Aboriginal women want to restore what they had prior to the implementation of the infamous "Indian Act" - the primary instrument used to destroy the language, tradition and culture of the aboriginal people of Canada. They want to return to the principle of equality between the male and female that was evident in many of Canada's First Nations. They want to heal themselves, their partners, their families and communities. They want to heal in the traditional way, they want access to healing lodges near their families and communities. They want culturally-appropriate programs and want them delivered from people of their own race or from people who are culturally sensitive. They want restitution from the churches who administered the residential schools and were instrumental in destroying language, living and parental skills that had been handed down for generations upon generations. They want services to be holistic in nature, that is, to treat the person in body, mind and spirit. They want racism to end. They want their rightful place in Canadian society.

In summary, what aboriginal women want is equality, holistic healing, restitution from the churches, a revival of their traditional way of life and an end to racism. Is that any different than what any women of mainstream society would want if they had lived and were living under these same conditions? I think not.

Claudette Dumont-Smith is an Algonquin and a registered nurse who was appointed to the aboriginal circle on the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women by the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada. She is also serving as associate commissioner for the National Aboriginal Child Care Commission of the Native Council of Canada. She has been involved in the aboriginal health field since 1974.

My Children's Ancestor

by Maureen Townsend

The decision to leave behind me a past scarred with violence from before my birth began a journey far beyond any concept I had known, into a realm of love and acceptance that at times has been freighting, challenging and beautiful, each step turning into a precious foothold on the earth, my new home. Exchanging memories I had chosen to forget for new memories, full of life, giving me hope for each new day. Learning to "be present" has been the most frightening of all; leaving my safety nest created to protect me felt like a strange place I had never been.

Once again, I feel the wonder of a child taking in the earth with amazement and anticipation, each day becoming a day to remember. A sense of grief often comes when I realize how much was stolen from me by someone else's hand, by their lack of skills to provide my needs, which I so desperately wanted them to do. I am saddened when I realize how many people, my ancestors, have been destroyed by what is called "family violence." I choose to see it more as "society violence," a tolerance towards behavior that is killing more people than all the famines, wars, and diseases put together.

Perhaps, one day, by choosing the steps I have taken, my children will look back and have some new knowledge to add to the book of ancestors, as their children's children look back to see their legacy. Preventing the violence is a never-ending job, as there is so much to repair in my life and in the lives of my children. Going forward sometimes seems like an endless race towards a goal that is invisible. My heros have become the women before me who have challenged and conquered this brutal enemy, some giving their lives to ensure my freedom to take the choices available to me. To these women I owe my life. I am my children's ancestor.

Maureen Townsend is a survivor of abuse suffered both in childhood and as an adult. She has been in the process of healing since 1988 and is by choice the non-custodial parent of four children.

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