Let’s talk about Indigenous feminism. On this page, we talk a lot about colonization in general, but we definitely don’t spend enough time talking how about colonialism specifically impacted Indigenous women (or how women chose to respond). This topic is especially urgent given the current crises of thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America (MMIW), as well as the fact that all over the world, Indigenous women are still several times more likely to experience assault than their white counterparts. No one can understand colonialism without understanding Indigenous feminism.
To get started, we need to remember that when Europeans invaded places like the Americas, South Africa, or Australia, they didn’t just bring guns, germs, and steel. They brought ideas. They brought ideas about women, gender, sex, family, religion, profit, justice, freedom, slavery—the list could go on forever. These settlers planted these ideas on the land they were “conquering.” And while these ideas affected all Indigenous peoples, they directly targeted Indigenous women.
This is why Quechua scholar Sandy Grande says that “the oppression of Indigenous women results primarily from colonialism—a…force underwritten by Western Christianity, defined by white supremacy, and fueled by global capitalism.” These same forces have also kept many Indigenous women outside of the field of history. This means that with notable exceptions such as Brenda Child and Jean O’Brien, Indigenous women have not had control over telling their own histories (at least in Western academic spaces). And that’s where we run into some issues.
Take the example of Leonor, a native Guanca living in modern-day Peru in the 1560’s. This was a very violent and destructive time for Indigenous peoples, especially women. Leonor was probably made the “servant” of a Spanish man named Pedro Pizarro with whom she had a son. Pizarro probably gave her the land next to his as they became next-door neighbors, and eventually she married another Spanish man named Francisco Buelta. When Leonor passed away, [continued in comments]