First, some statistics...

    In 1996, the female First Nations Canadian population was 408,140; nearly 42% of those are between the ages of 0 to 19.

    - Life expectancy for Aboriginal women is 76.2 years vs 81.0 for non-Aboriginal women.

    - Aboriginal women experience higher rates of circulatory problems, respiratory problems, diabetes, hypertension and cancer of the cervix than the rest of the general female population.

    - Aboriginal women represent a higher percentage of cases of HIV/AIDS than non-Aboriginal women (15.9% vs 7.0%). Within female Aboriginal AIDS cases, 50% are attributed to IV drug use, in comparison to 17% of all female cases.

    - Mortality rate due to violence for Aboriginal women is three times the rate experienced by all other Canadian women. For Aboriginal women in the 25 to 44 age cohort, the rate is five times that for all other Canadian women.

    - Women are often the victims of family dysfunction which result from the alcohol or substance abuse. Hospital admissions for alcohol related accidents are three times higher among Aboriginal females than they are for the general Canadian population.

    - Over 50% of Aboriginal people view alcohol abuse as a social problem in their communities. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) have emerged as a serious health and social concern in some First Nations and Inuit communities.

    - Suicide rates remain consistently higher for the Aboriginal population than the general Canadian population as a whole, in almost every age category. - Over a five year span (1989 - 1993), Aboriginal women were more than three times as likely to commit suicide than were non-Aboriginal women.
(This information has been adapted from

When it comes to Aboriginal women with addictions, some common themes include:

1. Social and physical isolation from other women, from healing communities, and from desperately needed services;
2. The lack of cultural sensitivity in the services that do exist;
3. Lack of facilities or programs for mothers with children;
4. Lack of on-reserve post-treatment programming;
5. Racism in the larger community

The Aboriginal Women's Action Network
Our vision and beliefs stem from our collective experience. Like the salmon swimming upstream, we, as Aboriginal women, recognize the strength of our determination. The tenacity to challenge discrimination on the basis of race, gender and economic status comes from enduring generations of cultural genocide. Through institutionalized power within social, legal, political and financial structures, we continue to experience the many faces of oppression. The Salmon Nation's legacy of survival depends on an unwavering commitment to future generations. This guides us in moving beyond survival through our political involvement to create social justice.

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A Native American Prayer

O Great Spirit Whose voice I hear in the winds
And whose breath gives life
To all the world Hear me!
I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom,
Let me walk in beauty
And make my eyes ever behold
The red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect
The things you have made
And my ears sharp
To hear your voice
Make me wise so I may see ever so clearly
The ways you have to teach me
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and cloud
I seek your strength,
Not to be greater then my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy... Myself
Make me always ready to come to you
With clean hands And straight eyes
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
My spirit may come to you without shame.

(The Native American Prayer is attributed to Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota Nation.)

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