- Indigenous Women and Feminism: Politics, Activism, and Culture ed. by Cheryl Suzack et al.
In her writing around violence and organizing against oppression, Patricia Monture made clear that she had serious concerns about the role of feminism in indigenous women’s resistance. Writing in 1995, Monture proclaimed: “I just do not see feminism as removed from the colonial practices of this country.”1 This position was rooted not only in Monture’s experiences of “exclusions and intrusions” within the women’s movement and feminist academia but also in the tendency of some forms of feminism to disregard all systems of oppression in favour of a unitary focus on gender. “Some Aboriginal women,” she writes,
have turned to the feminist or women’s movement to seek solace (and solution) in the common oppression of women. I have a problem with perceiving this as a full solution. I am not just woman. I am a Mohawk woman. It is not solely my gender through which I first experience the world, it is my culture (and/or race) that precedes my gender. Actually if I am object of some form of discrimination, it is very difficult for me to separate what happens to me because of my gender and what happens to me because of my race and culture. My world is not experienced in a linear and compartmentalized way. I experience the world simultaneously as Mohawk and as woman. It seems as though I cannot repeat this message too many times. To artificially separate my gender from my race and culture forces me to deny the way I experience the world. Such denial has devastating effects on Aboriginal constructions of reality.2 [End Page 153]
Consequently, Monture argues, “[m]any, but not all, Aboriginal women reject the rigors of feminism as the full solution to the problems that Aboriginal women face in both the dominant society and within our own communities.”3
At the same time, however, many Indigenous women have expressed the critical need for feminist and gender-based analyses—a perspective taken up by the authors included in the edited collection Indigenous Women and Feminism: Politics, Activism and Culture.4 Although they acknowledge the problematic and uneasy political alliance between indigenous women and feminism (such as those outlined earlier by Monture), the authors in this collection propose indigenous feminism “as a rubric under which political and social organizing can and should take place.”5
Indigenous feminisms, as the introductory article by editors Shari Huhndorf and Cheryl Suzack explains, operate from the position that social justice “can be attained only through specific attention to gender and must be considered as an integral part of, rather than a subsidiary to, struggles for liberation.”6 The pluralism of feminism, here, is intentional, reflecting the position that “a single, normative definition of Indigenous feminism remains impossible because Indigenous women’s circumstances vary enormously throughout colonizing societies, where patriarchy dominates, and in Indigenous communities with distinct histories and cultural traditions.”7 Indeed, as Huhndorf and Suzack suggest, “Indigenous feminist analysis and activism must aim to understand the changing situations, the commonalities, and the specificities of Indigenous women across time and place.”8 Furthermore, and perhaps in response to the concerns of indigenous women, such as Monture, about some feminisms’ unitary focus on gender, Huhndorf and Suzack suggest that indigenous feminisms “must seek ultimately to attain social justice not only along gender lines, but also along those of race, class, and sexuality.”9
The articles included in this collection pursue critical analyses of indigenous women and feminism through a variety of approaches. Some, such as the collection’s introductory piece by Huhndorf and Suzack, explore the central tensions and applicability of feminism to indigenous women. Minnie Grey (Inuit), for example, examines feminism in relation to the ever-changing roles of Inuit women in the North,10 as does Kim Anderson (Cree-Métis) through a consideration of indigenous female leadership and political organizing.11 [End Page 154]
Other articles examine the ways in which indigenous women, whether intentionally...