By Erika Mathieu
Westwind Weekly News
A study on the prevalence and impact of racial violence against Kainai/Blood Tribe members was published earlier this month by the principal investigator for the study, Dr. Gabrielle Lindstrom. A goal of the study is to promote a foundation on which to build better relationships, “with the surrounding non-Indigenous communities and municipalities,” in southern Alberta.
A community notice, published on Aug. 31, outlined the experiences which necessitated the study, including, “blatant incidents of racism,” directed at members of the Kainai/Blood Tribe, including the impact of this racial discrimination on the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of members of the Blood Tribe First Nation.
Dr. Lindstrom, a Kainai nation member, professor, and researcher began work on the study in 2019, following Tribal Government’s successful funding application to the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund. The evidence-based study ran over two years, intending to develop a better understanding of the ways racism functions and use the findings as a means to mitigate its impact on community members.
Dr. Lindstrom asserts that the racism experienced by Kainai/Blood Tribe members is a ubiquitous presence in “settler communities surrounding Kainai,” including those situated within Lethbridge and Cardston Counties. Lindstrom describes the racism and racial violence against Blood Tribe community members as “a longstanding issue in the region of southern Alberta.”
Lindstrom’s study found that 95 per cent of surveyed Kainai respondents reported they had experienced or worried about racial discrimination throughout their childhood, which Lindstrom said can have profound life-long impacts, including physiological impact, toxic stress, and physical ailments as a result. In surrounding towns and municipalities, respondents reported the prevalence of, “daily encounters with racism, while looking for employment, and housing, on the job racial discrimination, negligent care in the healthcare system, feeling unprotected and discriminated against by the police, especially in the town of Cardston, and general feelings of being unsafe dehumanized, and stereotyped in the City of Lethbridge and surrounding towns.”
As National Day for Truth and Reconciliation nears, Dr. Lindstrom’s findings as an evidence-based, qualitative, local study, reflect how racism impacts Kainai people in this locale. Information on the non-Indigenous survey data was obtained through a third party (Leger Market Research Inc.) found respondents demonstrated an outright denial of the racism reported by Kainai survey participants and showed, “very little evidence of a critical understanding of the nature of settler-colonialism,” and its lasting impacts on Indigenous communities. Dr. Lindstrom said the survey revealed, “there was abundant evidence of denial in the survey responses from those who resided in small towns.”
Dr. Lindstrom’s segmentation analysis also revealed inconsistencies between non-Indigenous respondents’ perception of their own allyship, and how Kainai Elders defined racism. “Being an ally means one is moved towards changing systems and prepared to use their power to ensure Kainai are given space to be Kainai,” she said in the summation of her research findings.
In addition to incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and learning into non-Indigenous institutions and spaces, the following recommendations for “meaningful reconciliation” were also made:
1) Creating an anti-racism coalition in partnership with surrounding communities which would operate congruently with language and perspectives of Kainai people, resulting in honest dialogue, “around colonial truths as opposed to unilateral arrangements that merely reproduce power imbalance”; 2) reframe definitions (such as racism or ally-ship) to align with the Kainai’s experiences, allowing for, “better understandings of roles and relationships within an Indigenous/Settler context, and; 3) commitment to implementing strategies which will build, “Kainai capacities to withstand ongoing racism, and other violent processes related to settler colonialism,” noting the research provides, “compelling evidence” that the healthcare and justice systems are, “primary sites,” which put Indigenous people at risk, at a systemic level. The recommendation suggests a need to develop, “in-community capacities,” which would strengthen coping abilities to better manage physical and mental medical outcomes of the racial discrimination experienced by Kainai people, beginning in early childhood.
The release of the research is timely as Canadians acknowledge Orange Shirt Day, or the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this Friday. Dr. Lindstrom’s concrete recommendations can guide non-Indigenous people and leaders to move this day of critical reflection into an actionable change in the remaining 364 days of the year.
Dr. Lindstrom is an associate professor at Mount Royal University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in English, and a Master’s degree in Native American Studies, and completed her Doctoral degree in 2018, in Educational Research with an emphasis on Adult Learning Specialization. A summary of the study included findings, recommendations, and research methodologies can be found by visiting https://bloodtribe.org/index.php/2022/09/01/community-notice-blood-tribe-anti-racism-study-and-implementation-of-study-recommendations-august-31-2022/.