Aboriginal Feminism in a Wider Frame

By Napoleon, Val | Canadian Dimension, May-June 2007 | Go to article overview

Aboriginal Feminism in a Wider Frame


Napoleon, Val, Canadian Dimension


Making Space for Aboriginal Feminism

Edited by Joyce Green Fernwood Books, 2007

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Aboriginal discourse is deeply divided. On the one hand, Aboriginal women's issues are consistently framed as membership, marital property, violence, family, health, culture and poverty. While these are absolutely important matters that have enormous impacts upon the lives (and deaths) of Aboriginal women, I have come to think about these issues as intellectual ghettos where much of Aboriginal women's political energies are absorbed.

On the other hand, there is little literature that includes a gendered or feminist analysis of broader Indigenous issues. Why is it so difficult to write and speak as an Indigenous woman, from an Indigenous woman's experience, about the broader political issues of self-determination, Indigenous legal orders and law, self-government, or Aboriginal rights?

In fact, both approaches are critically important and a dual perspective that encompasses both is required if social justice is to be achieved for Aboriginal peoples. That is, the so-called "Aboriginal women's issues" need to be contextualized within a larger political analytical frame. And, at the same time, the larger political issues are in dire need of a gendered analysis. Without such a dual political strategy, an appalling disconnect remains between the political rhetoric and the lives of Aboriginal women.

This is why I was so delighted with Joyce Green's edited collection of essays on Indigenous feminism. This collection demonstrates the depth, scope and political complexity of Indigenous feminism, and proves that Indigenous women have much to offer as women and intellectuals. As this book reveals, the reality is that, if decolonization is really going to take place, Indigenous women must be part of it. External oppressions cannot be effectively challenged without simultaneously challenging internal oppressions.

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