Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale, author of Reclaiming Diné History and First Peoples advisory board member, recently delivered a powerful address on the role of feminism in contemporary Indigenous studies. Dr. Denetdale presented a case for incorporating a critical Indigenous feminist perspective into the understanding of the history of Native peoples, positing that to do so would shed light on two powerful forms of colonization still in play. First, she argued that the role of gender violence during the conquest must be acknowledged before the process of decolonization can be fully embraced. Secondly, she made the case that the imposition of heteronormative European gender norms has created an atmosphere of sexism, intolerance, and violence in Native communities that is, in effect, an embodiment of the colonial agenda. Taking both of these critical forms of gendered colonization into account, Denetdale and other Indigenous feminist scholars believe it is essential to develop feminist insights into colonization before true decolonization can take effect. Dr. Denetdale was kind enough to allow First Peoples to publish a portion of the paper in which she shares her thoughts on critical Indigenous feminisms.
Claiming the “F” Word: Native Women, Feminisms, and Visions of Sovereignty
By Jennifer Nez Denetdale
As a Diné woman and a student, I have always been deeply troubled by American history and its portrayal and depictions of Native peoples’ histories. My scholarship has been both a critique of how American historiography has shaped Native history and studies and also explorations of how we might decolonize our work in the academy, our nations, our communities, and ourselves.
In the past few years, I have been in dialogue with Native scholars who are articulating critical Indigenous feminist theory. These articulations simultaneously affirm tribal sovereignty and challenge Native nations and their citizens to examine the on-going effects of colonization and Americanization that impacts the decisions we make and hinder our efforts to realize true sovereignty.