- A Politics of MeetingReading Intersectional Indigenous Feminist Praxis in Lee Maracle's Sojourners and Sundogs
Meetings are a common trope across many genres of feminist writing, and have been important sites for representing the ambivalent politics of collectivity, especially for queer, Indigenous, Third World women, and women of color who have actively contested mainstream feminist assumptions about subjectivity, collectivity, and solidarity. Theorizing solidarity across multiple lines of difference1 and intersectionality of differences in subject formation and coalitional politics2 are among the defining and most enduring contributions of racialized feminist thinkers and activists. In this essay I trace acclaimed author Lee Maracle's particular commitment to feminism and her articulation of Indigenous feminist praxis through close readings of meetings in her novel and short story collection Sojourners and Sundogs (1999). Maracle's feminist theorizing and storytelling are noteworthy for at least two reasons I discuss in this essay. First, as an Indigenous feminist who contests colonial hegemonies, Maracle situates her anti-imperialist, anti-racist feminist perspective transnationally, referencing examples, situations, events, ideas and discourses that cross, exceed, and resist national borders imposed by colonization. The affinities between Maracle's writing and discourses of black, Third World, women of color, and lesbian feminists, many of whom were writing and responding to the particularities of post–Civil Rights US identity politics, reveal the resonance and durability of these points of contact over time and differing contexts. Nevertheless, Maracle's cross-cultural Indigenous feminist praxis emerges out of, engages most intimately with, and intervenes most keenly in the distinct cultural, national, colonial, racial, gender, sexual, and class politics of Canada. Second, Maracle's passionate commitments to both anti-colonialism and feminism, as well as her steadfast expressions of solidarity to other racialized women, mark her not only as a leading Indigenous feminist but also as a major theorist of Indigenous intersectionality.3 As it is, Maracle's articulation of an Indigenous feminism that rallies first and foremost [End Page 225] for love between Indigenous women and their families, communities, and all Indigenous people, while it recognizes and values differences among Indigenous women, and makes deliberate commitments to other oppressed women and women in general, is revolutionary. Yet Maracle's contribution stands out in part because feminism continues to be a "fraught" term between Indigenous women, within Indigenous communities, and for Indigenous Studies.4
This essay asks three key questions: How do meetings unsettle solidarity politics, challenge participants to confront their own backgrounds and assumptions, and bring organizers face to face with problematics of representation? How have Indigenous and women of color writers in Canada negotiated identification, difference, and alliance in their creative and activist practices? And, finally, what can we learn about decolonial praxis from the history of friendship among Indigenous and Asian Canadian writers referenced in Maracle's work? I begin by unpacking the trope of "meetings" as sites for alliance building among Indigenous women and women of color writers and providing an overview of events and activities that document and demonstrate collaboration between Indigenous, queer, and women of color writers in Canada since the 1980s. Next I analyze various "meetings" in Sojourners and Sundogs, drawing specific attention to the value of meetings for characters' personal and political development as Indigenous feminists. Finally, I offer brief readings of friendships between Indigenous protagonists and Chinese Canadian characters in Maracle's stories, to suggest how "meeting as friends" creates a space for both Indigenous and Asian Canadian subjects to work through difference toward shared, albeit contingent, strategic goals. As Maracle's stories demonstrate, Indigenous women's experiences pose significant ethical questions about racialized subjectivity, feminist collectivity, activist practices, and the politics of alliance and collaboration that raise the stakes for ongoing social justice organizing across difference. Not only that—representations in Sojourners and Sundogs of Indigenous women's identification and conscious solidarity with other oppressed and minoritized peoples, especially racialized women, also suggest a broader context of social justice struggle potentially to inspire, support, and animate Indigenous feminism.
The questions Maracle raises in Sojourners and Sundogs are particularly prescient, and the insights she offers particularly urgent, in this critical moment for guiding the direction of Indigenous-settler relations in...