By focusing on the continued colonialism of Indigenous people in Canada’s face, Darin Flynn’s “The S-Word: Just Stop Using It,” sends a powerful message. The epithet “savage,” used to describe Indigenous peoples, is at the heart of the story since it lends credence to the stereotype that they are less civilized than those of European descent. The story argues that using such a term is damaging and offensive because it perpetuates the stereotype that Indigenous people are backward and barbaric. This furthers the stereotype that Indigenous people do not deserve the same rights and respect as other groups.
It is difficult to attain one’s full potential when one’s basic needs are unfulfilled, resources are inadequate and do not promote sustained health, and there are continuing chronic pressures in one’s life. Research by Benoit et al. (2019) concludes that racism must be at the heart of the systemic and structural injustices faced by Indigenous Peoples around the globe, including in Canada and the United States. The results of this article define racism as the conviction among members of one race (or the propagation of this conviction among members of other races) that their race is inherently superior to all others. Like the authors, this presumption is biased in favor of the powerful and against the marginalized. Lack of exposure to Indigenous cultures and knowledge systems, public exposure to negative stereotypes, and general misunderstanding about Indigenous Peoples all promote racism and prejudice in Canada. The article further reinforces;
Research studies often fail to recognize the systemic levels of racism experienced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada and internationally, for example, Native Americans in the US, Maori in New Zealand, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia (Bennet et al., 2019, p. 2).
Nevertheless, most research focuses on healthcare systems. Disparities in access, use, and health status among Indigenous Peoples in Canada have been established via systematic reviews, showing how racism penetrates the country’s healthcare institutions. Women of First Nations descent have reported experiencing racism and invalidation when seeking care in traditional hospitals. Those who participated in the study said that nurses and physicians would occasionally dismiss or downplay their worries about their health. Some women have speculated that negative stereotypes play a role in this reaction. They also talked about how service providers ignored women’s economic hardships. This study is essential since it provides overwhelming evidence to show that the problem still exists in the community because it has its roots in the colonial era (Dean & Failler, 2021). Specifically, the research connects racism in colonial and contemporary Canada through evidence such as the conclusion that ‘eliminating racial ideologies may be a near impossibility as these ideas have existed long before 1876.
Consequently, the second article by Baskin (2020) discusses how the colonial states hurt Indigenous women and girls. To a much greater extent than other Indigenous people and non-Indigenous women, Baskin claims. Indigenous women and girls are the targets of violence in all its forms in this article. The author went on to argue that Indigenous women, who only make up around 4% of Canada’s population, are disproportionately affected by violence, with a victimization rate that is three times higher than that of other women. I agree with Baskin’s assessment that this violence level is shockingly severe compared to what the general population is exposed to. Indigenous and non-Indigenous men have perpetrated acts of violence against Indigenous women both within and outside of their homes and communities, particularly in urban settings (Chartrand, 2019). Self-reports of domestic violence are three times as high among indigenous women as among non-Indigenous women, at 10%. From the earliest contact with Europeans, Baskin, in his research, indicated that indigenous women were a direct focus of colonial law and policy. The Jesuit missionaries and the settlers saw firsthand how influential indigenous women were in indigenous households, marriages, politics, and decision-making. According to the author, the colonization era ensured that colonizers “steeped in patriarchy, complained about the lack of male control over women and set out to change that” (Baskin, 2020, p. 182). Women’s roles and status were harmed by foreign concepts that were introduced to replace and denigrate them. The breakdown of tribal groups based on clans, matriarchy, extended family, and collectivity led to the loss of many traditional forms of government and religious beliefs (Dean & Failler, 2021). Elections eroded community confidence, reduced participation, and diminished the effectiveness of previously agreed-upon choices. Women’s views on the world, other cultures, and their identities and places in society never affected colonial policy. That is still relevant in today’s Canadian society, especially due to biased media against indigenous women.
The media’s frequent harsh representations of indigenous women are yet another crucial manifestation of how these minorities experience violence in society amind colonization. If a woman is seen acting in a way not considered proper by a patriarchal society, she is at least somewhat responsible for any acts of violence performed against her. The media often portrays violence victims as poor Indigenous sex workers and heavy drug users who brought the violence upon themselves (Grimwood et al., 2019). This discourse undermines Indigenous women while obscuring the unjust social circumstances that shape their choices. Media coverage of violence towards Indigenous women rarely provides historical and social context, leaving readers with the notion that problems stem from inherent cultural inferiority or an inability to adapt to modern culture. This has the sole effect of promoting racism against indigenous women in society. Racism hinders people’s chances of achieving economic security, physical health, emotional well-being, and independence in expressing their own unique cultures. Baskin (2020) found that racism, both within and across ethnic groups, was a major stressor for African Americans, which might have serious consequences for their health. This was supported by previous research by Benoit et al. (2019), who posited that when racism is a source of stress, the body and mind may react differently, leading to different health outcomes. As a result, racism as a stressor and its manifestation when experiencing chronic and acute stressful life events must also be considered an immediate biological predictor of health for Indigenous Peoples. We can all do our part to improve the health of Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups by working to eliminate racism, a learned behavior propagated by harmful stereotypes.
In a nutshell, both scholarly sources and Flynn’s narrative share a common focus on the ongoing colonialism experienced by Indigenous people in Canada. The dehumanizing and stereotyping of Indigenous people through the term “savage” is only one example of how the stereotype that they are inferior to those of European descent persists. The fact that this word is still in use, together with the historical and contemporary oppression of Indigenous people in Canada, demonstrates the persistence of colonialism in that country. Both scholarly books dive deeper into the topic, highlighting Indigenous communities’ struggles to reclaim their land and rights.
Baskin, C. (2020). Contemporary Indigenous Women’s Roles: Traditional Teachings or internalized colonialism? Violence Against Women, 26(15-16), 2083-2101. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801219888024
Benoit, A. C., Cotnam, J., O’Brien-Teengs, D., Greene, S., Beaver, K., Zoccole, A., & Loutfy, M. (2019). Racism experiences of urban indigenous women in Ontario, Canada: “We all have that story that will break your heart.” International Indigenous Policy Journal, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.18584/iipj.2019.10.2.1
Chartrand, V. (2019). Unsettled times: Indigenous incarceration and the links between colonialism and the penitentiary in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 61(3), 67-89.
Dean, A., & Failler, A. (2021). ‘An Amazing Gift’? Memory entrepreneurship, settler colonialism and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Memory Studies, 14(2), 451–465.
Flynn, D. (2017, September 4). The S-word: Just Stop using it. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-s-word-just-stop-using-it-83198
Grimwood, B. S., Muldoon, M. L., & Stevens, Z. M. (2019). Settler colonialism, Indigenous cultures, and the promotional landscape of tourism in Ontario, Canada’s ‘near North.’ Journal of Heritage Tourism, 14(3), 233-248.