Decolonization & feminism: in good relation
- Andréa Ledding | March 19, 2016
Drs. Kim TallBear, Audra Simpson, and Kim Anderson presented a panel moderated by Dr. Alex Wilson at Station 20 West about Indigenous Feminisms and Decolonization on March 16.
“What I think of instead of decolonization, is I think about being in good relation,” said TallBear, an Indigenous scholar at the University of Alberta. “Feminism is another word that stands in for me, as being in good relation.”
All three women suggested many are uncomfortable with the word feminism and perhaps an Indigenous term is needed.
“Our bodies, like our lands, were the raw materials for the development of the settler nations,” observed TallBear, adding that she likes to “flip the gaze” back to the colonial society. She noted engaging with science and technology is the basis for Indigenous sovereignty, in making critiques of power.
Kim Anderson, a Métis scholar at Wilfred Laurier, talked about how she grew her Indigenous feminist practice gradually. Some resistance to feminism comes from the fact many Indigenous communities were traditionally strong matriarchal societies, whereas colonial nationalist movements are built with male dominance, and oppress women through patriarchal governance. Traditionally, Indigenous societies were feminist societies with equality of the sexes. Women’s abilities and governance were recognized, and they had political authority.
“We were feminist societies. We had political economic and social equality among the sexes,” Anderson said. “We had places for women to have governance: hereditary women chiefs, advisories, women’s councils. Socially it doesn’t get much more powerful than grandmother: we were a kin-based society and women managed the kin networks.”
This authority, in balance with the men, meant women were in charge of resources and spiritual and political leaders, until they were “de-feminized” by the colonial system with an extended campaign to break down families and impose male dominance.
Audra Simpson, a Mohawk scholar at Columbia University, said decolonization and feminism are not a part of her daily thought process.
“Decolonization involves a return of the land,” Simpson observed, adding she wasn’t optimistic about that happening soon. “It is the complete recalibration of the way we think, about ourselves, and about others, and it is about the re-instantiation of our governance systems.
“I see us defending our land. I see us pointing at our land and saying, “that’s ours.” And I see the people doing that defending, as being women. That does not surprise me one bit, that is consistent with where we come from. Our philosophical standpoints, our creation stories.”