From 'Mothers of the 'Nation' to 'Enemies of the State':

How the 'Unfit' Indigenous Mother Holds the Power to Cultural Revolution


  • Cori Balsdon Arts Undergrad



Indigenous women's contributions, Motherhood, settler-colonialism, Eugenics, Sterilization, Indigenous Resurgence


This paper explores how the colonial construction of Indigenous women as ‘unfit’ mothers of ‘inferior’ status justifies state interference in their lives, perpetuates other harmful stereotypes within the public consciousness and blames Indigenous mothers for their life conditions. Sterilization is but one weapon used by the Canadian state to violate Indigenous women’s right to reproductive autonomy, both historically and at present. Recent Canadian reports investigate Indigenous women’s claims to forced tubal ligation procedures and how coercion within colonial institutions stripped them of their power and identity through the removal of choice. Multiple class-action lawsuits are currently underway in Canada, where the voices of Indigenous women who have suffered the intergenerational impacts of colonialism in their daily lives and at the hands of western medical institutions are demanding justice and recognition of their basic human rights. Despite at least five generations of state-directed violence against them, Indigenous mothers continue to resist colonization of their bodies, land, and communities. Through reconnecting to their past, present, and future, Indigenous mothers are remembering their inherent roles and responsibilities as mothers of the nation. They have never forgotten their power nor their role as protectors of their people. They have always resisted. I aim to amplify the voices of Indigenous women in a country that has silenced them for too long and acknowledge that I by no means am interpreting their work through my point of view – I am giving them the space they deserve.