Fathering in the Shadows: Indigenous Fathers and Canada's Colonial Legacies




Ball, Jessica

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An inaugural study of Indigenous fathers’ involvement in Canada conceptualized a temporal horizon within which to situate challenges and opportunities for Indigenous father’s involvement in caring for children following decades of colonial interventions that have diminished Indigenous men’s roles. Through five community-university partnerships, conversational interviews were held with 80 First Nations and Métis fathers in British Columbia, Canada. Using a grounded theory approach, a conceptual model was constructed identifying six key ecological and psychological factors that combine to account for Indigenous men’s experiences of fatherhood: personal wellness; learning fathering; socio-economic inclusion; social support; legislative and policy support; and cultural continuity. Elements within these domains, such as childhood experience of attachment and exposure to father role models, social capital, and generativity have been addressed in other models and research about fathers’ involvement. Indigenous fathers’ accounts additionally bring into focus systemic barriers to positive fathers’ involvement, including socioeconomic exclusion due to failures of the educational system, ongoing colonization through Canada’s Indian Act, and mother-centrism in parenting programs and child welfare practices. Policy and program reforms are suggested that could increase Indigenous fathers’ positive and sustained engagement with their children.


Working copy of article presented here. Final published copy available at DOI: 10.1177/0002716209334181


fathers, children, Indigenous, Aboriginal, colonialism, social inclusion, social capital, social support, mother-centrism, multigenerational, Canada, community-university partnerships


Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science [0002-7162] yr.2009 vol.624 pg.29 -48