The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women also known informally as White Ribbon Day is a day commemorated in Canada each December 6, which is also the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre, in which fourteen women were singled out for their gender and murdered. The day is often marked by vigils, discussions and other reflections on violence against women. I put my review of "Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide" written by Andrea Smith here on my blog to remind us all that women are important, and we cannot be taken by conquest. It is books like Andrea Smith's that reminds us all, we are all very much fighters and survivors. Please take a moment on December 6, to remember our sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers who have been taken from us through violence, and pray that some day, that violence against our women happens no more.
Book Review: Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
By Christine McFarlane
“Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide,” written by Andrea Smith and with a brief foreword written by Winona LaDuke is a book that is definitely difficult to read. Smith’s book is something that needs to be read in bits and pieces. If you try to ingest it in one shot, it can be very overwhelming. Taking breaks from it here and there helps you to understand the information you are taking in.
“Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide” is a revolutionary text. It is a book that goes into great length of discussing the different forms of violence that Native women and women of colour are subjected to. She mentions numerous forms of violence such as colonialism, genocide, racism and rape. These forms of violence can be seen as tools of genocide and their impact on Native women and women of colour are devastating. She gives a very thorough analysis of these issues and argues that the connections between these forms of violence are perpetrated by the state and by society at large.
Smith believes that that “the assimilation into white society increased Native women’s vulnerability to violence and states that “when the Cherokee nation was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in the nineteenth century, soldiers targeted for sexual violence Cherokee women who spoke English and had attended mission schools instead of those who had not taken part in these assimilation efforts. She further explains the colonization process in which “part of the colonizing process involves partially assimilating the colonized in order to establish colonial rule, and if the colonized group seems completely different from the colonists, they implicitly challenge the supremacy of colonial rule because they are refusing to adapt to the ways of the colonizers.”
A particular part in this book that really grabbed my attention was the mention of “the ideology of Native women’s bodies as rapable and is evident in the hundreds of missing Indigenous women in Mexico and Canada. In Canada, alone, Smith states, “there are over 500 First Nations women that have gone missing or have been murdered in the past 15 years with little police investigation. These cases are often neglected because many of the women were homeless or sex workers.”
Smith cites many other examples of abuses against Indigenous peoples. These abuses include the following, the abduction of Native children from their homes into the foster care system, the violation of human rights in the implementation of boarding schools which also includes the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of thousands of Native children, rape of the land, which means the dispossession of Indigenous peoples land and territories, environmental destruction, sterilization abuse that was done against the will of Native women in order to control population, and the medical experimentation in Native communities in which Native women had to participate in because they were given no other choice.
Andrea Smith challenges conventional thinking with “Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.” It is a powerful book that though published in 2005 is still very much relevant and important for all to read to this day.