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.
Indigenous Girls' Presencing as Decolonizing Force
Sandrina de Finney
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.
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.
A Success Story?
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.
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.
The Girl in the Text in Olemaun’s Residential School Narratives
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.