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Overlapping Time and Place

Early Modern England’s Girlhood Discourse and Indigenous Girlhood in the Dominion of Canada (1684-1860)

Haidee Smith Lefebvre

For nearly two hundred years, Indigenous girls and young women were at the heart of Canada’s fur trade. As wives to British fur traders and as daughters of these unions, they liaised with traders and tribes. Although wives and daughters were viewed initially from an Indigenous perspective they gradually lost their separate identities as traders increasingly held them up to European ideals. Simultaneously, England’s fascination with girls and girlhood fluctuated between seeing girlhood as a gendered life-stage leading to matrimony on the one hand, and girlhood as a rhetorical device unhindered by biology or chronology on the other. In my article I link these two contexts so as to interpret Pauline Johnson’s essay, A Strong Race Opinion. Her essay criticizes contemporaneous Anglo-Canadian authors for depicting Indian heroines in an artificial light rather than as flesh-and-blood girls. My interpretation considers girlhood from an Indigenous perspective as a unique, distinct, and natural identity.