Dirty Secrets in Your City
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
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.
In 2004 I became familiar with Regina, Saskatchewan's notorious Core neighbourhood and North Central. I was involved with a non-profit that drove a gutted-out school bus through Regina's worst neighbourhood at nighttime to provide the girls on the streets a place to get warm with a hot drink and some food. We built relationships with many sex trade workers, and if they wanted out, we would figure it out. Most of the population in both neighbourhoods is Indigenous, and therefore, most of the sex trade workers are Indigenous. The demographics of this neighbourhood did not happen by chance either.
Depending on the person and their knowledge of the 'less fortunate,' one can imagine the quality of life experienced in these neighbourhoods. In 2007, it hit #1 in a Maclean article, Canada's Worst Neighbourhood. "The piece was on North Central, a 153-block area on the edge of downtown that stood separate in almost every possible way from the rest of the city: Largely Indigenous, impoverished, plagued by drugs and crime with many of its 10,000 residents marginalized and their problems ignored."
In 2016, Maclean magazine's famous Canada's most dangerous cities saw Regina ranked eighth out of 100 communities but first in aggravated assault, seventh in homicide, 22nd in firearm use, and 25th in sexual assault. You can't argue with statistics and a clever follow-up story in 2017. It's now 2022, and not much has changed. The issues must have been too 'complicated' to solve, or perhaps there is something to the term, dominant Ideology, and its cascading effects on the culture in which it's enforced. (Haaland, 2006)
Perhaps it's time for a follow-up investigation on City activity in these areas. You can learn more about the dominant ideology that still holds Canada prisoner in my University paper, but this paper will give you the general idea. According to Karl Marx, dominant ideology 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.
Canada’s Dominant Ideology on Indigenous Woman Accepted by Civil Society
The picture of the cartoon Pocahontas depicts the image of "Legendary [Indigenous] Beauty". For those not familiar with the cartoon, the storyline is of an 'Indian Princess' who was lured away from her tribe to join the European man's quest and eventually marry into his culture in hopes of 'civilizing' her people. I have to admit that I fell for this bait at one time and found myself thinking that the Europeans saved the Indigenous peoples. I have now learned differently and am ashamed of my lack of critical thinking. It is easy to readily accept what we see as absolute truth when big names like Walt Disney put their stamp on a DVD. We need to start thinking critically and ask ourselves, from what dominant ideology did the creator of this material originate?
Since initially writing on this topic for university in 2009, many have started to pick out oppressive messaging in Walt's cartoons. Please know that I am not a voice for removing everything we loved from our childhoods. This would not solve the problem anyway. Instead, why not identify it and talk to our kids about it instead. Disney has made it easier for you to identify these senses. Our children, nieces, and nephews will recognize things that we never even thought of in society in no time, they will in turn help us. It's pretty empowering to know that the generation you are raising today will be the change agents of tomorrow. If you wondered how you could meaningfully contribute to reconciliation during our first National Truth and Reconciliation Day last year, this is your opportunity, and it's easy to do.
Here are a few instances to get your mind thinking. Did you know that "the Indian princess is strictly a European concept? The Indigenous Nations of this country never had a concept of royalty. We do not have kings, queens or princesses" (Riverwind, 2009). Gail Guthrie Valaskakis, director of research for Canada's Indigenous Healing Foundation, and Marilyn Burgess, researched the 'Indian Princess' stereotype and found what they call the origins from romanticized paintings and interpretations to represent an "exotic, beautiful and dangerous New World" Valaskakis (1992). Their imaginations created these images to sell merchandise such as fruit cans and cigar boxes.
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 came to be. Summarizing, he said that he found the origins of the Indian princess 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" (Pitawanakwat, 2007).
We've all heard the phrase "virgin land", so to say that European men were led to fanaticize about conquering virgin land is not a far stretch. (virgin/new world) and the young brown-skinned women were a symbol of this adventure. This association is both derogatory towards the soliciting of the land and extremely demeaning to Indigenous women. Before we move on I'd like to draw your attention, to the corn-on-the-cob body above. Now that you know what you know, I'd say this picture is the nail in the coffin. This is not the end of it though. There is one more image to talk about no matter how hard it is.
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 white 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, 1995, p. 122). The question here is, what purpose could this have achieved? My findings shocked me. "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, but 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. The reader can no longer perish from the lack of knowledge any longer though. One can imagine why this term is extremally offensive to Indigenous women.
To experience liberation in this area, Indigenous women have to stop speaking the language of the oppressor. It is the same concept as with victims of narcissism. Some families have been entrenched in oppressive thinking for 165 years while others just a few generations. Nonetheless, self-blaming vocabulary - internally and externally is easily identified. It just takes a bit of effort. Think of what you are thinking about throughout the day and kick out the thoughts that don't seem right. It's a good exercise for critical thinking. Adults who have found their voices are thought now to speak in ways that can truly represent who they are, no longer taking on the blame. "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). We all can be teachers.
I hope you are starting to see how Canada's dominant Ideology towards Indigenous women was formed and how it revealed its ugliness through thought and word to civil society. "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). This is a perfect segway to introduce you to another university paper that I wrote back in the day. This paper addresses the uncomfortable topic of the sex trade.
Hard Fact to Swallow
We don't openly advertise Indigenous women as ripe corn on the cobs, ready for consumption anymore, instead, we look the other way while they are secretly being advertised on the dark street corners in neighbourhoods such as North Central and Regina's Core. They are still regularly sought out for selfish consumption by European/Canadian men and disregarded to pick up the pieces. These girls are as old as your children that still live at home.
"We all inherited this, nobody today created Residential Schools, nobody today created the Indian Act, nobody today created the 60s Scoop, we all inherited it, and we have to acknowledge that people are healing, and people are hurting!
Let's do something about it."
~ Chief Cadmus Delorme, Cowessess First Nation, 2021
Dirty Truths in Your City – The Facts
Across Canada, there are still overwhelming reports and heart-wrenching stories of countless unsolved cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women. Back in 2009, I didn't have much to go off of when I wanted to expose this dirty little secret to the world. I had firsthand accounts told to me and information shared with me because of the organization I was involved with and had a determination to represent the girls on the streets in the right way. Of the countless stories of open cases that I found, what struck me the hardest was that I had not known of more than five cases until I started my research for my term paper. The progress that we have made since 2010 (when I first posted my university paper online) is that we now can know why these women and children were/are being targeted for sexual violence. With the knowledge you currently have, and if you take some time to browse through that report in the link above, you'll better understand the information in my university paper. Some things may be hard to read, but sometimes we have to get through the bad to get to the good.
As I sat behind my computer and read the stories of these overlooked women, I was immersed in their hopelessness. They were empty, angry, scared, hopeless, had no identity or support, and no one seemed to care. I felt their soul wound.
The Crushing Oppression of Indigenous Women in Canada
Part of Term Paper for Critical Theory
University of Regina
December 15, 2009
How can people in society disregard members from their society? Are we not all a part of the same human race? What gives anyone the right to disregard any human as if they were a dog? Better yet, what gives any human the notion that they have the right to treat another human being with no regard other than to satisfy themselves? How could these cases have slipped through the fingers of the media? How come I had not heard of "520 cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women, half of them since the year 2000" (Picard, 2009) and most of them under the age of 30?
To make this paper more relevant, I will be exploring the devastation that has and is still happening on our streets. In 2000, child prostitution in Regina and Saskatoon held 500 (noticed) children in bondage. This severe form of child abuse happens right under our noses. A child prostitute is defined as a person younger than 19. "It is estimated that 80 percent of the province's children in the sex trade are Indigenous" (Cuthand, 2002). More recent findings released to the provincial government last summer states that as many as 300 child sex trade workers work the streets of Regina, some as young as nine years old, most are Indigenous.
Most johns who violate these children are white males. These men see Indigenous women and children as subhuman, cheap, and discardable. I intend to unveil why society looks down on Indigenous women with disrespect and disregard. This is a concerning reflection of the state of our City. "Child prostitution leaves layers and layers of scars that may never disappear, even over a lifetime" (Cuthand, 2002). I have seen these scars firsthand as I have volunteered with a non-profit organization whose office was a gutted-out Love Bus that traveled Regina's worst streets to build relationships with the sex trade workers. We fed them and gave them hot drinks to warm up. It is heart-wrenching to see the pimps' system in place to keep these women and children in bondage. "Child sexual predators are not being dealt with as if children are our future and our most valued resource for our survival" (AMMSA, 2009).
These women and children have been systematically preyed upon by society's worst. Why do our society's abusers, rapists, and killers need to seek these brown-skinned women and children to satisfy their sadistic lusts? Even more disturbing, why are we not hearing about these injustices in the media? Where are the 'authorities'? Does our Constitution not apply to Indigenous women and children?
These questions have driven me further into the voicelessness of a group of women treated in ways that the average person could not even grasp. If you are not Indigenous, I may have to lead you into a world that you may have heard about but have not explored to any depth. You may not have explored further because it makes you uncomfortable or because you think, 'it is just the way it is, and you have accepted this alarming reality. Maybe you even believe secretly that Indigenous women deserve what they get. Whatever the reason, I want to take you deeper. I intend to take the non-Indigenous reader of this paper into a world of critical thinking, a world of uncovering dominant ideologies and cultural hegemony. I will also take the reader through the concepts found in Brookfield's The Power of Critical Theory to teach critically. For the Indigenous reader, I was hoping you could leave this paper feeling that you have been heard, even seen. I do not pretend to understand fully, but I want to. I do have to give you fair warning though, this education piece will not be an easy read as it covers very hard topics that are usually not discussed. I want to break my share of the silence and educate as many as will listen. If I offend or have said something wrong or out of context, please feel free to contact me so you can help me understand better. I cannot take this on without you.
The Sex Trade
In Regina's poorest community, violence envelops the streets while a group of sexually exploited women and children do what they must to stay alive. These women are called many different names, imposing shame on an already disregarded group. To cast shame on someone or to look down on them means that you think you are better than them. For those whose last sentence struck a nerve, I ask you to ask yourself why you feel you are better. There are no judgments in these exercises, it's just to get you thinking critically. The fact is that these sex trade workers are lost human beings brought up to do this line of work (their parents run them as they were run as a child to survive), or they have become so hooked on the street drugs that pimps provide for them. Both groups nonetheless end up on hard street drugs and become dependent upon the very people who exploit them. Debts need to be paid, and women become human capital in the drug and sex crime world.
The number of children and women being exploited by the sex trade in Regina is increasing rapidly. There are children as young as 8 and 9 years old working the streets of Regina. These women and children are contracting HIV, Hepatitis C, and other potentially fatal infections as a result. Many of these women and children have addiction issues, gangs bully them, they are poverty-stricken, and ALL are vulnerable. As of June 1/06, Regina had a disproportionate number of Indigenous young women and men that were sexually exploited. Before this date, there were many, but as of this date, eyes were being opened. The statistics identified by Project Safe Child, founded by the Regina Children's Justice Center, are staggering. In 2006, a minimum of 41 children under the age of 16 were being sexually exploited every day, and the number is increasing. I am dedicated to figuring out how to counteract this.
Unfortunately, many of the residents of the North Central and Core neighbourhoods do not want the women off the streets, as it is the means to their survival. For the community to change, it will take a collaborative effort by all leaders and strong residents that desire this change themselves. This gap must be closed, but we need to build a bridge so a joint effort from both sides can happen. Are we at this point yet? Where do your thoughts reside concerning the chart below?
In closing, I'd like to ask you to reflect and see if you have identified any thinking you carry that did not originate with you. Can you break free from that dominant Ideology? Ideology has little to no power over lives until the "dominant ideas are learned and lived in everyday decisions and judgments" (Brookfield, p.94). Most of the Indigenous population in Canada live under oppressive cultural hegemony. Their identity was stripped away and reconstructed by a small group who wanted 'their kind' broken to pieces and eradicated in order to take their land. I wish I had more insight into their logic but unfortunately, I only have access to the hard facts. I encourage you to read more on the early atrocities of Indigenous peoples who were at the grace of the government 165 years ago and try to figure it out. Thankfully that part of history is over but look at all the scattered pieces.
Put yourself in their moccasins for a minute while you think of this. If you were one of the fortunate to have any sense of self after 165 years of failed assimilation, how would you go about breaking free to express yourself freely? The only way Indigenous peoples have been heard is by submitting and adapting to the norms already preordained for them. Is this freedom? I challenge you to adjust your current understanding of the intended relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Please read the original agreement between Indigenous and settlers in 1614 and begin a different mindset today. We are not being asked to 'fix' the problem; the Indigenous Nations have their way of dealing with their issues. It is up to us to give them fair ground to achieve their own goals. Herding the undesirable into the center of the City has to stop. It's time City Hall rethinks City planning. It's also time for us to stand up and say that buying sex is wrong. Being the silent part of the problem is not an option anymore.
To those who still live in Regina, ask yourself if you're okay with this grouping below. The answer is logical, I get it, but now that you know the type of life imposed on others so you can feel safe...are you still okay with this? Time to think outside of the box.
Take a moment to read about the first known treaty made between European and Indigenous peoples - the Guswenta Agreement and remember, we are not called to fix the issues within Indigenous communities. We are called to change our own thought processes and to start speaking out about injustices that are still occurring today as a result of the colonial foundations on which Canada was founded. We don't have to be defined by our past if we take steps to change our future.
Two Row Wampum Belt
Symbol of Sovereignty
This belt symbolizes the agreement and conditions under which the Haudenosaunee welcomed the newcomers to this land.
"You say that you are our father, and I am your son."
We say, 'We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers'."
This wampum belt confirms our words. These two rows will symbolize two paths or two vessels traveling down the same river together. One, a birch bark canoe, will be for the Indigenous People, their laws, their customs and their ways. We shall each
travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will make
compulsory laws or interfere in the internal affairs of the other.
Neither of us will try to steer the other's vessel."
From a 1614 agreement between the Haudenosaunee and representatives of the Dutch government, declaring peaceful coexistence. The Haudenosaunee has kept the agreement to this date.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) - Action #41 - The numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada are horrendous. The Indigenous Watchdog closely monitors this TRC action item (along with the other 230 individual Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians) to make sure it is being honoured. Here is their update status.
Carolyn Bennett announced on May 26, 2020, that the government’s response to the MMIWG Final Report would not be released as expected in June. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, she was unable to predict when the Action Plan could be expected.
Dec. 15, 2020 – Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs announced their ongoing plans to develop and implement a distinctions-based, regionally relevant, and accountable National Action Plan but offered no timelines or details other than $35 million over six years and $6 million ongoing for Indigenous and 2SLGBTQQIA organizations to continue to consult with their members and ensure the National Action Plan remains accountable and evergreen.
The Ontario Native Women’s Association released “Reconciliation with Indigenous Women: Changing the Story of MMIWG (2020)” on Oct. 4, 2020 highlighting 13 key recommendations covering 28 systems to help guide the development of the National Action Plan.
June 3, 2021 – The Native Women's Association of Canada "has lost confidence in the federal government and is walking away from the 'toxic, dysfunctional' process" to develop its own action plan "Our Calls, Our Actions...The plan includes 65 costed actions to address the MMIG Inquiry's 231 Calls for Justice estimated to cost $30M annually.
The AFN and the AFN Women’s Council released “Breathing Life inro the Calls for Justice: An Action Plan to End Violence Against First Nations Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People” with recommendations in four priority areas:
Justice: address barriers and inequalities in Canada’s justice system
Human security: ensure equitable access to basic needs, including shelter, food, and education
Health and wellness: provide services and programs that are culturally appropriate and trauma-informed
Culture as safety: make cultural identity a priority in all preventative, supportive, and healing activities
June 1, 2021: Toronto Star – The Native Women’s Association of Canada “has lost confidence in the federal government and is walking away from the ‘toxic, dysfunctional’ process” to develop its own action plan “Our Calls, Our Actions…The plan includes 65 costed actions to address the MMIWG Inquiry’s 231 Calls for Justice estimated to cost $30M annually.
Gatineau, QC, June 3, 2019 -- The National Inquiry's Final Report reveals that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada's staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The two-volume report, presented today to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a Closing Ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History, calls for transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country.
News Release: National Inquiry calls for transformative change to eradicate violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA.
Life in the Sex Trade - Myths and Realities (Safer Streets Guide)
The myths that surround the sex trade sometimes make life on the street appear acceptable or even attractive. The reality - a harsh, brutal life with a high degree of poverty, violence, and disease - is a sharp contrast to the myth.
Myth: "You'll be rich and able to buy a car and a house and take nice holidays."
Reality: You will live on $10 a day in a rooming house. Your pimp will give you money for food and cigarettes only; you will owe him for the clothes, food, drugs and alcohol he has been giving you. You get more money on minimum wage.
Myth: "Freedom - no one to tell you what to do and no one to report to all the time"
Reality: Freedom doesn't mean standing outside in the cold and having to perform sex acts on strangers. Your life will be controlled by your pimp.
Myth: "You have the power to say yes or no to tricks"
Reality: When you become hooked on drugs or controlled by your pimp, the choice is gone; you need the money. You will be beaten if you don't perform.
Myth: "Your pimp or a wonderful customer will marry you. You won't end up doing this for the rest of your life".
Reality: Once you're on the street, no one will save you but yourself. There are resources and services you can access if you want out.
Myth: "Your 'boyfriend' really loves you. He's not in it for himself."
Reality: The pimp is neither a father nor a boyfriend. He is financially and sexually exploiting you. He takes total control of your life.
Myth: "You will wear nice clothes and look like a model."
Reality: You will wear what you are told to wear. When it is raining or freezing outside, you still have to wear provocative clothing. you will not have money to buy the clothes you want to wear.
Myth: "You will be able to use a condom to protect yourself from disease."
Reality: Your pimp or trick will decide whether or not you will have "safe sex". It is beyond your control.
Myth: "You will find a 'street family' where everybody is great and friendly."
Reality Life on the streets is not one big happy family. Violence from pimps and johns and between female sex trade workers is commonplace. Girls compete with one another to be the pimp's main girl.
Myth: "Pornography isn't that bad. It's not like you're being abused."
Reality: Many children and youth are recruited into the sex trade through pornography. You will have no control over who sees the videos, magazines, and computer network photos.
How Pimps Target and Entrap Children and Youth
Anderson, Kim (2000) A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood. Toronto: Sumach Press.
Brock Pitawanakwat's (2007) Indigenous Studies: First Nations University.
Brookfield, Stephen (2005) The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cuthand, Doug (2002) Racial profiling a fact of life: [Final Edition]. Leader-Post, p. Bl/FRONT. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies. (Document ID: 268658721).
Schaefer, R. T., & Haaland, B. (2006). Sociology: A brief introduction. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
McClintock, A. (1995). Imperial leather: race, gender, and sexuality in the colonial contest. New York: Routledge
Picard, Andre (2009). With more than 500 aboriginal women missing, action is overdue. Retrieved on December 4, 2009, from:
http://www.theglobeandm ail.com/life/health/with-more-than-500-aboriginal-women-missing-action-is overdue /art icle1274074/
Riverwind, Joseph (2009) Blue Corn Comics. Retrieved on November 3, 2009, from: http://www.bluecorncomics.com /stbasics.htm
Valaskakis, Gail (1992) Being Native in North America. Not Published