An aesthetic framework for the question of indigenous feminism, autonomy and leadership : confronting a history of colonial male dominance

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This research study focuses on the question of whether Indigenous women are successfully assuming leadership positions in order to address critical issues impacting their lives, their families and their communities, despite the historical implications of imposed male dominance since European contact. It explores the various avenues women have undertaken to confront the impacts of male dominance and whether they have advanced in their endeavors to alleviate the struggles and demands of their own lives, the lives of their children and families, as well as their tribal nations. Additionally, the question of whether the feminist movement is relevant to Indigenous women is explored. This research involves a multidisciplinary approach, with a focus on Indigenous methodologies, the determinants of which are covered in the text. Oral interviews have also been incorporated as supporting material, thanks to women participants from the reservations of South Dakota. This exploration of avenues Indigenous women have taken in challenging male dominance illustrates that they are utilizing various approaches to advance healing and growth. Despite such challenges as single parenthood, they are making strides to become educated in order to better address obstacles to healthy communities. Additionally, women are developing organizing strategies in order to confront violence, substance abuse, poverty and lack of education. Likewise, through spirituality, activism and the arts, they are finding a voice of resistance. Through this research study, it has been determined that women are also confronting male dominance that has not only been imposed on their communities from without, but has also pervaded their lives through lateral oppression. Their particular methods of confrontation act as foundational steps toward the creation of healthier lives for themselves, their children and families, their communities and their tribal nations, not only in contemporary times, but for the coming generations. This study is based on the image of the star quilt, an art form common among Indigenous women during the last century. Each point of the star illustrates the path that Indigenous women have taken in their quest to confront male dominance and promote healing for present communities and the generations to come.




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