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Indigenist Intersectionality: Decolonizing an Indigenous Eco-Queer Feminism and Anarchism, by Laura Hall

This essay appears in the current anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N. 29), available here from AK Press!  Laura received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to complete this piece. 

 

The violence enacted against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people evokes deep questions about the intent and impact of colonization in a Canadian settler and state context. The horrors of colonial violence—bodies were violated and abandoned at the sides of highways, in ditches, in rivers—tell stories of the vital importance of Indigenous women’s leadership, their warriorhood, their gifts and their medicines, and also of the centrality of gendered freedom and fluid belonging in Indigenous cultures. It is a system of colonization that seeks to erase and subsume these realities and to replace Indigenous truth with illusions of our weakness. We are at a pivotal moment now as state and settler voices seek to understand what is needed, and it is a pivotal moment best informed by threads of anarchist and feminist thought woven within Indigenous worldviews. Vital intersections are made between gender and Indigeneity because the conversation is always in danger of being rerouted by policing and state voices, as well as settler voices.1 The work that Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people do on the ground—to renew our connections to culture, to renew the innovations and economies of our nations—needs more support in every way, from allies across intellectual lines.

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(Art by Lesly Yobany Mendoza, justseeds.org)

Much of my organizing work is done with Indigenous women and particularly Two-Spirit/LGBTQ women. The Seven Directions Education Centre is an initiative I started with friends in order to create space particularly for Indigenous women to work together on cultural renewal and land-based healing and education. I’m often amazed by the ways our group expands on family, in connection with our original families. Through co-creation of a land-based education project, Seven Directions is linking the ways that original economies and food security combine with women’s governance and the breaking down of colonial boundaries. We grow gardens with original seeds of our various Indigenous nations, we tap maple trees, and put tobacco down in gratitude for the maple water we take that aids our wellbeing every Spring. In the early summer of 2015 when the corn was planted, our group’s youngest member walked along the mounds barefoot while her mother and auntie helped her. I could feel the impact of this little girl’s communication with Creation. I felt a commitment all over again to the original foods and seeds, the healing of soil and water in partnership with the healing of our bodies, spirits, and minds.

Seven Directions was inspired by the work of Indigenous women like Winona LaDuke and Katsi Cook, who talk about food security, our connections to environment, to Creation, and our responsibilities. Working in partnership with non-Indigenous allies is a goal for our group, but we are often up against very particular blocks. First, that non-Indigenous allies are so often far more concerned with their own connections to land and place, rather than committed to the land return of Indigenous Peoples. Secondly, that their statements about one’s commitment to decolonization are not combined with solid action and capacity building for Indigenous Peoples to do our own recovery work. And thirdly, that there is a need to reframe resistance as housing, health, environment, and culture are all connected. Overall, it isn’t enough to claim solidarity with Indigenous women against violence without contributing substantively to the work we are doing to create health and wellbeing for our communities. Much of this paper is an explanation of those interconnections, and of why supporting Indigenous women’s initiatives in a deeper way is so vital.

This is my approach to understanding the project of Indigenous cultural renewal and decolonization as a gendered and ecological undoing of settler colonial society and the colonial state. I turn to Indigenous thinkers, particularly those who map the confines of colonialism as a gendered, sexualized and violent system, one that is intent on using particular kinds of state-centric responses in order to engulf Indigenous societies. Indigenist theories are written about in intersecting ways that necessarily root us in land-based, ecological realities. When the priorities of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ are centered, and a worldview rooted in Indigenous Knowledge comprises our framework, a host of issues can be better approached—including, perhaps most centrally, solutions to violence against Indigenous people—in ways that do not allow police state infrastructure and ideology to infringe on forward movement.

What Taiaiake Alfred calls anarch@indigenism is grounded in Indigenous thought,2 inclusive of gendered fluidity and non-hierarchal community structures within governance systems gifted and understood through Creation stories/truths. As such, I argue that Indigenist feminist and anarchist intersections are vital spaces, particularly at a time when violence against Indigenous women and Indigenous lands has become so central to our concerns, and when renewing the treaty-based and caring relationships becomes so important to our survival and wellbeing. Land and environmental appropriation and destruction are at the foundation of a colonizing system that violates and disappears Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people. Indigenist anarchist thought is necessarily gendered as on one hand, the centrality of women’s leadership is important in Indigenous contexts, and on the other hand, the fluidity of gender and choices about sexual freedom are rooted in Indigenous worldviews as well. Intersections between Indigenous and anarchist theories can richly inform and effectively address issues facing Indigenous communities who are overseen by state and settler colonialism in many overlapping ways.

Situating Self

I also name my approach reflective of my own positionality, as Queerness/Two-Spirit/LGBTQed Indigeneity, and the responsibilities of being a woman in ways I negotiate daily, honoring both women as a group and the fluidity of Indigenous gendering, by actively dismantling the daily realities of heteropatriarchal colonialism. My mother’s family, mixed Indigenous-Franco-Canadian on her mother’s side, rooted in the Timmins areas and in Kahnawake on her father’s side before Residential and Day schooling caused some to disperse, deeply informs my commitment to renewal of culture and return of original territory to Indigenous nations. I am using Two-Spirit/LGBTQ as a label to describe a range of identities that Indigenous people might adopt in the English language. On a personal note, I like the hybridity of the mash-up of concepts, because it reflects my own hybridity. Hybridity in this case is about becoming and learning, from all of my stories, with the intent of explaining why the centrality of women’s leadership and women’s perspectives does not negate the need to discuss gender fluidity in original Indigenous languages. Hybridity and paradox are embodied and lived experiences as I seek knowledge that is grounded and authentic.

Indigenous Worldview

Indigenous Peoples as nations with supra-state status, “as not synonymous with the states that claimed to have subsumed them,”3 present an alternative vision of governance rooted in treaty that ensures environmental sustainability, gendered equity and fluidity, and non-hierarchal relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Creation stories among Indigenous nations explain and root origins and understanding, not as a set of “myths,” but as truth embedded in all of creation.4 Creation stories tell us about the supreme respect given to women creators, like Sky Woman among the Haudenosaunee, whose lineage gifts women with responsibilities for governance and economic leadership.5

Creation, at some point in ancient time, birthed entire peoples with processes for governing themselves through conflict and grand world changes. For the Haudenosaunee, Creation began with Sky Woman and her daughter and grandchildren. Subsequent generations in the line experienced difficulties leading to new ideas and governing structures. The Great Law of Peace is one such example, providing new settler governments with a vision of something more than what they had known. Barbara Alice Mann is among those who point out that it is contemporary generations who have forgotten those original influences of The Great Law on American governments,6 while Oren Lyons and John Mohawk7 point out that among the ideas discarded by early Euro-American governments were Haudenosaunee notions of egalitarian gender and class relations, as well as environmental sustainability.

In order to create good relationships with people who were not well socialized in the ways of Indigenous democracies, treaties were made to plant the seeds for ongoing Indigenous freedom and sharing of resources. Indigenous interpretations of treaty relations are vital to understand at a time when settler society searches for alternatives to the state colonial system. In James Sakej Youngblood Henderson’s critical analysis of Hobbesian thinking as a justification for colonization, he writes, “[t]he idea of colonization has remained immune to the issues of the law of nature and the treaty commonwealth. This immunity resides in the belief that Indigenous people could not make treaties and flies in the face of evidence that the imperial Crown did make treaties with the Indigenous nations.”8 Indigenous nations and confederacies made treaties with new settlers that continue to form a basis of sustainable and equitable relationships. Centrally, the Kuswentha or Two-Row Wampum is described by Haudenosaunee thinkers in this way, embedding the people in original responsibilities:

The design of this wampum symbolizes a path called the “river of life” where both the Haudenosaunee canoe and the European ship travel. The symbolic paths were intentionally parallel in order to indicate the agreed understanding that neither nation was to interfere in the affairs or governance of the other. The three rows of white wampum between the two paths denote respect, friendship, and trust, three principles that keep the two nations close, but at a respectful distance…The “river of life” is an apt symbol of the nature of treaty relations. While other peoples may view treaties as individual transactions, the Haudenosaunee see them in the context of the relationship they have with the other nation: if the relationship is the river, the treaties are stones that mark spots along its way.9

Indigenous treaty relations allow for a continuity of governance, social and economic stability, rooted in an Indigenous worldview rather than colonial relations.

Indigenous people’s knowledge systems are particular to their land base and flow from that ecological embeddedness, for example, in Deloria’s words,

We have already seen that tribal peoples observed the world around them and quickly concluded that it represented an energetic mind undergirding the physical world…This belief…is the starting point, not the conclusion.10

Indigenous governance structures provide also the interconnections between a gendered system of egalitarian relations and environmental rootedness. Under Haudenosaunee law, women have “proprietorship of ‘the land and the soil’” as “Turtle Island was created specifically for Sky Woman, whose legal heirs were her direct lineal descendants in the female line.” And further, “Haudenosaunee people did, quite literally, spring from the wombs of Sky Woman and the Lynx (her daughter)…It is a literal statement of fact, not ‘Indian hyperbole.’”11

Identity in relation to Creation, not only to land but to Clans, is also emphasized by Mann, whose work is immensely important toward understanding the deeper implications of Indigenism and gendering. These are the original governance systems, rooted in respect and equity for all of life. Paying lip service to equality within a state-colonial system that is inherently heterosexist and patriarchal, is counter productive but also a distraction from the renewal of Indigenous governance systems. For example,

[A]ccording to the Blackfoot (Siikisikaawa), governance is not limited to soyipihtsiiksi (the person who is of, and speaks for the people) or the nonauthoritative, nonhierarchical and noncoercive relations between people. Governance exists as a relationship with the “circle of life” or all beings within a territory, and it is about people establishing a relationship with a territory and learning from that relationship.12

Haudenosaunee scholars have long made the link between the environmental degradation associated with industrial overdevelopment, the undermining of land and water rights, and the need to return to original teachings that ground Indigenous rights and responsibilities. As Hill writes:

Our historical consciousness, our land and our environmental ethics are inextricably connected. For the Haudenosaunee, history on this earth begins with Creation. The Haudenosaunee creation story is a detailed epic taking days to tell in its entirety. Additional side stories relate to the time of Creation and help explain how other entities of this world came into being.13

Creation is Indigenous truth and reality unfolding. Creation is not myth or metaphor or constructed reality. Creation truths inform Indigenous worldview while Eurocentric infringement continually seeks to deny Creation in order to justify settler society’s rights to alter economies, restructure land relations, and create a whole system of colonial protectionism to the total detriment and continual undoing of Indigenous responsibilities and rights.

In Katsi Cook’s words, women are the “first environment”14 and Indigenous women are harmed by the toxification of the water, in health and physical embodiment of that direct and intentional harm, and also as leaders and keepers of the water, in the sense that a whole governance system, familial organization, and community wellbeing are equally undone. There is no saving of environments without looking to the root causes of the environment’s undoing, and there is no addressing of Indigenous self-determination without environmental wellbeing as equally central. That there are direct physical, spiritual, and intellectual connections between Indigenous women and the land and water, is evident across many cultural teachings. Joe Sheridan and Roronhiakewen Dan Longboat explain the knowledge base of Indigenous cultures as inherently rooted in original ecologies. Human beings in an ecological context

…are sacred teachers meant to impart and remember and are duty bound to the spiritual because we were the last beings created. The other creatures chose, as part of their responsibilities, the duty of caring for us and also exercised their spiritual and intellectual capabilities by instilling in us and sharing among us their knowledge of how to live, their stories, songs, and identities.15

Indigenist-feminist and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people focus on important state challenges, building on Indigenist-anarchist theory and repositioning Indigenous Knowledge at the center of revolutionary action and thought. The primary challenge within this work might lie with the simple reminder that for decolonization to be realized, gendered resistance to colonial state systems necessitates the centering of Indigenous Peoples’ issues, perspectives and priorities. At the same time this is an intersectional framework fully recognizing the dynamic and growing nature of Indigenous resistance and culture-based renewal as Indigenous Peoples weed out and heal from the damages of colonial impositions. I argue elsewhere that the violent and coercive undoing of Indigenous women’s economies has remained central to the Canadian colonial state and settler colonial project since its beginnings.16 This is the focus, the point of intersection, that begs us to look away from colonial solutions to colonial problems, and to stop pathologizing and blaming Indigenous Peoples for choices made in a context of ongoing colonization and land loss. Indigenist anarchist interventions contribute an understanding that intensified state and settler framing, policing and legalization of the issues and challenges facing Indigenous Peoples in a colonial era, actively reinforces ongoing fracturing and oppression.

A vision of Indigenist-anarchism is provided by Taiaiake Alfred in visioning for a return of Indigenous Peoples “to a place of dignity and strength and in repossession of our homelands, governed by our own laws, and recentered as human beings guided by the Original Teachings of our ancestors about how to live in peace together and in relation to the natural environment” while newcomers, including anarchist thinkers, “appreciate the justice of this vision and…live humbly as a guest according to Indigenous North American laws.”17

Sheridan and Longboat talk through the significance of understanding that Indigenous thought comes from the land, not as symbolic invention of human intellect, but as direct communication. They write of the spiritual centeredness of life,

Spiritual force is the timeless heartbeat of Indigeneity. It preserves a human identity that is symmetrical with traditional territory, while acting as a protection from environmental conceptions and practices that diminish and exclude the Ancestors and spirit beings that travel the universe in the spiritual realms of the temporal and spatial dimensions that belong to them.18

The centrality of Indigenous women’s scholarship to the work of decolonization and cultural revitalization cannot be over-emphasized. Indeed, the vital importance of Indigenous women’s leadership in feminist movements in the West is often obscured by Eurocentric scholarship.19 I remain inspired by the work of Indigenous women like Trish Monture and Laara Fitznor. Fitznor writes about “storying” as an active rooting of knowledge in identity and experience.20 Monture’s seminal Thunder in My Soul contains the description of an Indigenist situated knowledge, where she writes “It is only through my culture that my women’s identity is shaped. It is the teachings of my people that demand we speak from our own personal experience.”21 Resistance is rooted in fluid, ever growing, ever creative cultural traditions.

Settler and State Colonialism

Interrupting Indigenous governance and sustainable livelihoods is a complex system of colonialism in need of study from within. Indigenist-anarchist, feminist and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ thinkers hold space for vital discussion about the gendered and hierarchal nature of the colonial system. The deliberateness of poverty and restructured economies as a weapon against Indigenous women’s leadership and the deliberate architecture of heteropatriarchal family structures and community hierarchies combine with the perpetuation of the violability of Indigenous bodies, particularly those of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people; the most vulnerable in communities coping with high rates of addiction and violence are “inherently violable.”22 Addressing the nature of heterosexism and misogyny, or “heteropatriarchy”23 remains central to decolonization efforts. This work continues to be rooted in the whole cultural and environmental context of Indigenous knowledge. Walters and Simoni write about the rootedness of Indigenous women’s leadership, in Creation stories that also root Indigenous nations in particular places, adhering to and learning from, particular spirits of place. And so,

Spiritual female figures reflect the sacred and central positions that women have held among indigenous nations over many centuries. Contemporarily, Native women’s power is manifested in their roles as sacred life givers, teachers, socializers of children, healers, doctors, seers, and warriors. With their status in these powerful roles, Native women have formed the core of indigenous resistance to colonization, and the health of their communities in many ways depends upon them.24

Estrada writes about Two-Spirit/LGBTQ identity, translating Niizh Manitoag from the Algonquin language group, as the origin of the concept of the term Two-Spirit/LGBTQ as an origin concept of a non-binaried gendered Creator.25 Among Haudenosaunee, sexual freedom is discussed as a component of matrilineal society.26

Advocates for the rights of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people provide a rooted intersectional approach. As Colleen Hele, Naomi Sayers and Jessica Wood write,

…many Indigenous organizations will be quick to treat the Sixties Scoop and violence against Indigenous women and girls as separate issues — thereby ignoring the history of state-sanctioned trafficking of Indigenous children and ongoing colonial policies that continue to create violence in the lives of Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people. These same organizations will also be quick to point to prostitution as the sole problem that permits human trafficking to take place, instead of examining, for example, how the lack of safe and adequate housing in our communities pushes Indigenous women and girls into unsafe situations.27

Indigenist feminism should challenge the interferences of policing and state entities in the lives of Indigenous women by contextualizing the violence that Indigenous women face as an issue of state and settler colonialism. Indigenist feminism not only centers the reclamation of land and culture as an inherently anti-patriarchal project, but challenges non-Indigenous feminist movements to challenge the state and settler focus of anti-sexist work. Jason Michael Adams intersects anarchist, Indigenist and feminist theory in order to map the unique positionality of Indigenous women: as they are subjected to

…practices of sterilization and a culture of rape, Indigenous women are “biologized” – they are rendered as “internal enemies,” objects of state domestication, administration and eradication. Both “present,” in order to be rendered governable subjects and “absent” in order to render the founding violence of the nation-state imperceptible, Native American women are reduced to the precarious status of bare life, forced to perform these nuances of “present absence” as the situation requires.28

The subsuming of Indigenous women’s presence and status is the removal of their power in tribal contexts. In other words, it is the colonial removal of leaders of the highest order. Hoping that colonial thinkers are simply too naïve and unaware of women’s power and influence to enact such deliberate undermining, seems dangerous. The deliberateness and destructiveness of the colonial system is a purposeful tide of violence and violation.

The system is contextualized by colonial land relations, whereby settler society is encouraged to erase Indigenous governance and Indigenous bodies, and the state provides impetus and inspiration to continue the project of land expropriation and destruction. Tuck and Yang describe settler colonialism in terms of its replication in myriad systems and theories that seek to justify the expropriation of Indigenous lands and cultures for the uses of settler society and the settler state. It is only through the “repatriation of Indigenous land and life,” as Tuck and Yang remind us, that those systems of power are truly “unsettled.”29 The potential for coming together lies not in pushing Indigenous knowledge(s) to fit within Eurocentric settler-colonial priorities, but in dismantling the rootedness of domination. As the authors continue, “The metaphorization of decolonization makes possible a set of evasions, or “settler moves to innocence,” that problematically attempt to reconcile settler guilt and complicity, and rescue settler futurity.”30

A political movement that fails to understand colonialism’s centrality to daily life in the Americas is destined, it would seem, to perpetuate its dynamics. For example, vital questions were raised during Occupy movements in 2011 about economic inequality and poverty, and the ability of individuals to build community not hindered by state oppression.31 Intersections between Occupy and Indigenous, feminist and anti-imperial movements were raised immediately. Barker points out the irony in the use of the term “occupy” on already occupied Indigenous lands:

Long before the goal of settler colonialism was clearly articulated—the transfer of all land from Indigenous to Settler control; the erasure and replacement of Indigenous space with settler colonial spaces; the naturalization of Settler people on the land— Indigenous activists understood this inevitable trajectory and began moving to check it.32

Settler colonialism continues to block social justice movements from finding solutions to the issues they face. Govier writes, “patterns of colonization, land use, racism, disregard for treaties, and the residential school system: we are linked significantly to the institutions that are responsible,” meaning that non-Indigenous Canadians “are beneficiaries of the injustices.”33 The argument follows then that rectifying the entitlements of colonialism would actually benefit social and economic justice movements. As Tuck and Yang argue, there is potential in what is “incommensurable” between Indigenous and Western knowledge systems.34 Treaty-based resistance movements are named as emancipatory theory whereby allies become accomplices in the dismantling of the damages of colonization.

There are moments of convergence between anarchist and Indigenous scholars, but as Barker and Pickerill point out, tensions caused by settler appropriation and misapprehension of Indigenous priorities are too common.35 The Occupy movement is an example of the authors’ concerns about settler missteps in relation to Indigenous land-based politics. The point that I am raising is that these are also deeply gendered contestations, not only as spatial relationality, but as temporal belonging rooted in Creation and forever-belonging.36

Gendering the Conversation

There is a need for more Two-Spirit/LGBTQ focus in gendered discussions about the freedom and emancipation of Indigenous Peoples. We need support, time and space, to renew language and cultural understandings of women’s sacredness and leadership and gender fluidity as manifest in each culture. Other important issues arise when heterosexist patriarchal colonialism is challenged, about how centrally positive sexuality, pleasure and freedom are rooted within Indigenous traditions. It remains important to provide these critiques; it is not said often enough that Indigenous traditions are flexible and able to explain the responsibilities and belonging of Two-Spirit/LGBTQ community members. It is this articulation of responsibilities that theorists like Cameron ask of the holders of Indigenous culture.

Native women and Native Two Spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming people are subjected to gender-specific forms of law enforcement violence, such as racial profiling, physical abuse, sexual harassment and abuse, and failure to respond or abusive responses to reports of violence….Native women are also profiled as drug users, alcohol abusers, and as bad mothers.37

Indigenist feminist theory would also look at the ways that Indigenous bodies and economies of pleasure are affected by colonialism.

Examples of the colonial intersection of land- and gender-based oppression come in many forms. Gendered and environmental violence work together in a colonial system. For example, Indigenous activists combine an anarchist critique of state and policing entities in the lives of Indigenous women, with the centering of women’s voices in discourses that most concern them. Some of the most important work happening in Indigenous scholarship is centered on the resistance efforts and priorities of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people who engage in sex work. Sayers and Hunt write about “the importance of supporting indigenous women where they’re at today regardless of the choices they make and the utility of community-based initiatives to increase safety and wellness for all,” and continue that

We see that even in the midst of poverty, abuse, and marginalization, native women’s daily decisions need to be respected, and the lives of those women choosing to sell sex are as valuable as those choosing to work for government agencies. Violence against all native women needs to be made unacceptable, including against those who work in the sex trade.38

Sayers and Hunt’s words also speak to deep reflection about the roots of Indigenous governance. The leadership of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people is evoked. Addressing violence against Indigenous women is central to dismantling settler and state colonial systems.

Ongoing resistance efforts attempt to grapple with state interference and reframing at every turn. In 2010, The Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters in Spirit initiative released their report on the growing numbers of Indigenous women who are murdered or disappeared in the Canadian settler state matrix. The state’s response to Sisters in Spirit was to cease their funding, and to divert funds to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police database,39 raising important questions about Indigenous community control over policing, and the overseeing of Indigenous communities by state policing and prison systems. In Amnesty International’s words,

Resource allocation and programming to tackle this violence and its root causes have been piecemeal and without a guiding strategy or coordination. Although in 2010 the federal government announced plans to spend $10 million over five years to address violence against Indigenous women and girls, most of the funding was earmarked for police initiatives that track missing persons in general, without any particular focus on the specific patterns of gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls. Furthermore, organizations working to advance the rights of Indigenous women and girls and address issues of violence, such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada, continue to face an uncertain funding climate.40

This redirection revealed important intersections between gender and colonization, both in terms of the state’s willingness to appropriate the conversation for its own purposes, and in terms of the centrality of gender-based oppression to the broad project of settler and state colonialism. Indeed, the spatial or place-based as well as temporal parameters (defined in terms of deep time and belonging in the Americas) of Indigenous thought and practice necessitate a gendered approach that seeks to re-center a diversity of Indigenous voices.41 Indigenist anarchist, feminist and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ analyses all have the potential to recreate those pathways of renewal within Indigenous thinking, revealing tactics of state and settler colonialism.

Indigenist feminist, anarchist and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ intersections are especially illuminating at a time when LGBT mainstream politics has become ingrained in a hegemonic state system, prioritizing state-sanctioned marriage and a kind of emergent nationalist discourse. Indigenous Two-Spirit/LGBTQ interventions decenter LGBT politics from what has become an integrationist and heteropatriarchal nationalist project. Rankin iterates an analysis of Canadian nation-building as intrinsically heteropatriarchal and heterosexist, and points out that discussion about same-sex marriage and integrating LGBT politics in the nation-state take place “within an era in which the masculinist character of contemporary Canadian nationalism appears to be deepening.”42 This is, in essence, a non-patriarchal nationalism, which Rankin’s work also mentions in passing, as a point of interest that should be expanded upon by Two-Spirit/LGBTQ/queer Indigenist-feminist scholars. Gendering the work of decolonization is about renewing original governance systems, inclusive of family and communities that embody principles of egalitarian and caring traditions.

Weaving theories in this way can keep conversation flowing away from the state-centric legislative approach that sees collective rights pitted against individual rights, toward a deeper reclamation of Indigenist-feminist principles in practice, rooted as they are in Indigenous Knowledge and traditions. The implications of this kind of work are far-reaching, basically requiring a recentering of Indigenous and Two-Spirit politics.

Indigenist intersectionality as a Two-Spirit project is a reclamation of identity as emerging into community, to full inclusion. It is a critique of heteropatriarchal influences on Indigenous nationhood, and therefore a reclamation of older, matrilineal traditions.

Indigenist intersectional theory allows us to embody an ethic of freedom, choice, responsibility and thanksgiving. This is a project of renewing healthy relationships within individuals, with each other and with the land, central to treaty relations. Considering the ways that sexual violence has been used by colonizing society to fracture and harm individuals and families, the reclaiming of sexual freedom, and of consenting, caring relationships, is vital. At the same time, the dominance of heteropatriarchal mores necessitates deeper questions about gender and sexuality in Indigenous contexts. The conversation is growing, like seeds buried, and is expansive rather than limiting.

The implications of these interconnections mean that Indigenous scholarship can continue to grow its capacity as a deeply gendered, environmentally sustainable project. It also means that social and environmental justice is impossible in the Americas without the leadership of Indigenous women, knowledge keepers, elders, youth, and all members of communities dispersed by ongoing colonialism. Progressive movements for change in the Americas, inclusive of anarchist and feminist movements, cannot tokenize or marginalize Indigenous Peoples if they are to find success in their aims.

Intersecting an analysis of the gendered, ecological and supra state status of Indigenous nations, means understanding and supporting those who challenge the state’s latest strategies in an unending wave of liberal/conservative shifts and austerity/abundance funding structures which consistently fails to challenge the nature of settler state colonialism. In the (supposedly) post-austerity, post-conservative, post-Harper shift to a Liberal government, signs of the need for expansive and re-rooted decolonizing thought—a renewal once again of the very thinking that led to Idle No More and other movements to usurp Harper’s efforts at undoing treaty relationships—were apparent from the start. Indigenous Peoples, original to and preceding the nation-state, were pressured on social media to support settler efforts to vote Harper out. An Inquiry into the root causes of extreme violence against Indigenous women almost immediately excluded family of an extended, non-hetero/biological kind, and the families who were included seemed to be rushed toward exposing their heartache and grief and pain for speedy bureaucrats. We are still far from admitting that colonialism is rooted in a pathology of white supremacist, heterosexist, patriarchal violence, and that the bad medicines unleashed by ongoing attempts at absorbing, assimilating, and eradicating Indigenous Peoples and nationhood, are with us still. There is danger in appealing to a state responsible for violence against Indigenous women, and in erasing the real roots of that violence, as well as location among policing, corporate and social bodies.

 

Laura Hall is thankful to be part of a family with Haudenosaunee (Kanienkehaka) and British roots. Having grown up and learned on Anishinaabe territory in Northern Ontario, the author is also immensely grateful for the Elders and Knowledge Keepers who remind us that radical and revolutionary thought is rooted in an Indigenous worldview and in the land. Laura is currently completing a PhD in Environmental Studies at York University, with an emphasis on Haudenosaunee community planning. Her work utilizes a decolonizing intersectional lens that necessarily prioritizes and centers the concerns of Indigenous Peoples, inclusive of the return of their lands and full cultural autonomy. Laura received an IAS writing grant to complete this essay.

 

Notes

[1] Sarah Hunt, “Why Are We Hesitant to Name White Male Violence as a Root Cause,” Rabble News (September 2014).

2 Taiaiake Alfred, Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2005).

3Dian Million, Therapeutic Nations: Healing in an Age of Indigenous Human Rights (Tucson: University of Arizona Press (2013), 13.

4 Joe Sheridan and Roronhiakewen ‘He Clears the Sky’ Dan Longboat, “Walking Back Into Creation: Environmental Apartheid and the Eternal—Initiating an Indigenous Mind Claim,” Space and Culture17:3 (2014), 308-324.

5 Barbara Alice Mann, Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas (New York: Peter Lang, 2000).

6 Bruce E. Johansen, Debating Democracy: Native American Legacy of Freedom (Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishers, 1998).

7 Curtis Berkey, Donald A. Grinde., Oren Lyons et al, Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution (Clear Light Books, 1992).

8 James Sakej Youngblood Henderson, The Context of the State of Nature: Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision (Victoria: UBC Press, 2000), 27.

9 Brenda E. LaFrance and James E. Costello, “The Haudenosaunee Environmental Protection Process (HEPP): Reinforcing the Three Principles of Goodmindedness, Peacefulness, and Strength to Protect the Natural World,” Preserving Tradition and Understanding the Past: Papers from the Conference on Iroquois Research, 2001-2005, 63-64.

10 Vine Deloria Jr., The World We Used To Live In (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2006), 197.

11 Barbara A. Mann, “The Lynx in Time: Haudenosaunee Women’s Traditions and History,” American Indian Quarterly 21:3 (1997), 424.

12 Kiera Ladner, “Governing Within an Ecological Context: Creating an AlterNative Understanding of Blackfoot Governance,” Studies in Political Economy 70 (2003),125.

13 Susan Hill, “‘Travelling Down the River of Life Together in Peace and Friendship, Forever’: Haudenosaunee Land Ethics and Treaty Agreements as the Basis For Restructuring the Relationship with the British Crown.” In Leanne Simpson, ed., Lighting the Eighth Fire (Arbeiter Ring, 2008), 24.
14 Katsi Cook,” Women are the First Environment,” Indian Country (December 23, 2003).

15 Sheridan and Longboat, 308.

16 Hill, op. cit.

17 Alfred, 4.

18 Sheridan and Longboat, 309.

19 Mann, op. cit.

20 Joy Hendry and Laara Fitznor, Anthropologists, Indigenous Scholars and the Research Endeavour: Seeking Bridges Toward Mutual Respect (Taylor And Francis, 2012), 270, 281.

21 P. Monture-Angus, Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1995), 29

22 Andrea Smith, “Unmasking the State: Racial/Gender Terror and Hate Crimes,” Australian Feminist Law Journal 26 (2007).

23 Andrea Smith, in The Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology (South End Press, 2006).

24 K. Walters and J. Simoni, “Reconceptualizing Native Women’s Health: An “Indigenist” Stress-Coping Model,” American Journal of Public Health 92:4 (2002), 520.

25 Estrada (2011), 10.

26 Mann, op. cit.

27 Colleen Hele, Naomi Sayers and Jessica Wood, “What’s Missing From the Conversation on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” The Toast, September 14, 2015.

28 Jason Michael Adams, “‘Only a Stranger at Home: Urban Indigeneity and the Ontopolitics of International Relations,” Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action 5:1 (2011).

29 Eve Tuck, and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonizing is Not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1, 1 (2012), 1.

30 ibid.

31 Hammond (2015).

32 Barker (2012), 332.

33 Govier (2010), 35.

34 Tuck and Yang, 1.

35 Barker and Pickerill, 1-2.

36 Sheridan and Longboat, 2013.

37 Cameron, “Incite! Native Women, Native Trans People, & Two Spirit People: Law Enforcement Violence Against Native Women, Native Trans People, & Two Spirit People.”

38 Sayers and Hunt, “Abolition of Sex Work Won’t End Violence Against Native Women,” The Globe and Mail, January 22, 2015.

39 D. Beeby, “RCMP Database on Missing Persons is Overdue, Over Budget,” CBC News, August 31, 2015.

40 Amnesty International (2014), 4.

41 Sheridan and Longboat, op. cit.

42 L. Pauline Rankin,
Journal of Canadian Studies 35:2 (Summer 2000), 176.

 

The views expressed herein solely belong to the author(s) and are not necessarily representative of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the Institute for Anarchist Studies, or members of its Board of Directors.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Unsettling America.

    Like

    February 15, 2017

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