Native American women are the largest demographic of women likely to be killed by domestic violence. It is an epidemic with levels that almost exceed global rates: Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be assaulted and more than 2 times more likely to be stalked than any other woman in the United States.
And, even though Native societies were egalitarian more than 500 years ago, today Native feminists, or indigenous feminists, challenging patriarchal violence within and beyond Native communities. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center is one organization advocating for Native women’s health and safety.
Indigenous feminism also counters the historical view of feminism that imagines the history of women’s power that begins with suffrage, to the Second Wave associated with the National Organization of Women, the Equal Rights Amendment, and Roe v. Wade, and culminating in a Third Wave that includes women of color, is wrong.
Instead, it’s worth recognizing that history might begin in 1492—when Native women were collectively resisting colonization. Consequently, anticolonial practice has always been a part of indigenous feminism since it begins with the challenge to the nation-state system, a system built on the principles of patriarchy and heteronormativity.
Watch: “To The Indigenous Woman Long Format, Poem by 1491s” (Indian Law Resource Center, 2012)
And there is a growing list of indigenous feminists educating students about the ways in which Native Feminism, Indigenous Feminism, is intersectional—challenging the idea that race, class, sexuality, and nation inform feminism.
Organizations like WARN (Women of All Red Nations), established in 1974 by Madonna Thunderhawk, Lorelei De Cora Means, and Janet McCloud, advocated for indigenous women’s health, particularly against forced sterilizations.
Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (2015)
Cheryl Suzak, et. al, eds. Indigenous Women and Feminism: Politics, Activism, and Culture (2012)