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“Law Enforcement’s Mistreatment of the Original Canadians and United States Americans”


“For centuries, Indigenous people in North America have endured a vast array of interruptions and disruptions affecting all aspects of [their] culture and societies” (Dennis, pg. 149). This includes being massacred, having their land stolen, and being forced to live on reservations to provide new settlers with low-wage workers. In addition, from a governmental standpoint, there were laws put in place meant to “control and ultimately eliminate Indigenous people through forced assimilation, dislocation, and deprivation” (David & Mitchell, pg. 27). Despite making up a small portion of the population in North America, Native Americans face higher rates of incarceration, racism, oppression, and deaths by the police when compared with their White counterparts.


Colonialism and neocolonialism are two of the factors that are to blame for Indigenous people’s marginalization, such as being over-policed. The police have the discretion to decide who and where to surveil, and through them criminalizing Indigenous customs and culture, law enforcement has put a target on this community. According to David and Mitchell (2021), despite Canada’s incarceration population decreasing between the years 2000 and 2014, the number of imprisoned Native Americans increased. This is a clear example of the over-policing Indigenous communities have to endure, while also calling into question who was being released from the Canadian jails and prisons. This mistreatment is seen in both Canada and the United States, as 32% of U.S. Native Americans reported in 2017 that they had been stopped and mistreated by the police. More specifically, Native women are more likely to be randomly stopped by the police than White women.

“Being a woman is not a universal experience…instead, a woman’s experience is shaped by her gender and her race, and all of the facets that intersect and are woven together” (Nielsen, pg. 23). Native women experience discrimination because they are both Indigenous and women. The abuse of Native girls and women has been documented and depicted in mass media and literature. Such abuses include law enforcement “verbally and physically harassing, assaulting, and forcibly removing, restraining, and transporting Indigenous peoples to the outskirts of cities where they are left to fend for themselves” (Alberton et al., pg. 103). With the current global pandemic, this mistreatment of the Native American community became more public.

In April 2020, three Native Americans were murdered by the police in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Their names are Eishia Hudson (age 16), Jason Collins (age 36), and Stewart Kevin Andrews (age 22). In Manitoba, the Native community makes up 62% of police murders but only 15% of the population. In Indigenous communities, a death of one of their own is shared with everyone in the community. To show communal support, the Native American community took to the streets to publicly address their loss at the site of Eishia Hudson’s murder. However, the media misunderstood their message and labeled them protestors, while the police stated that others’ priorities and the flow of traffic needed to take precedence over their collective mourning.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians can see the mistreatment and structural inequalities Indigenous people must experience daily. However, seeing this disenfranchisement is not enough. Work has to be done to correct the wrongs done to Native Americans. Whether it be reparations, dismantling the racist criminal justice system, or enacting just laws and policies that will efficiently and effectively support their advancement in life, the Indigenous community of Canada and the United States deserve justice. They are the original people of those two countries, so it is long past time for them to stop being mistreated in their homes.



REFERENCES

Alberton, A.M., Gorey, K.M., Angell, G.B., & McCue, H.A. (2019). Intersection of Indigenous peoples and police: Questions about contact and confidence. Canadian journal of criminology and criminal justice 61(4), 101-119. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/747725.


David, J., & Mitchell, M. (2021). Contacts with the police and the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian criminal justice system. Canadian journal of criminology and criminal justice 63(2), 23-45. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/806309.


Dennis, M. K. (2021). Collecting grief: Indigenous peoples, deaths by police and a global pandemic. Qualitative Social Work, 20(1–2), 149–155. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473325020973301.


Gorsuch, M. M., & Rho, D. T. (2019). Police stops and searches of indigenous people in minneapolis: The roles of race, place, and gender. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 10(3) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.18584/iipj.2019.10.3.8322


Nettelbeck, A., & Smandych, R. (2010). Policing Indigenous peoples on two colonial frontiers: Australia’s mounted police and Canada’s north-west mounted police. Australian & New Zealand journal of criminology (Australian academic press), 43(2), 356–375. https://doi-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/10.1375/acri.43.2.356


Nielsen, J. (2004). Indigenous law bulletin, 6, 1-32.

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