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Gender and Sexuality: Indigenous Feminist Perspectives

Abstract

We offer an overview of Indigenous women’s voices, specifically concerning gender and sexuality, across a range of Indigenous civilisations, historically and today. In their activism, in their artistry, and in their scholarly writing, Indigenous women affirm their agency and humanity against oppressive, dehumanizing colonial relationships. Yet Indigenous women are diverse and their political positions around gender equity and sexuality are varied and sometimes conflicting, reflecting rich debates within contemporary Indigenous feminist scholarship.

Keywords

  • Indigenous women
  • Activism
  • Agency
  • Colonialism

This was written by Elaine Coburn in conversation with Emma LaRocque.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The 43-page supplementary volume, entitled, “A legal analysis of genocide,” explains the murder of Indigenous women and girls and the Canadian government’s indifference to these, combine with colonial policies to constitute genocide as defined in customary international and Canadian law.

  2. 2.

    We use LaRocque’s term “re-settler” (2010: 7–8) contrapuntally to challenge the taken-for-granted idea that Indigenous presence on the land was aimlessly nomadic and that Europeans were the first to “settle” these lands. On the contrary, not only did many Indigenous peoples have permanent settlements and practice agriculture, along with other means of managing lands and resources, but those who moved, such as the Plains peoples, did so with purpose and also had developed relationships with the land for centuries and sometimes over millennia prior to European arrival.

  3. 3.

    See Jennings 1976 (cited in LaRocque 2010: 74). It is not clear if this estimate included Native peoples in what is now Canada; for Canadian estimates see Morrison and Wilson (1995: 13–66).

  4. 4.

    As LaRocque argues, “‘civilization’ and its antithesis ‘savagery’ are invariably defined and measured by Euro-White North American standards. It should be needless to point out that such an unscientific belief is racist because it sets up Whites as superior and non-Whites as inferior. Yet such racialized evolutionism has not entirely disappeared from the Western intellectual tradition” (2010: 35). We therefore use “civilisations” contrapuntally, once again, as a way of emphasising the complexity of Indigenous cultures against the “civ/sav” dichotomy that, as LaRocque (2010: 25–47) observes, posits Euro-Whites as civilised and Indigenous peoples as savages.

  5. 5.

    Band council chiefs are often distinguished from traditional chiefs, whose authority is derived from Indigenous practices and worldviews, rather than the Indian Act and so, ultimately, the colonial government.

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Coburn, E., LaRocque, E. (2020). Gender and Sexuality: Indigenous Feminist Perspectives. In: Tremblay, M., Everitt, J. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Gender, Sexuality, and Canadian Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49240-3_6

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