Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism

By Devon Abbott Mihesuah | Go to book overview

9
1970s Activist Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash

I am the one who fought for you And I know I'd do it all again. I would never blame any one of you If there was nothing you could do. But remember what went into my name when I died for you. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I'm Anna Mae Pictou. — ”I'd Do It Again in a Heartbeat, ” music and lyrics by Shannon M. Collins, executive director of the ANNA Foundation.

Numerous Indigenous women have been involved in the activities of the American Indian Movement (AIM) since its inception in the mid-19 60s, but men, including Dennis Banks, Russell Means, Leonard Peltier, Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt, John Trudell, and Leonard Crow Dog, have garnered most of the attention. Indeed, some of the works written about these men border on hero-worship. The media and scholars have largely ignored the role of women in the movement. Only recently, in a few articles and the books Lakota Woman (1990) and Ohikita Woman (1993), have female participants in AIM, the Wounded Knee occupation, and other Native activist organizations been heard.

The life of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash demonstrates what it means to be a modern Native woman aggressively fighting racial, cultural, and gender oppression. She and other activist Indigenous American women also illustrate that there are a variety of definitions of “feminism, ” even among women of the same cultural, racial, and class group. Anna Mae is particularly notable because she desired to create a fair world for all Indigenes in addition to empowering Native women. Additionally, Anna Mae has emerged as a martyr for Native women and men who are freedom fighters, a symbol of both the courage of Native women and the possible fate of outspoken individuals who displease their government and members of their own organization. 1

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