Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2008, pp. 79-80.
The articles grouped in Contact Zones examine the racial, class, and gender power relations that developed in nineteenth- and twentieth-century English Canada in the spaces where contact between colonizers and colonized occurred. The repercussions of contact were far greater for Aboriginals since the balance of power between the two groups was rarely even and "[t]he process of 'forming a community' in the new land necessarily meant 'unforming' or re-forming the communities that existed already" (Ania Loomba, Colonialism/ Postcolonialism. 1998, #Z). Missionaries, government officials, and settlers attempted to transform Aboriginal women by imposing metropolitan ideals of domesticity, sexuality, and work.
Although most of the authors and one of the editors of this anthology can trace their origins to the Canadian West or currently work in western Canada, only two articles deal specifically with the Prairie West. Sherry Farrell Racette's "Sewing for a Living: The Commodification of Metis Women's Artistic Production," in the volume's first section, examines mid-nineteenth-century Red River Metis women's successful negotiation of colonialism. These mixed-race women used their knowledge of both Aboriginal and white worlds to playa critical role in the fur trade economy by using their traditional sewing skills to provide clothing for employees of fur trading posts, settlers, and travelers in the Northwest. Other articles in this section show how Aboriginal women used their "in-betweenness" and their writing and performances to correct negative stereotypes of Aboriginal women (Carole Gerson and Veronica Strong-Boag on poet Pauline Johnson) and to speak out for First Nations people (Cecilia Morgan).