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In the new book Indigenous Men and Masculinities: Legacies, Identities, Regeneration editors Robert Innes and Kim Anderson show the social attitudes and issues related to the complex idea of being an Indigenous man. In Canada, Indigenous men have shorter life spans, are less likely to graduate from high school, are more likely to be incarcerated, and are murdered at a higher ratecompared to non-Indigenous Canadians.
It's not an easy topic for people both within and outside of Indigenous communities to talk about. It's not an easy topic to do an interview about either.
Innes is a Plains Cree member of Cowessess First Nation and an assistant professor in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. He explained that he was teaching a class last year when former Aboriginal Affairs (now called Indigenous and Northern Affairs) Minister Bernard Valcourt told a gathering of First Nations chiefs that they knew who was killing Indigenous women: Indigenous men. Innes said he brought the issue up to his class, and the students, all Indigenous, said they had also faced violence in their lives but they were afraid to talk about the implications of the statistic.
"They said we don't want to talk about this because it will reinforce negative stereotypes of Native men. So there's this real reluctance to wanting to deal with this because the reality is, especially in Western Canada, white people are afraid of Native men," Innes said.
To find out why exploring Indigenous masculinity is such a difficult task, VICE spoke with Innes and contributor Robert Henry (in separate interviews). Henry is Métis, and while working on his PhD research explored the relationship between Indigenous male youth and street gangs, which is also the topic he explores in the book.
DIGNITY OF THE MALE SPIRIT