Systems & Oppressions


LGBTQ2S+ and Two Spirit people have the highest infection rates among Indigenous populations. These groups make up 81 percent of the reported AIDS cases. Compared to heterosexual youth, LGBTQ2S+ youth are twice as likely to use drugs. This places them at a higher risk for HIV infection. In the past, LGBTQ2S+ and Two Spirit Indigenous people have faced racial discrimination in some “white-urban” health facilities. Conversely, LGBTQ2S+ and Two Spirit people have also experienced homophobia in some Native urban and tribal health clinics. Such treatment may discourage them from seeking necessary medical services and testing.

Sexually transmitted infections (STBBI's) put both men and women at increased risk for HIV infection.

* The presence of STBBI's signifies high-risk behavior, such as unprotected sex.

* STBBI's increase risk by allowing entry for HIV through open sores and microscopic breaks in affected tissue.

* 70-80 percent of STBBI's have no symptoms and go unnoticed, making persons infected more vulnerable to HIV. Native communities with high STBBI incidence rates have a greater likelihood of high HIV/AIDS incidence rates.

* Substance abuse is common in many First Nations communities. It is a major way of transmitting HIV for both men and women. Recent research concluded that AI/AN drug users are at increased risk for HIV because of their drug risk behaviors. Drug and alcohol use impair judgment, lower inhibitions, and lead to risky sexual behavior. Indeed, drug use places men, women, and youth at risk through increased exposure to assault and rape, the exchange of sex for drugs, and unsafe sexual practices.

* Intravenous drug use is becoming more common in urban, rural, and reservation communities. Youth were at high risk because a high percentage of their sex partners were injection drug users and condom use was very limited Indigenous youth also have unique concerns related to substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. Generally, their consumption rates are higher and reasons for drinking include a sense of complete hopelessness and previous childhood traumas. Alcohol and drug abuse are frequently tied to childhood trauma. Depression, low self-esteem, suicide, and other long-term effects of colonization still impact Indigenous youth today. Many youth turn to substance abuse as a means to cope with these issues.

* Condom use is a complex issue tied to poverty, self-esteem, desire to preserve good family relations, physical abuse, rejection, and abandonment. Evidence suggests that a person must have some degree of power in order to negotiate monogamous relationships and the use of condoms. Because poverty also contributes to lack of power, condom use is especially problematic for poor people in violent relationships. People in abusive relationships do not make healthy sexual choices.

The violent crime rate among Indigenous people is 2.5 times the national rate, and the rate for Indigenous women is the highest of all groups. Individuals at risk for violence are demographically similar to those at risk for HIV infection. This includes people who are poor, have low self-esteem, and have little education. Childhood violence results in a variety of behaviors that increase the risk of HIV infection.

Healing Intergenerational Trauma

Many federal policies (Assimilation: The Breakdown of Native Social Structures) had a devastating impact on the economic, political, and emotional well-being of Indigenous Peoples. Federal policies broke down traditional family and tribal social structures .

In 1867, the federal government set up the Indian Residential School System. This System aimed to civilize Native children through education and assimilation into Eurocentric culture. Attendance was voluntary at first, but by 1890, it was enforced. The government threatened to put First Nations people in jail and to take away rations and supplies if parents did not cooperate. Modern child welfare policy moved thousands of children from their families into non-Indian foster care and adoptive homes. Many First Nations children were made to feel culturally and racially inferior. Native children died from disease, homesickness, and suicide. Many children suffered from physical and sexual abuse. Some never returned to their homes and families, contributing to a loss of language, identity, culture, and tradition. Restoring Traditions and traditional values- Indigenous people know who they are and how they are connected to their family, community, and tribe. Traditions may include components of traditional medicine--old ways, ceremonies, and rituals--as well as conventional medicine in the treatment of illness and disease. Traditions may also dictate behavior: for example, it is a Native tradition to care for elders. "We are all connected." This statement reflects how Indigenous people understand the cosmos, as a unifying life force that threads through all things (a circle of life). This belief honors all people, the past, present, and future, and living in harmony the Earth. It incorporates a sense of holism and integrates all of the various components of life--physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Holism is an extension of being connected. In Indigenous communities, programs do not operate in a vacuum; instead they are a part of a greater, more influential whole. Trust is a critical component in building relationships. It is best demonstrated through actions over time, actions that are consistent and observable by community members. Spirituality is an extension of Respect--respect to the "Great Mystery" or "Creator"--and is incorporated into most activities of daily living. Prayers often invoke blessings and ancestors at the beginning of meetings and community gatherings; they serve to connect members of a group.

Breaking the Cycle of Oppression – Ann Bishop

1. Understanding oppression, how it came about, how it is held in place, and how it stamps its pattern on the individuals and institutions that continually recreate it

2. Understanding different oppression's, how they are similar, how they are difference, how they reinforce one another

3. Consciousness and healing

4. Becoming a worker for your own liberation

5. Becoming an ally

6. Maintaining hope

Decolonization on a structural level will engage this same process and will require as its core, the fundamental recognition of Indigenous Peoples right to self-determination, to be the masters of our own destiny, to reclaim and to “practice” our cultural legacy.

Settler organizations must develop alliances with Indigenous organizations and support us to build institutional capacity to provide services to our community.

Settler organizations must immediately stop increasing their capacity in any and all areas that Aboriginal peoples are over-represented.

Decolonization will require that existing services where Aboriginal people are over represented are devolved to the Aboriginal organizations and this is included in organizational strategic planning process

Decolonization is about understanding power inequities and then devolving power back to who it belong to.

“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”

-Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland

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