Aboriginal women say that inhumane colonial slander is still used frequently, causing harm
caveat: This article contains derogatory terms for indigenous women and stories about their impact. Some readers may find these terms offensive or disturbing. For this reason, the term has been reviewed.
“Stupid f–king sq–w.”
These three words still haunt Tala Tootoosis.
The 37-year-old Plainscri, Lakotasu and Gauteng Noni women burst into tears when she recalled the first time she was called “sq–w”, which is a derogatory meaning to indigenous women word.
It came out of his mouth, as if calling my name.-Tootoosis story
She was still a teenager at the time and was about to have her first date with a non-indigenous man.
“I let myself like him until the end of the night, and it happened when I said I didn’t want to sleep with him,” she said.
Tootoosis is the mother of three children. She is a social worker in Saskatoon. She is also a poet, writer, and advocate of anti-rape culture. She is well-known in the community for making ribbon skirts.
“And it’s much more than that,” she said. “I am an indigenous woman; a proud Nehia Isqui [Cree woman].”
When Tootoosis was called “sq-w”, she said that it was almost like a coming-of-age ceremony for the young man she was dating.
“If an indigenous woman rejects you, you can call her sq-w. If she makes you angry, you can call her sq-w.
“That’s how I feel that this word can be easily thrown away,” Tootoosis said. “It came from his mouth, as if he was calling my name.”
CBC News interviewed more than a dozen indigenous women from the savannah and told about their experience of being called the word. Many people suppress the memory of the first occurrence. They call it dehumanization and say it will have a serious impact on how indigenous women perceive themselves.
They also said that this illustrates the continuing impact of colonization and the worrying way many people in today’s society view and treat indigenous women.
Watch | I was called the S word for the first time-Aboriginal women share their stories:
Women proudly call themselves ikwe, iskwew, iskwewak (Kerry) or Kui (Anishnaabe)-A different term for “woman” in indigenous languages.
‘It stopped my footsteps’
Erica Violet Lee was first called “sq–w” when she was 11 years old. She transferred to a new school in Saskatoon, and the students were mainly white.
“I remember playing on the playground and hearing someone call this name to me,” she said.
“It stopped my footsteps.”
When I heard this word, all I thought of was that when I was called it, it tore the carpet from under my feet.-Erica Violet Lee
Li, now 30, said she had a different view of herself after that.
“In this province, this country, and this city, being a young indigenous girl, a woman who is obviously racist will have a real impact,” Li said.
“Many of these influences involve violence. They involve depriving us of our agency.
“They involve dehumanizing us, which is directly related to the land and our relationship to the land.”
Lee grew up in West Saskatoon and is a scholar, philosopher, musician, poet, and community organizer.
In an interview with CBC News, she refused to say or admit the word “sq–w”.
“This is not one of those words created for us. There is no power for me,” Li said.
“When I heard this word, all I thought of was the era when I was called it. It tore the carpet from under my feet. No matter how much education I have, no matter how good Indian I am, things will always happen. come back to me.”
Distorted from indigenous words
Li said that when non-indigenous people use the word “sq–w”, many people don’t know the history or meaning behind it.
“White people know this word is offensive, and they choose to use it against us because they know it hurts,” she said.
“For me, it definitely shows that it is an exercise of power.”
Defamation originated in indigenous languages, from the word “woman”.
Several geographic landmarks in Canada and the United States carry this term, and many of them have been renamed or are in the process of being renamed because the term is now widely regarded as derogatory.
Tootoosis says that the word Plain Cree is a mixture of the two Scot (Fire) and squeak (Ms).
“They are connected to each other, squeak with Scot: We are the heart. We are the fire of the country,” she said.
“When you break this and make up some derogatory words to label us and belittle us, it will take away a lot of things, especially when you know everything we have experienced in all rapes and sexual assaults, the source Child sexual abuse from Indian boarding schools and foster families, all sexual violence, especially MMIW [missing and murdered Indigenous women].”
A sexualized and gendered term
Tootoosis said that the word “sq–w” is not just a derogatory term.
“It becomes more… in one sentence, a slander, a hate crime, because it destroys you as a woman and is called that.”
This is an attack on the female spirit of our country, because they see that we are rising.-Valchinistino
Tootoosis said that to this day, her early experience of being called the word when dating made her cautious and often afraid of interacting with white men.
“Some people sexyize indigenous women because this is part of their lens.”
Val Kinistino agreed. She is a native of Ochapovas in the Territory of Treaty 4 east of Regina.
She said that this outdated term is a direct attack on the spirit of indigenous women as guardians of their culture and leaders and land defenders in such movements. No longer idle, Standing stone with Wet’suwet’en.
“This is an attack on the female spirit of our country because they see that we are rising. We are bringing our family together. We are rising for our people, but people don’t appreciate this,” she said .
“We are the backbone of the country. “
An educational opportunity
Among the many Aboriginal women interviewed by CBC, retracting the term is not a popular idea.
Geraldine Carriere is an exception. She said that this is exactly what she would do when faced with being called “sq-w”.
If someone called her “sq–w”, she said she would answer: “Yes, I am a sq–w. I am very sexy. I am this and that.”
Carriere knows that her views may be controversial. She said it was about having her own rights as an indigenous woman.
“No one can say anything to me. You can’t hurt me,” said 36-year-old Carriere, who lives in Edmonton but originally came from the Cumberland Manor in Susk.
Li has a different view on the word retracted.
“I think our community can take back certain terms… but for me? The S word has no salvation or worth saving.”
She said that when indigenous people face derogation, it is the job of non-indigenous people to act as their allies and educate themselves.
“I hope to see more people sit down and think about how we got here? So history will not repeat itself.”
Kokum Brenda Dubois also believes that being called “sq-w” is an educational opportunity.
The Saulteaux and Métis women from the Territory of the 4th Treaty faced color discrimination (a type of discrimination based on skin color) as a child in her community. She was teased for being “too fair” and “looks white”.Her peers call her Munias-Iskevi (White women).
Du Bois said: “I must remove the restrictions and brainwashing of boarding schools, I must re-recognize myself, not only as a woman, but also my identity and what it means.”
Now in her 60s, she calls herself “proud squeak Ms. ”
“Put on your skirt, look up, and find out who you are. You are squeak, So every time someone says [the S-word] Here you are, refactor it. Flip it and thank them and correct them. ‘Actually it is squeak. Thank you for admitting that I am a woman,'” Du Bois said.
“Kiam.” (Go on in a positive way.)