Looking back, I wish that I had spent more time finding more research. I feel that the secondary sources that I found were extremely helpful and did give me a well developed argument and provided the basis for my essay. However, I struggled to find primary sources, and I could not find primary sources written from Aboriginals perspectives. The struggle with doing this type of research is that any primary sources still existing were usually written by the colonizers, which excluded the Aboriginals perspectives. Stories from residential school survivors, although true, because they are recalling past memories, their stories could not be fully accurate. Overall, I have become aware of understanding what can and cannot be considered a primary source for this type of research. It is important to understand how historical narratives cannot always be considered true fact.

This research project has allowed me to gain another aspect into aboriginal history and connect me to my herritage a little bit more.

Methodology: Finding My Sources

My process of searching for sources was in no particular strategic order but was completed throughout the span of this semester. My research began with Mary-Ellen Kelm’s book Colonizing Bodies, Myra Rutherdale’s book Children, Health, and Hygiene in Northern Canadian Communities, as well as Ian Mosby’s article Administering Colonial Science. These readings were assigned as class readings (see reading log blog post for summaries of the readings) which really helped me begin my research as they were analyzed in class and the core concepts discussed in depth. These readings confirmed that the research topic I had chosen was exactly what I wanted to do. From here I re-found the past books I used in pervious essays and explored them again, only this time specifically searching for anything to do with health. The rest of my search for sources was left to exploring the schools online library for any books and/or articles that would be of use to me. Through this data source I was able to find my sources that covered the impact seen today on Aboriginal health. Finding secondary sources was very easy, and I was able to base my research project largely off of the Kelm book as it was written specifically about colonizing Aboriginal bodies.

My sources:

Adelson, Naomi. “The embodiment of inequality: health disparities in aboriginal Canada.Canadian Journal of Public Health 96, (2005): 545-561. Retrieved from:

Bryce, H. P. Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the North West Territories. Chief Medical Officer, Department of Indian Affairs. (1907). Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau

Bryce, H. P. The Story of a National Crime: An Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada. Chief Medical Officer, Department of Indian Affairs. (1922). Ottawa: James Hope & Sons

Fiske, Jo-Anne and Browne, Annette. “Aboriginal Citizen, Discredited Medical Subject: Paradoxical Constructions of Aboriginal Women’s Subjectivity in Canadian Health Care Policies.” Policy Science, 39, No. 1. (2006): 91-111. Doi: 10.1007/s11077-006-9013-8

Gleason, Mona, “Race, Class, and Health: School Medical Inspection and Healthy Children in British Columbia, 1890-1930.” In Children’s Health Issues in Historical Perspective, edited by Cheryl Krasnick Warsh and Veronica Strong-Boag. Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2005.

Grant, Agnes. No End of Greif: Indian Residential Schools in Canada. Toronto: Pemmican Publications Inc., 1996.

Kasper, Violet. “The lifetime Effect of Residential School attendance of Indigenous Health Status.” American Journal of Public Health 104, 11. (2014). Doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301479

Kelm, Mary-Ellen. Colonizing Bodies: Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia, 1900-1950. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1998

Light, Penny Tracy, Barbara Brookes, & Wendy Mitchinson, eds. Bodily Subjects: Essays on Gender and Health, 1800-2000. London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014

Mosby, Ian. “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1962.” Social History, Vol. 46, No. 91, (2013).

Rutherdale, Myra, “Children, Health, and Hygiene in Northern Canadian Communities, 1900-1970.” In Children’s Health Issues in Historical Perspective, edited by Cheryl Krasnick Warsh and Veronica Strong-Boag. Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2005.

Smith, Dawn, Collen Varcoe and Nancy Edwards. “Turning Around the Intergenerational Impact of Residential Schools on Aboriginal People: Implications for Health Policy and Practice. CJNR 37, no. 4 (2005): 38-60.

Waldram, James B., D. Ann Herring, & T. Kue Young. Aboriginal Health in Canada: Historical, Cultural, and Epidemiological Perspectives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

Discovering my Research Topic

When this course began and we received the instructions for our research project I new right away I wanted to do something regarding Aboriginals. After hearing a couple lectures on embodied citizenship and authority and health ideals I knew that I wanted to focus my research project on colonization of Aboriginal bodies. This topic is something that I have never explored before or even considered. We learn so much about the colonization of Aboriginals as a culture in history, but researching on the colonization of Aboriginals bodies goes so much more in depth. After reading a few chapters from Mary-Ellen Kelm’s book Colonizing Bodies I knew that this was the topic I wanted to further investigate. Studying the colonization of bodies to me feels like researching outside of the box and brining in more of a philosophical aspect. My reasoning for choosing my demographic to be children in residential schools is because I feel that they were the most vulnerable to having their bodies colonized by authoritative figures. In previous research projects that I had pertaining to Aboriginals I had come across some well written stories from Aboriginal residential school survivors that I was hoping I could incorporate in my research.

Reading Log: Aboriginal Health Readings

Mosby Article:

Mosby’s article explores the goals that nutrition experts attempt to explore within aboriginal communities between 1942 and 1952. The goal was to “study the state of nutrition of the Indian by newly developed medical procedures” (p.146). This goal was attempted through the collection of information on local substance patterns through physical examinations. Coinciding with the medical examinations was controlled experiments on individuals that lacked consent or even knowledge of their happening. When this study first began, right away the researches realized that malnutrition and hunger were playing a frightening role in lack of nutrition. It was thought that perhaps the high rates of diseases present within the community was linked to the lack of proper foods in their diets. During these studies and experiments, major issues were presented and solutions largely ignored. Medical professionals and people of power “recognized the problems of hunger and malnutrition, yet increasingly came to view Aboriginal bodies as ‘experimental materials’ and residential schools and Aboriginal communities as kinds of ‘laboratories’ that they could use to pursue a number of different political and professional interests” (p.148). The major problem of these studies was that they boosted careers of the researchers rather than alter the conditions in the communities. Looking between the lines, to the colonizers addressing the problems of health in Aboriginal communities was “essential to protecting the white population from Indian ‘reservoirs’ and ‘vectors’ of diseases” and specific use of language became a “central justification of the work of Indian Health Services” (p.153). Further, addressing these health issues essentially added to the long term and long standing goal of assimilation. Mosby points out that the issue of malnutrition was rooted in perceived racial characteristics that created the language of the “Indian problem” (p.164). Through the intervention of experts and the transition from traditional food to modern food, Aboriginals were prevented from getting healthy (under white man’s standards) due to barriers set up to keep them inferior.

Gleason Article:

Gleason seeks to explore in her article how and which standards of health identified by professionals were applied to Aboriginal children. Through exploring encouraged health, Gleason seeks to reveal the social construction of health and how race and class influenced this. Further, Gleason looks at the gaps and contradictions associated with the health of Aboriginal children and the reality of what this meant. To justify their actions and beliefs towards and about Aboriginals, modern science was pitted against “superstition and quackery, knowledge against ignorance, right against wrong, [and] life against death” (p.96). Publicly put forth, as quoted by a school nurse, “our chief aim in this special branch of our work is to help develop the Indian into a healthy, respectable, self-supporting citizenship” (p.96). However, the protection of public health revolved around a paradox: “excluding and demonizing a particular portion of that public,” the Aboriginals (p.97). The public health force was driven predominantly by white middle-class male professionals, organized along defensive lines, dependent on the surveillance of the public, and driven by the superior laws of European science” (p.98). This was problematic because the Aboriginals lost the chance to be equal and no matter how much the superior group pushed for good citizenship, no amount of conformity was going to create an equal playing feel due to the long term rooted beliefs of Aboriginals as dirty. While solutions were suggested and even attempted to be implemented, Aboriginals struggled to meet the required standards due to lack of economic means. So, even if they wanted to help their kids, they could not. When it came to “loss of income and social stigma appeared to be of little concern to public health officials” (p.99). Why would they not help them if they claimed so much that they wanted to.

Rutherdale Article:

Rutherdale expresses the idea in her article that Aboriginal bodies were present for reform or colonization of their bodies. The end goal was to colonize Aboriginals but there was a belief that to capture their minds, their bodies had to be captured first. Children were the easiest targets as they could be “trained” easier. Even when the focus is on the adults, such as modernizing birthing practices, the children are still caught in the middle because of the battle wage. Rutherdale explains the process of changing Aboriginal traditional customs of birthing for women, as it was seen as unsafe and barbaric. To completely erase long standing customs in a culture is in a way dehumanizing them.

Links Between the articles

While all three articles focused on different areas of health and had different approaches to dealing with the “Indian problem,” similarities of themes can me made note of. When exploring the idea of embodied citizenship, it is important to understand where this idea comes from and who has power over it. Ideas of good health reflected the views of white middle-class professionals and excluded Aboriginal beliefs entirely. Even though the goal of assimilation was to make Aboriginals like white people, there was the between-the-lines idea that no matter how much they changed, aboriginals would always be inferior. There was also a recurring theme of lack of empathy. This lack of empathy was what justified officials to examine and experiment with Aboriginals. Lastly, all the articles held the idea that there was a need to reform Aboriginal bodies.

Welcome to your portfolio

Welcome to my research project e-portfolio!

Within this blog, as a reader, you will explore my research paper about the process of colonizing Aboriginal bodies. Throughout the blog you will find four sections that will allow you to get to know me better and why I chose the project that I did. This blog is broken down into three major sections: “About Me,” “Research Project,” and “Research Process and Reflections.” As well, this blog will also include some reading logs that I found interesting and will include as a bonus.