Feminism from this Native Woman’s Perspective, By Ruth Hopkins
…Some say white feminists should assist WoC in taking more of a leadership role in the movement for women’s equality. I’ll go a step further. Following the example of my Native grandmothers, I say, “Get out of our way.” We don’t need your permission. You’re welcome to join us in the fight, but we aren’t your lackeys. This isn’t no plantation. Instead of trying to speak for WoC, try listening. You might learn a few things.
Curiously, I don’t self-identify as a feminist- although to others, I probably sound like one. I agree with a great deal of the feminist platform: equal rights, equal pay, reproductive rights, etc. However, I part ways when it comes to who I am as a Native woman.
You see, I do things as a strong, empowered Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) woman that non-Native settler feminists do not understand, nor do they seem to want to. Through their colonial lens, they view sacred women’s ways as submissive rather than humble. For instance, they assume that because I wear a long dress or skirt to ceremony, that I’m being treated as an inferior. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wear my floor sweeping skirt out of respect for my ancestors, the brothers and sisters in my circle, and myself. To wear the skirt is an honor. When we cover our power of creation in modesty and dignity, we are shining examples of feminine beauty and the power of the deity White Buffalo Calf Woman herself flows through us.
We do not need to be men. Being an Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) woman is enough. In fact, the ancestors taught that we are more powerful than men. After all, Ina Maka (Mother Earth) was the first Indigenous female. Women carry the power of the Great Mystery within our wombs. We care for our men too, because we love them and we want them to be strong, and be the best version of themselves. We are not adversaries; we are partners. We are one as a People and Nation.
Within the bounds of mainstream society, I think feminism is needed to overcome the screaming domination that is global patriarchy. As for myself and other traditional Native women like me, being a woman is all the power we need. Feminism isn’t the answer; returning to traditional lifeways is. Our strength as women is within us, whether western colloquialisms apply or not. It doesn’t change who we are. We aren’t asking for your blessing, nor do we need it. We mean what we say, and our words lead to actions. We are causal agents who create movements. Look to the legacy of strong Native women who’ve not only birthed Nations, but fought for them. We lead in our own way. Our hearts beat strong and fierce. We will speak for ourselves and through those we’ve deemed worthy.