A Recognition of Being

Reconstructing Native Womanhood
Kim Anderson (Second Story Press)

Women, with few exceptions, once held a great deal of power in Aboriginal societies. They were in charge of the home, controlled food distribution (at a time when stored food was a form of wealth), and, since many Aboriginal societies were matrilocal – that is, the husband moved to the wife’s community after marriage – their property rights often exceeded those of men’s. After colonization, however, Aboriginal women not only became stereotypes in the dominant society, but they lost whatever power they once had in their own societies. Kim Anderson discusses this shift in power, the internalization of these stereotypes, and the subsequent negative female identity that still haunts many Aboriginal women today.

A Recognition of Being uses the stories of 40 Aboriginal women to trace what Anderson describes as a four-stage journey – resist, reclaim, construct, act – toward positive self-image. Anderson accompanies the women’s stories with her own well-thought-out commentary, including a backgrounder on identity politics and a section deconstructing the words “tradition” and “culture.”

The questions posed by the women in this book reveal a refreshing resistance to the status quo.

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