Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism

By Devon Abbott Mihesuah | Go to book overview

1
A Few Cautions on the Merging of Feminist Studies with Indigenous Women's Studies

At the millennium, more scholars than ever are writing about feminist theory. To borrow from Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender, the field has exploded with theory, diverging opinions, and unanswered questions about women's marginalization. 1 At the same time, American Indian Studies has grown to the point that Standing Rock Sioux writer Vine Deloria Jr. writes, “I can see no useful purpose for any additional research or writing on Indians, other than as a form of entertainment.” 2

Literature about Indigenous women has increased dramatically during the past twenty years. Recent works reflect the progress ethnohistorians have made in recreating Native women's histories, and their publications illustrate sensitivity to their positions as interpreters of the lives, cultures, and histories of Others. While female scholars who study Indigenous women have made significant inroads into their histories, many interpretations remain incorrect and underdeveloped, providing only partial answers to complicated questions about Native women. The majority of writings are devoid of Native voices and are thereby only partial histories. In addition, most do not connect the past to the present, which is why we should be writing history in the first place.

While many works supply useful information for tribes who strive for empowerment and nation building, others have been written only for “entertainment” and to further the careers of the authors. Despite the increasing awareness among scholars that one must be sensitive to tribal secrets and that many writers are using Native voices in their works, one must ask what good all this historical, anthropological, and creative writing does. As Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith states in Decolonizing Methodologies, “taking apart the story, revealing underlying texts, and giving voice to things that are often known intuitively does not help people to improve their current conditions.” 3

Numerous feminist scholars express concern over the propensity

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