indian princess imagery constructed Indigenous women as the virgin frontier, the pure border waiting to be crossed. The enormous popularity of the princess lay within her erotic appeal to the covetous European male wishing to lay claim to the 'new' territory" (Anderson, 2000, p. 101). The princess image was not the only image impressed upon these women, its time to address the image of the squaw. The squaw image was opposite to the princess image and was created to represent the princess's darker twin. Valaskakis (1992) claims that the "squaw" image represents the savagery of the Indian woman and has been defined, alongside the Indian princess, according to her relations with European men. "In all ways the squaw was the opposite of the princess, an anti­ Pocahontas. Where the princess was beautiful, the squaw was ugly, even deformed. Where the princess was virtuous, the squaw was debased, immoral, a sexual convenience. Where the princess was proud, the squaw lived a life of servile toil, mistreated by her men" (Francis, 2000, p. 122). The question here is, what purpose could this have achieved? Findings may shock you. "The dirty squaw image was also used for racial purity through marginalizing Indigenous women in early settler society" (Anderson, 2000, p. 104). This image was created as a social segregation tool "to erase the acknowledgment of a contemporary existence of Indigenous women" (Pitawanakwat, 2007). "The dirty, dark squaw not only justified the deplorable treatment of Aboriginal peoples, she also created a gauge against which white femininity could be measured and defined" (Anderson, 1000, p. 104). "The dirty squaw emerged, conveniently taking the blame for the increasing poverty on reserves and deflecting attention from government and public complicity in the devastation of Indigenous peoples. If Indigenous women were constructed as ‘squaws,’ dirty, lazy, and slovenly, it was easier to cover up the reality of Native women who were merely struggling with the increasingly inhuman conditions on reserve" (Anderson, 2000, p. 103). Here we are presented with another case in point, where the image overshadows and takes away from acknowledging social realities. "Ideological domination maintains itself by the fact that people have "a lack of meaningful access to truth" (Hooks, 1994, p.29 as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 329) so that they view the ideology described above as self-evidently true. "Instead of speaking the language of the oppressor; with its self-blaming vocabulary, adults who have found their voices are thought now to speak in ways that truly represent who they are. The agent who facilitates this finding of authentic voice, the leader on the trek of aural discovery is, of course, the teacher". (Brookfield, 2005, p. 326). The following story is for the conclusion of this section on challenging our own personal thoughts and is also an introduction to the next section on racism. Remember, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, all watch how we treat or talk about other races/cultures. They learn our languages and they learn our silence. The following experience happened several years ago when Anne Caroll, one of the writers of a Social Work course at the University of Regina, was filling in for a Grade 3 teacher. The regular teacher was away for four months on maternity leave and Anne had a brief experience with this class: When school began in September, there were two new students. Both of these children, a brother and sister, were Aboriginal. I was told that they were in the same class, although the boy was a year older because they were new to the school. I will call the children Sara and Billy to protect their actual identities. The class consisted of 27 students and I had never taught Grade 3 before, so I was very busy just keeping one step ahead of them. Sara and Billy did their work and were very quiet so it was easy to pass over them and focus on other more demanding students. I thought everything was going fine until parent-teacher interviews in late November. A woman came to see me. She said that she was Billy and Sara's foster mother. She told me how isolated these children had been and how the other students had treated them. Then she described one particular experience that had happened to Sara. When the school pictures were taken in the fall the other girls exchanged with each other. When Sara tried to exchange her picture, none of the girls would accept it. That day she returned to her foster home in tears and, as the woman explained it was not the first or only time. I was stunned at my lack of awareness. Perhaps for the first time, I focused on that little girl. She was a beautiful child, small, with long dark curly hair. I thought of what it must have been like for her and for her brother to come into this Grade 3 classroom with all white students and a white teacher, and then to go home to a white foster family. How strange everything must have been for them. I also thought about the other children and the attitudes that they had learned from their parents and their community. I remember paying special attention to Sara and Billy after that and thinking about what I could do to address racism in the classroom. The fact is that I didn't know what to do and soon school closed for the Christmas holidays. That was the end of my time with the Grade 3 students and the last time that I ever saw Sara and Billy. However, I never forgot those two children and several years later when I happened to meet a woman with the same last name I asked if she knew them. She told me that she was their aunt. She said they came from a small northern reserve. She knew that Sara, now a teenager was in trouble. She didn't know about Billy.

What makes a grade 3 ‘non-Indigenous’ student think that they are better than anyone else? This answer is easy, they are acting out of learned behaviour. Not being accepted due to the colour of skin on a daily basis reinforces racial segregation and in these children's minds, their classroom treatment upheld how society looks at them, they were deplorable and acted out of this imposed realization.

Unmasking the Villain, Revealing Racism

What do you call an Indian driving a Cadillac? A thief... Some think that this is a funny harmless joke but "unfortunately, too many people have preconceived ideas of other races. What one hears somehow becomes fact before logic and decency have a chance to take hold" (Cuthand, 2002). Using other nationalities in the theme of generalization is easy to do but is very damaging. Because of the Godfather and the Sopranos, one may tend to think that all Italians are Mafia or gangsters. All Orientals know marital arts and all Black people are drug dealers and thugs. "These statements are as outrageous as discovering that since members of the Ku Klux Clan are white then all whites are dangerous racists" (Cuthand, 2002). The mistake is made in associating the evil of a few with the majority who are good people. The invisible forces of racism are all around us and hold us in bondage whether we are aware of it or not. These chains of oppression are wrapped tightly around our thoughts and words; through projected thought patterns that we have adopted as our own truths. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. This rings true on both sides of racism. Those who are racist are in bondage to a damaging way of thinking and are a contributing factor in carrying out its destruction. Racists however end up missing the beauty that our world and its people have to offer. They live in a self-made box of ignorance and cannot see past the dominant ideology of their society; they close themselves off from unity, harmony, joy, peace and balance. Instead, they live in a disturbing world full of hate, fear, disgust, and disharmony. Racism is destructive and disempowers the oppressed. Racism devalues identity, destroys communities, and causes division. It is the opposite of the democratic principle of equality and the right of all people to be treated fairly. Education plays a massive role in revealing damaging thought life from both sides of racism. Part of the discourse of disciplinary power is to help "adult learners find their voices and develop the self-confidence to take control of their lives" (Brookfield, 2005, p. 119). "Racism comprises sets of beliefs, images and practices that are imbued with negative valuation and employed as modes of exclusion, interiorization, subordination, and exploitation to deny targeted racial or ethnic groups full participation in the social, political, economic, and cultural life of a political community" (Outlaw, 1996, p. 8, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 281). In studying critical theory, it is easy to see how an advocate for any minority race can be caught up in the oppression of the group circumstances and "frame the fight against racism as necessarily entailing a fight against the systems of oppression"(Davis, 1988b, p. 22, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 286). However, in fighting racism, we must fight for "a broader social transformation" (Brookfield, 2005, p. 286). In the end, if racial advocates/activists/educators approach racism in this manner, it will end up benefiting all racial and ethnic groups by targeting personal and societal ideologies and hegemonies. "Our struggle for liberation as a people is but a part, a moment, of wider struggle that embraces other peoples, groups, and classes within the social order" (Davis, 1983a, p. 83-84, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 287). Racism is an attitude that can be changed but must start on an individual level. Remember, silence is a contributing factor to racism. Combating Racist Alienation In 1857, the Gradual Civilization Act was passed to assimilate 'Indians'. As previously discussed, one of the purposes of the assimilation was to erase all 'Indian' ways of life and to 'break them to pieces'. This grand form of alienation brought "no historical memory to draw from and no future to look for outside a servile association with white history and future (Karenga, 1983, p. 215, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 288)”. The re-entry into 'civilized' life was to be at and below the Canadian poverty level. The reality and dismal situation that all Indigenous found each other in was their "estrangement and separation of humans from all or anything through which they can realize themselves" (Karenga, 1983, p. 216, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 288) and placed them in a state of voidances, voicelessness, and self-destruction. Europeans assigned Indigenous worth, status, and economic placement through the systematic indoctrination of their dominant ideologies. The loss of identity in the aftermath of a failed assimilation could only be deemed as an almost successful attempt to break a race to pieces. Take a moment to visualize a finished puzzle. Now imagine that puzzle being thrown against a wall during a wind storm. The work that it would take to find each piece to re-assemble it would be a deterrent to its successful reassembly. Now imagine that all the pieces have been found over a long period of time. The person(s) re-assembling that puzzle would have to have a strong memory of what the finished picture on the puzzle looked like. What if that mental picture was lost due to an intentional attempt by the dominant society to erase it? The puzzle would be very hard to re-assemble. "All children [will] be boarders, divorced from the impediments of 'savage' existence, plainly clothed and simply fed. They [will] be taught the precepts of religion, the social manners of a polite settler, and the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. ..the graduates [will] be models of industry and correct deportment, enthusiastically and efficiently taking up their responsibilities in a new Aboriginal society"(Milloy, 1999, p.15). Cuthand (2002) talks about his people having their share of troubles with racial profiling, both with the bureaucratic system and with police forces. "There are two kinds of racial profiling; one is fostered by [civil] society and the other is practiced by government agencies. When I was in high school, Indian kids weren't considered university material and we were channelled into technical programs" (Cuthand, 2000). On behalf of society, the profiling that comes from the homes is spoken loud and clear through the children. Cuthand speaks of a personal experience when his kids were in elementary school, "some of their fellow students believed that since we were 'Indians' we must be on welfare" (Cuthand, 2002). In 2003 Cuthand wrote on the same topic saying, "Today, First Nations people are a rapidly growing group within Canadian society, particularly in the West. Our challenge for the future is going to be how we can live together in harmony and mutual benefit. Racism hurts all parties. It retards development, creates depression and uses up misplaced energy. We need to understand and learn from each other" (Cuthand, 2003). People should not be defined by where they live, what their skin colour is, where they sleep, or what their life situations are at any given time, people are people, no one higher than another, we were all created equal.

Overcoming Alienation & Reclaiming Reason Through Education

Alienation according to Fromm (1956a) is "a mode of experience in which the person experiences himself as an alien... estranged from himself. Being estranged from one's self holds a person in bondage in such a way that they do not see that they are the originator of their own acts. Where there is no foundation there is no moral connection with the conscience. We witness this in the person who makes poor choices over and over, not able to see the damage they leave behind. This state seems all too hopeless. "The task of adult education is to break the chains of illusion that bind people to an individualized view of life and to develop in them the capacity for reason, the capacity to recognize the unreality of most of the ideas that man holds and to penetrate to the reality veiled by the layers and layers of deception and ideologies" (Fromm, 1962, p. 179 as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 174). Indigenous Studies Among First Nations people on reserves, past polls have shown that education is the number one priority. The education of the up and coming generations is imperative for the future of our province. Saskatchewan's urban Indigenous population must be prepared to work in the emerging economy. "The policy on controlling Indian education was adopted by the province's chiefs and later became a national policy under the National Indian Brotherhood, the forerunner to the Assembly of First Nations" (Cuthand, 2003b). This was a positive step towards progress because culturally relevant education is imperative. The preservation of language, culture, and education on cultural "social issues such as drug and alcohol abuse and psychological problems" (Cuthand, 2003b) are top priorities. It is important here to acknowledge that the quality of on-reserve education is worse than that received by other Canadians. Education also seems key to a healthy and positive Indigenous and non-Indigenous future together. Incorporating Indigenous artwork into the very fiber of an educational center is the kind of care and detail that is needed to help create a positive atmosphere.


The language keeper's conference held in Saskatoon on December 12, 2008, reported that the Indigenous languages worldwide are in serious trouble. Much work is needed to preserve them. "Only three aboriginal languages, Cree, Inuit and Dene are considered viable in Canada. Viable means that these languages are spoken in the home and will be passed along to the next generation" (Cuthand, 2008). The women more than the men have a huge role to play in preserving the language. In many cases the mother, sister, grandmother has more time to spend with the child than the father. Teachers must be both available and able to teach the different Indigenous languages to the women of their cultures. "Women are the keepers of important aspects of our culture and it is necessary to recognize this if we want to survive as distinct peoples" (Cuthand, 2008). In education, more books in all types of Indigenous languages need to be published. We need to start building up libraries with literature that children and their families can access daily. Websites, language courses, dictionaries, computer applications, and children's DVDs are among many other starting points where language can begin to be re-instated. Dakota communities in the United States have hosted Scrabble tournaments in their language just recently. The beauty of these languages is yet to be enjoyed and admired by non-Indigenous cultures. The beauty one day will be for a once muted set of languages to find its wings and sore high above the voices of oppression to be heard.

"Our people fought and resisted colonialism. It may have been illegal to organize politically, but people will naturally rebel when backed into a comer. Our people were no different. The boarding schools damaged our language and culture but failed to destroy them. Unfortunately, it was the television set that dealt with the coup de grace. When electricity was introduced on reserves, people bought TVs and English quickly became the language of the home. The children were introduced to English at an early age as they sat in front of the "one-eyed babysitter." Our languages were destroyed by a Trojan horse that we brought into the home, sat in a place of honour and worshiped daily. Now our people must swim against the tide and establish the aboriginal language as the language of the home. It will not be easy" (Cuthand, 2008).

Reclaiming Reason

To reclaim reason, people must be heard individually and collectively. The ideal speech situations are "a description of the conditions under which claims to truth and rightness can be discursively redeemed" (Habermas, 1992a, p. 171 as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 227). This concept is irreplaceable within the sphere where reason meets with human communication. Habermas claims that reason is crucial to freedom and since claiming freedom is a central project of critical theory, defining where communication breakdown is occurring is paramount to future liberation. The three areas in which communication breakdowns occur are within the public sphere, civil society, and the lifeworld.

The Public Sphere

We have already covered to some extent how the decline of Indigenous representation in the public sphere is championed by the mass media; "a network for communicating information and points of view; i.e. opinions expressing affirmative or negative attitudes" (Habermas, 1996, p. 360, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 230). I have taken the stance that the media serves as a tool for oppression, upholding the dominant minorities' view of the Indigenous peoples in their portrayal and also their silence. Stop and think, how often have you seen or heard of the many issues that Indigenous peoples face each and every day? The stories are just not covered as they should be. "The mass media then ... serve[s] as the mouthpiece for these organizations or frame[s] their opinions to support the existing system" (Brookfield, 2005, p. 232). There are no Indigenous ‘issues’ if they are not covered. Why are these stories not being covered? Either the media gives a voice or leaves a group voiceless.

The public sphere was created in early modern Europe, and emerged alongside the development of capitalism, nation-states, and political bureaucracy, reaching its pinnacle in the eighteenth century. Sad but true, the 'Land of the Strong and Free' really isn’t meant for everyone. Getting proper education for the right people within the public sphere seems crucial for change to occur. We need Indigenous and non-Indigenous to work together to bridge many gaps. The three necessary and sufficient conditions for public sphere communication are openness, debate, and common concern (Habermas 1989a, 36–37; Thomassen 2010, 40–41).

Civil Society

Civil society is "composed of those more or less spontaneously emergent associations, organizations, and movements that, attuned to how societal problems resonate in the private life spheres, distill and transmit such reactions in amplified form to the public sphere" (Habermas, 1996, p. 367 as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 235). The individuals within civil society help crystallize the topics and issues that are then considered in the public sphere. If the dominant minority are the members of the civil society, the 'steering mechanisms', how then can we penetrate the areas of society in which this mindset is prominent? How can the younger generation influence the generation who has say in governmental change and "encroach on civil society" (Brookfield, 2005, p. 237)?

The Lifeworld

Dominant ideology creates a form of hegemony that creates its own lifeworld, which affects the public sphere, which therefore shapes the civil society. "Hegemony is the process by which we learn to embrace enthusiastically a system of beliefs and practices that end up harming us and working to support the interests of others who have power over us ... the way we learn to love our servitude" (p. 93). "Hegemony emphasizes the way people learn to embrace enthusiastically beliefs and practices that work against their own best interests" (Brookfield, 2005, p. 92). “Communication in a public sphere that recruits private persons from civil society depends on the spontaneous inputs from a lifeworld whose core private domains are intact” (Habermas, 1996, p. 417 as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 237). This all seems to be a circular process since the lifeworld forms the underlying theme of discussion in a situation. Brookfield (2005) describes the lifeworld as a kind of primordial, pre-reflective knowledge [that] hovers on the periphery of consciousness, a shadowy frame to all we think and do. Every heard of Sigmund Freud’s Mental Iceberg analogy?

Freud felt that this part of the mind was not directly accessible to awareness. In part, he saw it as a dump box for urges, feelings and ideas that are tied to anxiety, conflict and pain. These feelings and thoughts have not disappeared, and according to Freud, they are always there, exerting influence on our actions and our conscious awareness. This is where most of the work of the Id, Ego, and Superego takes place. This sounds all too sinister, but the analogy is quite accurate as the dominant ideology that Canada was established on and by, was so strongly ingrained that it still controls the underlying theme of discussion in any situation to this day. It has always been this way seems an all too common brush off.

In essence, it consumes our conversation and Habermas insists that we have no control of it nor can we become conscious of it. One can see how hegemony is hard to penetrate. However, through Indigenous Studies and other forms of education, civil society can start reforming their own hegemony. The question lies with the person being educated. Their most valuable asset will be their desire to learn. Their desire for greater collective knowledge, to gain a grander overview of the world viewing all of its inhabitants as equals, the way the Creator intended for it to be.

“Learning how to defend the lifeworld against the system and how to restrict the increasing influence of steering mechanisms within the public sphere are adult learning projects at the heart of twenty-first-century democracy” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 222).

“When the lifeworld is distorted by white supremacist ideology, then its members are hampered in their understanding of their current situation and future possibilities” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 291). False images and oppressive symbols are set into place today that uphold the Masonic lifeworld and oppress the Indigenous lifeworld. This needs to be reversed in such a way that uncovers “racial identity as a positive constitutive element of the lifeworld, rather than as a source of shame or internalized self-loathing” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 291). The differences between cultures should be celebrated not alienated or “viewed as something to be erased in the name of racial integration” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 291). The Indigenous lifeworld, a lifeworld now distorted by white supremacy, can be reclaimed by Indigenous communication, storytelling, reclamation of heritage, music, art, and the re-integration of native tongues. All these elements can be taught or re-introduced to reclaim Indigenous lifeworld from the distortions of racist ideology” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 292).

Educators both Indigenous and non-Indigenous have equal parts to play in de-colonizing/liberating Indigenous peoples. Indigenous educators have a big job ahead of them as they are building up identities, combating dominant ideologies, teaching new lifestyles, and raising awareness in regards to Indigenous self-government. For non-Indigenous educators, “learning to understand and appreciate the cultural and epistemological topography of the [Indigenous] lifeworld is an adult education project that is explicitly geared to the furtherance of [Indigenous] interests” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 292). “The aim of philosophy is... to become part of a social movement by nourishing and being nourished by the philosophical views of oppressed people themselves for the aims of social change and personal meaning” (West, 1989, p. 131, as cited in Brookfield, 2005, p. 297). I hope that this paper is a small contribution to this education.

If you are reading this and are not an educator, you still have an irreplaceable role. Chose today to speak up when you hear racist jokes or reach out to your city’s Indigenous community to volunteer so you can engage with a culture that you may know nothing about. You can also write or call your local radio and television stations to tell them of your disdain for the lack of Indigenous representation on your visual and audio broadcasting waves. There are many ways that non­educators can step up to the plate and join the fight against racism in our cities, provinces, and our Country.

Learning Democracy – In Regard to Canada’s Indigenous Inherent Rights and Education

There is no universal definition of democracy since everyone has their own opinion on what it should look like or shouldn't look like. Two important principles however are equality and freedom. For any transformational learning to occur in or out of any organization, these two principles must be in place. Democracy cannot exist where racism or government oppression is at work because these two principles alone reflect "all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to power" (Wikipedia, 2009). Furthermore, Wikipedia (2009) expands on the definition and adds that the "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government or constitutional protections of individual liberties from democratic power dissenting individuals can be oppressed by the "tyranny of the majority". Freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential. Anyone without a University degree can see that Canadian Indigenous peoples do not enjoy the same democracy as other dominant cultures in Canada do. However, we can build a democratic society within a non-democratic society for the sake of building up the oppressed, the broken, the abused and the disregarded. Let us see what Critical Theory has to say about democracy.

To Habermas, communicative action is essential for democracy. In adult education, facilitating open and honest dialogue in informed ways to foster democratic conversations is essential. This skill must be transferred from teacher to student or from facilitator to learner. Successful democratic communication has three criteria, all parties are uncoerced in agreeing, it has to be mutual, and validity is given to all parties involved. Learning to talk this way is in Habermas's mind, "the most important hope we have for creating a just society" (p. 256). For this process to work, there must be members from all public spheres coming together to overcome the oppression that Canada bestows on its Indigenous population. If a handful of educators from each sphere can join forces, knowledge can be leaked back into the public sphere (see diagram above) that would challenge societal hegemony.

This "crisis in representation" (Pitawanakwat, 2007) seems to be a continuation of a dominant ideology that is, as all the reading has proved, enforced by the media. The question then is this, is there a minority group in the upper class who are still dictating these messages or are these messages that falsely depict Indigenous identity still around because they are going unchallenged? This is where each Canadian has a role to play.

Back to how dominant ideology has affected Indigenous woman, as Mr. Cuthand says, it takes someone who has walked a mile in their shoes to reach them. It is heartbreaking to see the empty shells full of drugs and self-hatred in some areas of our Cities. This is the impact of a world that has turned its backs, arms, and hearts against women who were born Indigenous. Little Indigenous girls don't stand much of a chance of obtaining a better future if this dominant ideology remains unchallenged. Only together can we penetrate the public and lifeworld spheres. "It is imagination, the ability to create within our own minds and thoughts, a world that we want to exist, that distinguishes us from the rest of the universe. Imagination also implies creativity, innovation, an ability to see what is not there, an ability to see between the spaces, an ability to see underneath the ordinary reality of everyday life ... It awakens the power that we have been given as human beings to enable us to live in this world" (Newhouse, p. 2).

We must nurture this imagination in the dominant society and encourage active participation to allow for the creation of meaningful change. Is it your desire to inspire change within non-Indigenous cultures to challenge social inequality and to transform indigenous reality? "This may mean creating new images of Aboriginality that challenge stereotypical notions of a "lost culture or "lost identity", or the association of Indigenous with "drunkards", "down-trodden”, or "angry" (Pitawanakwat, 2007).

"Our imaginations are the basis for our bias for our worlds. Through our imaginings, we create our world" (Newhouse, p. 2). Indigenous peoples create their own imaginings. This sets them apart from others on this planet. Pitawanakwat (2007) introduces Newhouse's notion that both political and healing imaginations say profound things about modern Indigenous peoples. He suggests that his people can imagine a world of complete Aboriginal selves, self-confident, centered and healthy. Newhouse views those involved in the healing movement as carrying the great vision and as possessing incredible thought to make this world a reality. "In this way, the healing imagination requires intelligence. Vision itself requires an act of imagination that calls on individuals to connect with our spiritual selves" (Pitawanakwat, 2007).

Action Items for the Dominant Society

Many Indigenous communities and neighbourhoods (on reservations) are in a state of crisis due to shortages of clean water and housing as well as high levels of addictions, disease, malnutrition, and poverty, and social problems. Think about a "plan of action" for how health and/or social policies can be improved upon. After your personal and collective hegemonies have been challenged, would you now begin with the individual, the community, or the government? A serious joint effort from all sides should be advocated for. In the mean time, start speaking truth within your civil society. We have to start somewhere.

Any plans of action must begin with addressing access to proper housing, food security, health care, skills development, family services, infrastructure investments into such projects as water and wastewater systems, and educational facilities. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one can’t move forward unless each level’s deficit is addressed. Basic needs come first so educators and leaders can reach and teach a healthy and secure community: 1. Basic Needs; 2. Psychological Needs; 3. Self-Fulfillment Needs.

In the absence of basic needs met, one cannot effectively harvest substantial change in communities. The communities that can engage all areas of the person will be ready to take the next steps. This is where individuals can grow together within their communities and learn how to overcome the dominant ideology that holds them in a state of oppression.

It is "a dialogue, that is defined through conversations taking place between Indigenous and non­-Indigenous peoples working towards change" (Pitawanakwat, 2007). This active communication is the engine oil that will make things run more smoothly.

In conclusion, here is my charge to you: stand up, speak out, talk about what you learned, get involved. Never be silent again. Teach your children. Teach your family. Challenge dominant ideology. Respect difference for what it is, opportunities to learn, not to be fearful of.

For a better understanding of some crippling Indigenous issues, please read my paper on Intergenerational Legacies of Indian Residential School.


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