By Jihan Gearon
Stanford Social Innovation Review
A call to bring back matriarchy in Indigenous communities to rebuild and decolonize the foundation of Native community life.
The words “Indigenous feminism” can be triggering in Indigenous communities. I’ve read op-eds in the Navajo Times saying “feminism is against our culture,” and when I do workshops on the topic, audiences are often defensive and push back on the phrase. I get it. I cringed the first several times I heard the phrase when I imagined strong Diné matriarchs like Juanita or my own grandmother transforming into powerless, basic “Karens,” like “before and after” photos at Carlisle Indian School.
We tend to associate it with mainstream feminism, an out-of-touch white worldview that devalues reproductive work—“women’s work”—and reinforces white supremacy and capitalism. But those of us Indigenous women who are privileged to be raised by our grandmothers and matriarchs know that the creation and caretaking of home is of the utmost sacred importance. And how could we be a part of a movement that does not value or even understand this?