Life Stages and Native Women
Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine


Cover image (Life Stages and Native Women)

A rare and inspiring guide to the health and well-being of Aboriginal women and their communities.The process of “digging up medicines” - of rediscovering the stories of the past - serves as a powerful healing force in the decolonization and recovery of Aboriginal communities. In Life Stages and Native Women, Kim Anderson shares the teachings of fourteen elders from the Canadian prairies and Ontario to illustrate how different life stages were experienced by Metis, Cree, and Anishinaabe girls and women during the mid-twentieth century. These elders relate stories about their own lives, the experiences of girls and women of their childhood communities, and customs related to pregnancy, birth, post-natal care, infant and child care, puberty rites, gender and age-specific work roles, the distinct roles of post-menopausal women, and women’s roles in managing death. Through these teachings, we learn how evolving responsibilities from infancy to adulthood shaped women’s identities and place within Indigenous society, and were integral to the health and well-being of their communities. By understanding how healthy communities were created in the past, Anderson explains how this traditional knowledge can be applied toward rebuilding healthy Indigenous communities today.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Contents 6
Acknowledgements 10
Foreword by Maria Campbell 16
Introduction- Digging Up the Medicines 24
“How It Was”: Looking for Native Women’s History 27
Life Cycle Teachings of the Anishinaabek 28
Overview of the Book 32
Chapter 1 - Weaving the Stories 36
Purpose: Listening for Stories that “Work like Arrows” 39
Building on Relationships 41
Responsibilities 44
Working with the Historian Participants 45
Chapter 2 - People and Places 48
Michif, Nēhiyawak, Anishinaabek: Locating the Oral Historians 48
The Times 49
Introducing the Oral Historian Participants 53
Chapter 3 - The Life Cycle Begins: From Conception to Walking 59
Maintaining the Life Line 60
Birth and the Celebration of New Life 67
Caring for Infants 77
“Walking Out”: The Toddler Years 83
Conclusion 84
Chapter 4 - The “Good Life” and the“Fast Life”: Childhood and Youth 86
The “Good Life”: Nurturing, Discipline, Self-Reliance,and Interdependence 87
The “Fast Life”: Moving into Adolescence 104
Conclusion 116
Chapter 5 - Adult Years: The Women’s Circle 118
Entering the Women’s Circle 119
Managing the Resources: Work Within the Women’s Circle 125
Keepers of Relationships: Collectivism and Kinship 133
Sexuality, Courting, and Marriage 139
Conclusion 146
Chapter 6 - Grandmothers and Elders 147
General Roles and Responsibilities for the Elder Years 148
Beginning with the Physical: Aging 152
Leadership and Governance 155
Teaching 164
Managing the Health of the Community 168
Doorkeepers to the Spirit World 175
Conclusion 180
Conclusion - Bundling the Layers: Building on the Strengths of the Pastto Take Us into the Future 182
Layer One: The Power of Women and Girls 183
Layer Two: Connecting the Stories to Life Stage Theory 186
Layer Three: Contributions to the Health and Well-Being ofNative Communities 188
Layer Four: Applying Story Medicine, Today, and into the Future 190
Notes 201
Introduction 201
Chapter 1: Weaving the Stories 203
Chapter 2: People and Places 207
Chapter 3: The Life Cycle Begins 208
Chapter 4: The “Good Life” and the “Fast Life” 211
Chapter 5: Adult Years 214
Chapter 6: Grandmothers and Elders 217
Conclusion: Bundling the Layers 219
Bibliography 220
Index 228