[Guest Post] Why we need Indigenous feminism

This is a guest post from my lovely friend Sâkihitowin Awâsis who I met and had the opportunity to work with this past summer on a workshop addressing stigma in the post-secondary classroom. Sâkihitowin Awâsis gave a kick ass presentation on two-spiritedness and LGBT2Q issues. Sâkihitowin Awâsis took the time to write this guest post for Kwe Today and I say chi-miigwetch/thank you for that! Enjoy!

We need Indigenous feminisms because feminism does not imply it is for everyone. Mainstream and whitewashed, it isn’t always the friendliest if you are queer, trans, or a Person of Colour. We are creating space to acknowledge power and privilege. I am read as cis-gendered, able-bodied, English speaking, and a light-skinned Two-Spirit. I say “we” because I believe that we are part of each other, but in no way intend to speak for everyone, or anyone for that matter. I say “we” as a term of solidarity, appealing to Two-Spirits and people with whom I have common experiences.

We need Indigenous feminisms because the very way we understand gender and sexuality is colonial. We are surrounded by notions of what it means to be a man, woman, have a gender and access to power that were imposed upon us. In dominant discourse there are assumptions made about sexualities based on an interpretation of our gender of which we have no ownership. Reinforced everyday, everywhere, the polar binary has become ingrained in how we feel about ourselves. We are part of a colonial landscape that does not meaningfully reflect who we are or how we want to be. This violence is an extension of the systems that oppress and marginalize women.

Indigenous feminism accounts for intersecting oppressions. Non-binary Two-Spirits, such as myself, do not wish to maintain colonial gender norms by abiding by an exclusively male or female identity all of the time. In addition, we are denied recognition of our gender through legal, health, and economic barriers. The government’s colonial cuts to Aboriginal health programs intensify systemic violence already being experienced. Culturally sensitive and relevant health professionals are integral to recognition of Two-Spirit Identities. The Aboriginal health cuts further limit Two-Spirits access to doctors or psychologists that provide needed support for our diverse gender identities. Income disparity between Natives and non-Natives also make Two Spirits less likely to have disposable income available to pay the $97 fee associated with a legal sex change. This is a form of neo-colonialism that furthers the process of assimilation that destroyed the spiritual foundations of our families, and caused the loss of traditional roles, sovereignty, and territories.

Indigenous feminism indicates one is empowered by an Indigenous identity because their concerns exceed the concerns of feminism. Feminists prioritize opposing patriarchy while Indigenous feminists resist colonial forces, and the all the forms of oppression and exploitation entailed. Ancestors of Indigenous Peoples globally have memory of balanced relationships between varying genders with distinct roles, and the Earth. How Indigenous feminists understand their selves holistically as Indigenous people determines how they not only understand feminism, but also the world around them.

Decolonization calls for creating community spaces for Indigenous Peoples and valuing people’s diverse gifts. Indigenous feminism empowers me as a Two-Spirited woman to insure feminism is inclusive in practice and not just theory. We need to be aware that we often use words like ‘diversity’ and ‘decolonization’ without them translating into anything meaningful. This is about action, intentionally creating community networks of individuals who can represent themselves in respect to decisions that affect them based on their experiences.

This isn’t about any particular LGBTQ gender or sexuality.

This isn’t about creating women’s rights.

This is about Indigenous Peoples taking our place in our communities.

This is about Two-Spirits reclaiming our lives.

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