Native American feminism

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Native American feminism or Native feminism is an intersectional feminist movement rooted in the lived experiences of Native American and First Nations women. As a branch of the broader Indigenous feminism, it similarly prioritizes decolonization, indigenous sovereignty, and the empowerment of indigenous women and girls in the context of Native American and First Nations cultural values and priorities, rather than white, mainstream ones.[1] A central and urgent issue for Native feminists is the Missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis.[2]


Native feminist Renya K. Ramirez, writes that,[1]

[T]he word Native in the term "Native feminisms" [is used] in order to concentrate on our similar experiences as Native women all over the Americas. But whether one utilizes a tribal name, "indigenous," "Native," "First Nations" or another term, highlighting the heterogeneity is essential for appreciating the varied experiences Indigenous women experience. Indeed, similar to other women of color feminists, this diversity encourages individuals to argue for the development of multiple feminisms rather than a singular feminism.

Ramirez sees a goal of Native feminism as redefining and establishing the struggles of Native women in a field where "feminism" is generally assumed to mean "white feminism".[1] In her view, Native feminism is intersectional, and relationships between race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class and nations in North America from colonialism onward are to be reexamined as a means of understanding and identifying feminist praxis.[1]


A core issue in Native American Feminism is the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) crisis. Thousands of Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in North America with little to no investigation from the Canadian or US governments.[3] Pressure from victims' families and their FNIM Indigenous communities finally led to the Canadian National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which concluded that there is an ongoing genocide against Indigenous women in Canada.[3]

Jennifer Brant and D. Memmee Lavell-Harvard have written that the MMIW issues is often overlooked and not taken seriously[by whom?] because Indigenous women face systemic racial and gender oppression.[4]

Indigenous decolonization, as seen through the lens of Native American feminism, can involve the revitalization and reclamation of Indigenous matriarchal cultural traditions.[5] Maile Arvin writes that during colonization white settlers imposed their heteropatriarchal practices onto Indigenous communities. Arvin states that Native American Feminists are reinforcing matriarchal processes through education and activism.[5]

Cultural baggage associated with the words "feminist" and "feminism" has led to some disagreement about what to call "Native feminism". Kate Shanley, an Assiniboine feminist, believes that most Native women see "feminism" as solely a white women's movement, and therefore do not want to be associated with the word.[6] She goes on to say that feminism as a concept, however, by whatever name, has a special meaning to Native women, including the idea of promoting the continuity of tradition, and consequently, pursuing the recognition of Tribal sovereignty.[6][1]

Tribal sovereignty is central to Indigenous feminism, as well a pivotal political concern in Indian country, with Native American self-determination considered foundational to both cultural and material survival.[1] In Ramirez's view, in order to accomplish this, tribal sovereignty must be re-conceptualized from Native women's perspectives.[1]

Crystal Ecohawk writes,[7]

Sovereignty is an active, living process within this knot of human, material and spiritual relationships bound together by mutual responsibilities and obligations. From that knot of relationships is born our histories, our identity, the traditional ways in which we govern ourselves, our beliefs, our relationship to the land, and how we feed, clothe, house and take care of our families, communities and Nations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ramirez, Renya (1 March 2007). "Race, Tribal Nation, and Gender". Meridians. 7 (2): 22–40. doi:10.2979/MER.2007.7.2.22. JSTOR 40314242. S2CID 146691825. Project MUSE 217600.
  2. ^ McKenna, Cara (2 Dec 2016). "Indigenous feminists strategize before MMIW inquiry - Advocates in Vancouver to hold last of three public meetings this weekend". Metro Toronto. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 15 Oct 2017.
  3. ^ a b Christina Maxouris. "Thousands of killed or missing Indigenous women and girls are victims of a 'Canadian genocide,' report says". CNN. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  4. ^ Brant, Jennifer; Lavell-Harvard, D.Memee (2016). Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-77258-020-4.
  5. ^ a b Arvin, Maile; Tuck, Eve; Morrill, Angie (2013). "Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy". Feminist Formations. 25 (1): 8–34. doi:10.1353/ff.2013.0006. JSTOR 43860665. S2CID 145588292. Project MUSE 504601.
  6. ^ a b Shanley, Kate (1984). "Thoughts on Indian Feminism". In Brant, Beth (ed.). A Gathering of Spirit: Writing and Art by North American Indian Women. Sinister Wisdom Books. pp. 213–215. ISBN 978-0-931103-00-1.
  7. ^ Ecohawk, Crystal (1999). "Reflections on Sovereignty". Indigenous Woman. 3 (1): 21–22.