This year is my first year in women’s studies courses (I don’t know why this didn’t happen any time sooner). I love my courses so far and I love them for the fact that that all seem very inclusive except for one thing: Indigenous feminism.
A peer approached me after introductions in class that I said I was an Indigenous feminist, and told me about a class called “Indigenous feminism” she will be in next semester which sounds pretty amazing! So kudos to her and those who are also enrolled in that class.
Saying that I am an Indigenous feminist is not anything that I have claimed for a long time. It is rather recent, which probably began around my first year of studies at university. For a while and for all the literature I read and was given to read, I could not find a way to relate to the feminist work that was being done in the mainstream. It was always about the stories of struggles that white, middle-class, Canadian women had faced or overcame for those who disadvantaged to them which excluded Indigenous women. For example, Canadian women fought for the right to vote for women in Canada but did not fight for the right to vote for Indigenous populations. SOME women won the right to vote in the early 1900s; meanwhile, Indigenous men and women only gained the right to vote in the 1960s.
When I meet other Indigenous women, they say the same thing that I used to say, which was “Feminism isn’t for me.” Then I tell them about all the awesome work being done by other Indigenous feminists. By the end of the conversation they leave feeling a little more content with feminism and it not being so white-washed.
So why do we need Indigenous feminism?
To me Indigenous feminism is when those who identify as such and work within the contexts of Indigenous feminism are working with what they have been taught as Indigenous people: women are strong, powerful, and capable! It also means recognizing the importance of the community and not just fighting against patriarchy (some Indigenous nations are patriarchal in structure but still recognize the important of women as contributing community members–I like to think that “patriarchy” is a western concept and fighting against just patriarchy means ignoring the other aspects in society that affect not just Indigenous women but all women). Indigenous feminists also recognize the importance of balance in relationships between man and woman, and the importance of community. It means returning to those balance in relationships!
What does Indigenous feminism mean to me?
Indigenous feminism to me means not just saying that certain groups are treated unequal but also opening the discussion to the various intersectionalities that affect them as individuals, and also a collective. It means addressing experiences of women within the Indigenous community as well as the entire community itself. It means accepting that institutions in Canada (even if they proclaim to be serving justice, or treat everyone equal) are inherently racist and/or are treating these groups as unequals and forcing injustices on certain groups.
Why am I an Indigenous Feminist?
Indigenous women are at the centre of Indigenous communities and it was through colonization that Indigenous women lost their role as mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. Indigenous feminism means empowering ALL women to embrace their roles and returning to a balance between genders and within/between ALL communities. It empowers me as an Indigenous women to finally make sense of the work that I have done thus far and to meet all the other wonderful Indigenous feminists who do work for their communities within a local or global context! Indigenous feminism/feminists are amazing!