Six Indigenous women, each with a history of a street lifestyle, have co-authored a book with Robert Henry (Metis, Prince Albert), Assistant Professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan. The written experiences and photographs of Amber, Bev, Chantel, Jazmyme, Faith, and Jorgina form the book Indigenous Women and Street Gangs: Survivance Narratives published recently by University of Alberta Press.
Many non-Indigenous Canadians will not understand what it’s like to be an Indigenous woman born into poverty within a country that systematically discriminates against them based on the colour of their skin tone, socioeconomic background, cultural identity, or ethnic background.
Many non-Indigenous Canadians however will read about street gangs in local newspapers and watch their local news talk about Indigenous street gangs. They might never understand the root causes that lead some Indigenous populations to live on the streets.
That’s what this book offers readers, a glimpse into the lived experiences of Indigenous women who were involved in street gangs and how they liberated themselves from the harsh lifestyle. Although all of the six lived experiences in the book are different from each other they have a common experience of abuse as children, sexual abuse, violence, domestic violence, and psychological mental abuse. However, despite all the odds against them, each woman talks about how she survived street life and collectively they rise from the ashes to provide hope for themselves and others by sharing their lived experiences.
The stories of these six women provide a telling tale of how Canada’s colonial systems have failed Indigenous women. These systems, including Canadian residential schools and child welfare, have negatively impacted the lives of Indigenous women.
The cycle of abuse and lack of love these women have experienced can be traced to their families’ direct negative experiences with Canada’s Residential Schools. On top of intergenerational traumas caused by Residential Schools, the participants in this book highlight the negative impacts of child welfare and foster homes.
And finally despite what these six women have gone through they have persevered. Their ‘survivance’ is a testament to the resilience and strength of Indigenous women. I would highly recommend this book to women’s groups, organizations that deal with high-risk groups looking for examples of how to liberate themselves from street gang activity, law enforcement, educators, and social workers. The book is great for understanding the root causes of street gangs specific to Indigenous women.