Asokana: Living Well as Indigenous Women Who Have Not Had Children

  • Author / Creator
    Villebrun, Gwendolyn, D.
  • As we find ways to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (2015) and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice (2019), there are stories about intergenerational trauma that remain silenced. One such story is about Indigenous women who have not had children. As a Dene/Métis woman who is a descendent of three generations of Indian Residential School survivors, I believed that colonial impacts left an imprint on me psychologically, socially, and physiologically, contributing to my infertility. While more women are not having children (Statistics Canada, 2020), stories about childlessness and infertility are primarily from European-descendent, middle-class perspectives, marginalizing the experiences of women of colour. With an Indigenous feminist lens, this inquiry is an untold story that disrupts the colonial imperative that silences the lived experiences of Indigenous women. It is also a restory that begins with the oppressive sociopolitical impacts on Indigenous women and their reproduction and ends in Indigenous resurgence, healing, and wellness.
    Using Indigenous research methodology, stories about what it means to live well as Indigenous women who do not have children were gathered from an Elder, Knowledge Keeper, and five other Indigenous women who do not have children. Their stories are arranged into three sections: a traditional story, individual stories, and a collective story. Asokana (Cree word for bridges) is used as a metaphor to guide the themes of the collective story about living well. Through the stories, we learn that the women in this study were asokana. As traditionally valued, they held, carried, and created connections for their families and communities. They were also asokana for themselves. By not having children, the women chose lives that offered them opportunities and freedoms, and the ability to embrace their lives on their own terms.
    The inquiry ends with a discussion, suggestions for future inquiries, and implications for practice. I close with my reflections on how the women in this study were my asokana, guiding me to return home.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.