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Under the Shadow of Empire

Indigenous Girls' Presencing as Decolonizing Force

Sandrina de Finney

This article calls for a reconceptualization of Indigenous girlhoods as they are shaped under a western neocolonial state and in the midst of overlapping forms of colonial violence targeting Indigenous girls. By disrupting the persistent construction of Indigenous girl bodies as insignificant and dispensable, I explore alternative conceptualizations of trauma, place, and girlhood that might enact a more critical, politicized girlhood studies. I link this analysis to Leanne Simpson's (2011) notion of “presence” as a form of decolonizing resurgence. Drawing from participatory research studies and community-change projects conducted with and by Indigenous girls between the ages of 12 and 19 years in western British Columbia, Canada, girls' everyday processes of resurgence and presencing are highlighted in the hope of expanding understandings of their cumulative effects as decolonizing forces.

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Dustin William Louie

In this article, based on research I conducted in Western Canada, I discuss the significance of the emerging influence of social media on the overrepresentation of Indigenous girls in sexually exploitative situations. In interviews I conducted with Indigenous sexual exploitation survivors and intervention staff I found that social media is being used to recruit Indigenous girls and keep them exploited in three distinct ways: targeting girls in reserve communities and luring them to the city; setting up so-called dates to keep them off the streets; and facilitating constant communication between the victim and victimizer, thus ensuring that girls are perpetually active and reachable. I respond to these by outlining educational possibilities in order to combat the exposure of these girls to predators on social media sites.

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Mercedes González de la Rocha and Agustín Escobar Latapí

For as long as national records have been kept, Indigenous rural girls in Mexico

have spent the least amount of time in school (aside from some people with disabilities).

An innovative social program was designed in the 1990s that aimed to

stop the intergenerational transmission of poverty through the provision of cash

transfers (higher for girls than for boys) to families, conditional upon their children’s

attendance at school and health clinics. We set out to assess whether or not

the program had closed these gender and ethnicity gaps and found that it did narrow

substantially pre-existing inequalities among rural indigenous poor girls and

their families and, in some instances, reversed them. We recognize that the program

does not eliminate other structural forces discriminating against indigenous

Mexican girls and that prolonged education is an instrument for mobility only if

these other forces are counterbalanced by more comprehensive social strategies.

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Natalie Clark

In this article I will centre the historic and ongoing resistance of Indigenous

girls to violence through colonial policies and practices. I challenge conventional

intersectionality scholarship by foregrounding anti-colonialism and Indigenous

sovereignty/nationhood. Using examples from my own work, I illustrate the manifestation

of colonial power and persistent resistance in the lives of Indigenous

girls. Through these stories, I will discuss the everyday practices of witnessing and

resisting the discourses of risk. Red intersectionality will be offered as one way

forward in relation to my ongoing work on violence.

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Claudia Mitchell

This issue of Girlhood Studies begins with a Special Section on Indigenous Girls as a critical area of scholarship and activism in girlhood studies. Recognizing the need for decolonizing perspectives and approaches, the guest editors, Kirstsen Lindquist, Kari-dawn Wuttunee, and Sarah Flicker offer a boundary-breaking collection. Apart from its being the first assemblage on Indigenous girls as far as we know, the Special Section is unique in several other ways. First, it is guest edited by an editorial team that includes two young Indigenous women, Kirsten and Kari-dawn, who are both members of the National Indigenous Young Women’s Council (NIYWC) and, as such, it draws on the strength of an organization of young Indigenous women. Second, it highlights the significance of community alliances as evidenced in the contributions of Sarah who has been working with Indigenous young people in Canada for over a decade. Third, acknowledging global solidarity amongst Indigenous peoples, as recognized, for example, in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,2 the collection includes submissions on Indigenous girls and girlhoods in Canada, South Africa, and Mexico. Finally, it is boundary-breaking in that it brings together different genres of writing and creative productions including articles, poetry, a personal essay, reviews (including one based on the contributor’s own familial oppression), an account of how and why a contributor set up a sexual health initiative, and a piece of Indigenous visual art, all of which support the endeavor of decolonizing knowledge in both theory and practice.

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"Like Alice, I was Brave"

The Girl in the Text in Olemaun’s Residential School Narratives

Roxanne Harde

In the genre of residential school narratives for children, Not My Girl (2014) stands out for the determination, courage, and resilience of its narrator, a young girl who chooses to go to a Catholic boarding school, and then draws on both her culture and a British novel, Alice in Wonderland, about a brave girl for strength and resilience. This article traces Olemaun’s journey as she follows Alice into literacy but finds her own methods of resisting colonial oppression and asserting Indigenous agency.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

We take the title of our editorial introduction to this themed issue of Girlhood Studies from Sandrina de Finney’s lead article in which she explores “alternative conceptualizations of trauma, place, and girlhood that might enact a more critical, politicized girlhood studies.” Contributions to this issue offer what the guest editors refer to as a re-description of girls in crisis. In so doing not only do they offer challenges to definitions of crisis, they also deepen our understanding of what transformative practices might look like. From a consideration of Indigenous girlhood in Canada to a study of country girls in Australia, from work on YouTube to Holloback! and other social media platforms to girls’ digital representations of their own safety, and from changes in newspaper discourse about murdered girls to a consideration of work done with incarcerated girls, we are invited to re-think this notion of girls-in-crisis, and its significance.

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Claudia Mitchell

Now, in 2017, Girlhood Studies begins its tenth year. It is a tribute to our guest editors and contributors that we have been able to take on such a range of topics and concerns. Quantitatively, we have passed the one million mark in relation to the number of words about girlhood in the first twenty issues of the journal. The various guest editors have tackled such critical issues as critiques of girl power, girls and post-conflict, girls and health, girlhood studies and media, dolls and play, memory work methodologies in the study of girlhood, literary texts and girlhood, visual disruptions, girlhood and disabilities, Indigenous girlhoods, and ethical practices in girlhood studies.

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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.

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Brigette Krieg

Statistical representation of young Indigenous women in Canada presents an

alarming picture of adversity characterized by addiction, pregnancy, and academic

underachievement. Using Photovoice as a vehicle for community dialogue and

education, the goal of this project was not to further the literature that examines

the limitations of young Indigenous women, but to examine their strengths and

their resilience. The project intended to document the lived experiences of young

Indigenous women and comment on youth-identified issues and responses to the

challenges experienced by Indigenous girls residing in urban centres. The level of

insight and maturity demonstrated by the photographers was astounding; these

young girls were able to consider their own circumstances within the broader context

of family and community. Further, they examined their circumstances critically

in relation to the historical consequences of past generations. In doing this,

the photographers, rather than getting trapped in a cycle of negativity reminiscing

about past wrongs, created opportunity for positive change and raised hope for

this generation.