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Content Alert

Some of the ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (stories) and artifacts in this module use the harmful language and imagery of eugenics. This includes the forced institutionalization of people with disabilities and people labelled with intellectual disabilities; forced placement of First Nations children in Indian Residential Schools (in effect until 1996) and Training Schools; sexual assault, rape, murder, and theft of First Nations and settler children; forced and coerced sterilization; and mass media advocating for the elimination of First Nations and settler peoples who did not fit white settler colonial ᐊᐦᑭᐃᐧ ᐃᔑᓇᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (worldviews).

Harmful words such as insane, lunatic, idiot, moron, retarded, imbecile, or feebleminded are referred to in the module. We request that you not use harmful language in or beyond the classroom except when reading and referring to language used in the materials themselves.

Those who have experienced harm from colonial and eugenic violence may have differing and/or heightened responses to this module, including trauma responses.1(footnote) You may not know in advance what will trigger a trauma response. We strongly recommend you visit the Prepare and Work with Care module beforehand — it is intended to aid learners with engaging with this content. Recognizing the ways settler education has asserted authoritarian and non-consensual power relations within the space of learning, our hope is for all learners to engage with maximum informed ᓇᑯᒧᐃᐧᐣ (consent).2(footnote)

In presenting this challenging subject matter we find disability studies scholar Margaret Price's advice helpful. She says, “please do what you need […] to take care of yourself. You may need to take up a different position, engage in some manual activity—knitters, feel free to take out your work—you may simply need to leave.”3(footnote)

What This Module Strives to Do

In this module you will engage with the personal story of Mona Stonefish, an artist-activist, ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐃᐧ ᑭᑫᑕᒪᐃᐧᓇᐣ ᑲᑲᓇᐁᐧᑕᐠ (Traditional Knowledge Keeper), and Indian Residential School survivor. Her story begins with the love, ᐃᔑᑭᔐᐧᐃᐧᐣ, ᐃᓇᑎᓯᐃᐧᐣ, ᒥᓇ ᑫᑌ ᐃᔑᒋᑫᐃᐧᓇᐣ (language, culture, and traditions) of her family and community. She speaks powerfully about the heinous crimes she experienced at Indian Residential School. She ends by rallying all women to stand together, and for people to hear her voice as the ᑲᐱᒥᐊᓱᐡᑭᑫᑕᒪᑫᐨ ᐅᒪ ᐃᓇᑲᓀᓯᐃᐧᓂᐠ (“backbone of this Nation.”)4(footnote)

This module supports ᓂᑕᑦ ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ (First Nations Peoples’) and their settler allies’ and accomplices’ ongoing resistance to colonial human betterment. As part of that resistance, this module centres ᐱᑲᐧᑕᑭᐃᐧ ᑭᑭᓄᒪᑫᐃᐧᐣ (land-based learning), lived experience, and ongoing efforts of ᐱᐢᑲᐱᔭᐣᐠ (biiskabiyang) and ᑭᐁᐧᐡᑲᒪᑲᐣ (resurgence) movements to prioritize ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ, ᐃᓄᐃᐟ, ᒥᓇ ᐊᐱᑕᐃᐧᑯᓯᓴᓇᐠ (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) peoples through ᐃᔑᑭᔐᐧᐃᐧᐣ, ᐃᓇᑎᓯᐃᐧᐣ, ᒥᓇ ᑫᑌ ᐃᔑᒋᑫᐃᐧᓇᐣ (language, culture, and traditions).5(footnote)

There are key threads of understanding that weave through this module.6(footnote) We have purposefully centred experiential or cultural knowledges that celebrate difference as primary to all life. These act as a counterpoint to the circulation of dominant eugenic knowledges and discourses that seek to narrow and reduce difference. Such counternarratives disrupt and intervene in dominant narratives by telling ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (stories) that offer other possible ways of being. This allows us to imagine and build a more just future.7(footnote)

This module counters the unrecognised occupation of First Nations land by settlers. You will be asked to consider the role of institutions in perpetuating, accelerating, and disseminating doctrines of white settler supremacy. The module shows the relationship between and among colonialism, eugenics, and euthenics in Ontario in its targeting of ᐊᓂᔑᓇᐯᐠ (Nishnaabeg) and Onkwehón:we ᓂᑕᐠ ᐊᐃᐧᔭᐠ (Original people). It also centres the relationship between white settlers and the ᐊᓂᔑᓇᐯᐠ (Nishnaabeg) carefully and specifically because these relations most directly relate to the life experiences reflected here. The ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (stories) told in this module give one local and grounded example of the larger harm done to ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ, ᐃᓄᐃᐟ, ᒥᓇ ᐊᐱᑕᐃᐧᑯᓯᓴᓇᐠ (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) across ᒥᑭᓇᐠ ᒥᓂᑎᐠ (Turtle Island) and the colonized or formerly colonized world.8(footnote)

We widen the story of lived experience so learners will better understand some of ways that agents of colonial and eugenic “human race betterment” have used—and continue to use—different institutions, ideas, and practices in attempts to marginalize, erase, and annihilate ᓂᑕᑦ ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ (First Nations peoples). Such efforts include Indian Residential Schools and other educational spaces (such as museums, universities, colleges, training schools, and asylums), social welfare systems, Children’s Aid Societies, the 60s scoop (a name that erases the violence of the practice), healthcare organizations, and sterilization.

You may encounter ᐊᐦᑭᐃᐧ ᐃᔑᓇᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (worldviews) with which you are not familiar:

ᑫᔭᓂᔑ ᒥᓄᑲᐸᐃᐧᒪᑲᐠ ᐃᐧᒋᐃᐧᑐᐃᐧᐣ (Process for Ethical Engagement)

ᒥᐁᑕ ᐃᒪ ᑫᑭᐅᒋᔕᐱᐧᔭᐠ ᑲᑭᐸᐦᐅᑯᔭᐠ ᒋᑭᑭᓄᒪᑯᔭᐠ. ᒥᑕᐡ ᑲᐅᒋᓇᑕᐁᐧᑕᑲᐧᐠ ᑭᒋᓂᑲᐧᓂᐡᑲᒪᑲᐠ ᑭᑭᓄᒪᑫᐃᐧᐣ ~ ᒧᓇ ᐢᑐᐣᐱᐡ

“The only way to break barriers is through education. That is why education needs to happen in a circle.” ~ Mona Stonefish

We model an approach to learning from the powerful knowledge of survivor-activists. As such, we have woven together many layers or strands that are meaningful to the survivor-activists and the larger team of collaborators who developed this module.10(footnote) These strands include prioritizing lived-experiences, presenting those lived-experiences in multiple accessible ways, justice-oriented and active reflective thinking and learning, and countering oppressive ideas with specific tools. We intentionally foreground ᐱᑲᐧᑕᑭᐃᐧ ᑭᑭᓄᒪᑫᐃᐧᐣ (land-based learning) that challenges unthought occupation and single ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (stories) and ᐊᐦᑭᐃᐧ ᐃᔑᓇᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (worldviews). We believe learning is a transformational, process oriented, and life-long journey—not a one-off transaction.

We encourage you to braid, weave, and knit with the many strands you will encounter. Some activities ask you to intentionally weave specific strands. Other activities ask you to reflect on how those strands change what you see and understand.

We want you to feel safe as you reflect on these challenging ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᓇᐣ (stories) and information. When you reflect, keep in mind that it is perfectly valid to not know how to process this information immediately. Your current environment may impact your opportunities to reflect. Remember that reflective thinking can involve multiple modes of response (land-based, creative movement, written, video, music, etc.) and take place over longer periods of time.

You will build skills and critical understanding of knowledge that has often been erased, silenced, and diminished.

Below are some additional suggestions for how moving through the module:


  • Investigate the colonial and eugenic artifacts from the past and present to understand more about how Mona Stonefish’s story speaks to larger systems of annihilation;


  • Identify shifts in your own thinking and commitments to action before, during, and after module activities;


  • Reflect on the tools, strategies, and systems of colonial eugenics and ways to counter them;
  • Think through your own intentions as a learner. What do you have to offer in terms of your own lived experiences? This is a prompt for reflection, not a request to disclose personal information;


  • Examine the concepts and terms used here, and consider how and why they carry different meanings in differing contexts;


  • Engage with the lived experiences of Mona Stonefish multiple times and multiple ways. Her story is presented in text, audio/video, and visual forms; this will ground your exploration of other supporting materials;
  • Engage with this learning as a process, relationship building, and part of an ongoing journey — not a one-off transaction;11(footnote)


  • Practice ᐱᑲᐧᑕᑭᐠ ᑲᓇᐁᐧᒋᑫᐃᐧᐣ (land-based care) activities to locate yourself in ᐊᐧᑯᒥᐁᐧᐃᐧᐣ (relationship) to the land while acknowledging the land is ᐁᐧᐡᑲᐨ ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ ᑲᑭᐱᔑᑲᐯᔑᐊᐧᐨ ᐅᐦᑕᑭᒥᐊᐧᐠ (the ancestral lands of the Original Peoples) and that they continue to be dispossessed to the benefit of all settlers. Consider how you can ᐊᐦᑭᐃᐧ ᑲᓇᐁᐧᒋᑫᐃᐧᐣ (care for the land) that sustains you;


  • Explore your own family history and lived experiences in relation to colonial eugenics in Ontario and beyond.

Mona Stonefish's Story

Credits | Transcript | ASL Content Alert

Captioned and ASL Interpreted Video
Described Video Introduction
Described Video
  1. Naomi Bird (2021) has written about the way emotional labour can be used to uphold settler colonial education frameworks. For example, settler colonial educational spaces often call upon Indigenous learners and educators to become informants and to expose their own private lives for the benefit of non-Indigenous learners. This labour can negatively affect the learning process, retention, educational achievement and well-being of Indigenous students. For more on the (re)traumatization and coerced emotional labour that Indigenous students experience, see Naomi Bird, “The Emotional Labour of Indigenous Post-Secondary Students: A Trauma-Informed Autoethnography” Bachelor of Community Design, major research paper, (Dalhousie University, 2021).

  2. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson also explains the relationship between pedagogy and informed consent. Quoting Simpson, “Coming to know also requires complex, committed, consensual engagement. […] The word consensual here is key because if children learn to normalize dominance and nonconsent within the context of education, then nonconsent becomes part of the normalized tool kit of those with authoritarian power.” Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 162.

  3. Margaret Price quoted in Alison Kafer, “Un/Safe Disclosures: Scenes of Disability and Trauma,” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 10, no. 1 (March 2016): 1–20, 2, (Source).

  4. Susan Dion and Jane Griffith’s work on first person accounts of Indian Residential Schools, “Narratives of Place and Relationship,” highlights the importance of listening closely to first person narratives of survivors who position themselves as powerful — not pitiful — by explicitly signaling the love and strength of their families from which they were stolen and placed in violent environments. Susan Dion and Jane Griffith, “Narratives of Place and Relationship: Bev Sellars’s Memoir They Called Me Number One,” ESC: English Studies in Canada 44, no. 3 (2018): 25–48, (Source).

  5. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson writes that resurgence “is the embodied processes as freedom. It is a flight out of the structure of settler colonialism and into the processes and relationships of freedom and self-determination encoded and practiced within Nishnaabewin […].” Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 17.

  6. The notion of braiding different strands of knowing and being comes from the work of Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti in their June 2019 booklet, “Toward Braiding.” They explain, “[b]raiding is not a form of synthesis”; “[b]raiding is also not the result of selective combinations in which one side emerges triumphant over the other. Instead, braiding is premised on respecting the continued internal integrity of […] [the strands], even as neither side is static or homogenous, and even as both sides might be transformed in the process of braiding.” Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti, “Towards Braiding” (Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures, 2019, 21), (Source).

  7. Jackie Leach Scully “Disability Bioethics: Moral Bodies, Moral Difference,” Feminist Constructions, (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

  8. Europeans colonized an estimated 90% of the world’s Indigenous peoples and territories.

  9. Eve Tuck article, “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities,” asks research communities to consider their ethical orientation towards change. She argues that desire-based not damage-based orientations, which can pathologize whole communities, are needed to show that people also draw from their lived experiences to find hope, sovereignty, and vitality in the face of structural inequities. Desire shows the complexity of human life and interrupts simplistic understandings of the ways oppressive structures impact lived realities within collective relations. Eve Tuck, “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities,” Harvard Educational Review 79, no. 3 (September 1, 2009): 409–28, (Source).

  10. The notion of braiding different strands of knowing and being comes from the work of Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti in their June 2019 booklet “Toward Braiding.” They explain, “[b]raiding is not a form of synthesis”; “[b]raiding is also not the result of selective combinations in which one side emerges triumphant over the other. Instead, braiding is premised on respecting the continued internal integrity of [the strands], even as neither side is static or homogenous, and even as both sides might be transformed in the process of braiding.” Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti, “Towards Braiding” (Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures, 2019) 21, (Source).

  11. Consider the artwork of Potawatomi-Lenapé disability-identified artist Vanessa Dion Fletcher titled “Relationship or Transaction?”(Source). The artwork uses rolled up Canadian five-dollar bills in place of traditional wampum beads (made from seashells) to represent the 1764 Western Great Lakes Covenant Chain Wampum Belt between the British and specific First Nations (also known as the Treaty of Niagara). Representing one of Canada’s foundational treaties, Fletcher’s artwork asks people to re-consider the “treaty relationship---not as a finite transaction that begins and ends when people exchange money, lands, and resources but rather an open-ended agreement, in which people enter living relationships and commit to upholding certain values, rights, and responsibilities as an integral part of maintaining those relationships. The work thus offers important commentary on a profound rub between the worldviews informing settler and First Nations approaches to reciprocity: between those premised on capitalism, which instrumentalize and reduce exchanges of activities and things to commodified transactions; and those premised on holism or monism, which recognize the inherent interconnectedness of all things and emphasize a shared responsibility for sustaining good relations, with both the human and non-human world.” Carla Rice, Susan D. Dion, and Eliza Chandler, “Decolonizing Disability Through Activist Art,” Disability Studies Quarterly 41, no. 2, pp. 7,8/26 (June 15, 2021), (Source).

  12. Video Credits


    Dominique Ireland (Deaf Interpreter, Connect Interpreting Services), and Debbie Parliament (ASL-English Interpreter, Connect Interpreting Services). ASL video overlay by Aaron Kelly.

    Described Video:

    Writing/ dramaturgy: Kat Germain, Rebecca Singh, Jennifer Brethour

    Consultations: Melanie Marsden, Melissa George-Watson

    Voice Actors: Elder Glenda Klassen, Christine Malec, Colette Desjardins, Scotty Yams

    Sound Engineer: David Stinson

    Slide Credits:

    This project has been generously funded by eCampusOntario (ID # GUEL - 564) and University of Guelph’s Learning Enhancement Fund. Ontario Commons Licensing-Non Derivative. Speaker is Mona Stonefish. Original Videographer Angus McClellen. Original Score by Angus McClellen. Video Edited by Hannah Fowlie.


    Toaster Lab, ReVisioning Fitness, eCampusOntario, Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life, Guelph Museums, Respecting Rights, Creative Users Projects, ARCH Disability Law Centre, University of Guelph, Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice.