Indigenous Rising Media
By Jade Begay
Let’s be honest, this past week has not been easy. It’s been chalk full of triggering statements and actions and for many, re-traumatizing. Namely, because of the Supreme Court decision, but also because today, while there are strides to replace Columbus Day in many cities, states, and counties, on the federal level, a man who instigated cultural genocide and who condoned the rape and murder of Indigenous women, is still seen as a person deserving of a national holiday. This is why Indigenous Peoples across the country have posed the question this past week, “what is so surprising in Brett Kavanaugh obtaining a seat on the Supreme Court despite his actions, if this country is one that fails to recognize how it founded?”
The most direct way to connect to these dots between Christopher Columbus’ legacy and the Supreme Court Decision is by looking at the legacy of patriarchy. Because of white supremacy and patriarchy the lives of women, and the lives of Indigenous women especially, have been reduced to nothing. That is why we continue to see thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and their familes recieve no justice, no truth, not even validation from the justice system or from the federal government.
So on this day, as we rise across the nation to resist what Christopher Columbus represents and as we bring our movements and our communities together to resist this the Supreme Court decisions, let us honor and recognize Indigenous women who, despite the erasure, despite the violence, are building projects, organizations, and campaigns that protect, embolden and validate Indigneous women.
Here are three Indigenous led projects that center Indigenous feminism and that hold patriarchy accountable, not only outside of Indigenous communities, but also within our own communities because let’s be clear, patriarchy did not stop on the boundaries of reservations or tribal territories. Sadly, these systemic norms have also impacted our men, our tribal governement and even our women — we call this lateral oppression. That is why these projects and these individuals must be supported, followed, and celebrated for their brave work in the world.
“We are focused on developing a culturally centered reproductive wellness and birth center. By creating a physical space for education and healing for Native American women, we will reclaim cultural identities through birth and motherhood that has been shaped through our cultures”
If there’s one thing we can count on seeing with this Supreme Court, it’s a decline of support and justice for reproductive health and rights. Native women already experience a more challenging time in receiving proper reproductive health care due to lack of access in our communties and economic barriers. What’s more is that we are not given options that honor our cultural and traditional ways when it comes to reproductive health or pregnancy. That is why the Changing Woman Collective is a game changer in this exact moment in time. Co-founded by Nicolle Gonzales, the Changing Women Initiative will be the first Native American birthing center in America.
Colonial tactics like divide and conquer and patriarchy have impacted women by pitting us against one another. There is a narrative that is fed to women that we must compete with each other for everything; a man’s love, for validation, in beauty, in success, and this is normalized to nausium by the media. This way of thinking is based on a patriarchal belief that women aren’t enough or that we are somehow lesser than. Patriarchy also works to have women believe that we belong in certain roles, that we must obey and so on. In Indian country, through colonization some of our matrilineal societies have been turned into patriarchal societies, and these patterns and behaviors play out and destory families and relationships. To challenge this entire system, the Indigenous Goddess Gang has formed a collective of femme Indigenous artists, writers, thought leaders, designers, and activists to not just lift up the voices and the incredible work of Indigneous femmes and queer folks, but also to revitalize and build sisterhood as a form of resistance to patriarchy.
Each issue of the Indigenous Goddess Gang digital zine focuses on a theme and highlights emerging or established women and femmes who are bringing healing into their communties or who are unapologetically reclaiming their indigeneity. The current “issue of IGG is an acknowledgement to be Grateful, to slow down, to listen, to forgive, to reconnect with the heart and spirit. As we move into the winter, may we all set intentions that will unfold into the spring and beyond. This issue represents the moment of Gratitude before a Rebirth. Shifting out of habits which may have held us back as individuals and communities.”
As I mentioned Indigenous or tribal communities are not void of patriarchy. In fact, native women experience a unique challenge when it comes to patriarchy because there is often cultural or traditional beliefs that surround these dynamics between men and women, so it becomes extremely sensitive for us to assert our power as women. Outside of our communities, native women experience a drastic gap when it comes to equal pay. September 27th marks #NativeWomensEqualPay Day and what this day represents is that on average Native women are paid 57% of what white men are paid. To transform this status quo and to empower women to be leaders, not only in our communities but also in the business sector, the project Native Women Lead has been founded by a group of native women business owners and social entrepreneurs.
Our mission is to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native Women in business. We do this by co-creating with and convening our community to build coalition while honoring our culture, creativity, and connections.
In an article we published today in recognization of Indigenous Peoples’ Day we stated, “if we are to truly make progress toward building a more just and sustainable society, then we must center an Indigenous feminist framework in our practices.” This can not be said enough.
We are in a moment where patriarchy and colonization are no longer vauge, hidden structures. They are exposed and vulnerable. Therefore, we must dare ourselves to be radical and innovative. We need to stretch our imaginations to envision a world where the systems are completely dismantled because we know, ultimately, these systems do not work and are oppressive by design. So when we talk about smashing the patriarchy, let’s really talk about smashing patriarchy. I think it’s these types of projects mentioned above that not only deconstruct patriarchy and toxic masculinity in our communities and beyond but they also, give us the world we desire and deserve.