8 March 2012
Venue: History Department, Room 59, 7 Wynyard Street
Department of History seminar by Dr Mary Jane McCallum, University of Winnipeg and Dr Aroha Harris, The University of Auckland.
For three days in the summer of 1945, the Homemakers Clubs of Eastern Canada held their first convention at Tyendinaga, Ontario, a result of the rapid spread in of the clubs across the country. In September 1951, 300 Maori women converged on Wellington for the inaugural conference of the Maori Women’s Welfare League. Among the several commonalities the Clubs and the League shared was the guidance and sponsorship of the federal Departments of Maori and Indian Affairs. These Departments relied on the energies of indigenous womanhood to further state goals of assimilation, integration and citizenship in indigenous communities. They urged the women to apply themselves, in the spirit of ‘self-help’, to the important role of providing the kind of home and family environment that would produce happily and thoroughly integrated, yet culturally distinct, citizens of the modern world.
This seminar will examine how the women of the Clubs and the League navigated the tensions between what the state wanted and expected from the organizations, and what the women wanted for themselves and their families. It is interested in the ways the women critiqued race, worked to preserve traditional skills, and negotiated Maori and Indian policy. We note that the women consistently prefaced their womanhood and citizenship with their indigeneity, engaging with the state from their distinct realities of being indigenous in the modern world. They embraced and reoriented the state’s integrationist goals to progress their own self-determined goals, working both for and against their sponsoring Departments. They did not explicitly reject integration but did build their views of it on their own distinctly indigenous ethos. In telling this history we will also highlight aspects of the back-story in which we collaborate trans-indigenously to produce a book that critiques the nation states of Canada and New Zealand and critically analyzes Indigenous women’s history through the mid-twentieth-century.