Gender and sexuality are important to discussions of Indigenous politics because these characteristics structure the particular experiences of colonization lived by Indigenous persons. The institution of gender is one that has been used by settler-colonials and later Indigenous persons to define how power, wealth and opportunity shall be distributed in society. Gender-based poverty of choice and opportunity was instilled by colonizers when they introduced to Indigenous communities patriarchal formations of gender, but such community formations continue to be adapted by Indigenous legal organs (perhaps because international actors are more likely to be receptive to Indigenous institutions if their systems of bureaucracy and leadership resemble their own). The end result is that women continue to be left out of the decision-making processes.

Moreover, women are disproportionately affected by the toxic chemicals released by extractive companies: infertility, miscarriages, and reproductive system cancers are rampant among Indigenous women, and “each succeeding generation inherits a body burden of toxic chemicals from their mothers”, making women “landfills” (find article here).

Sexuality is important to conversations about Indigenous politics because it has been used as a categorical manner to reorganize Indigenous societies to impose settler ways of knowing and legal orders. The creation of settler space required the institutionalization of the nuclear, heterosexual family and so colonizers ‘queered’ Indigenous lived experiences of sexuality and family formations that they deemed incompatible, namely: the experience of sexuality not only for reproduction but also for pleasure; sexuality and gender not as categorical but as fluid; and formations of family and community not necessarily heterosexual, nuclear, or permanent. All of these ways of living threatened European practices of nuclear familial relations that prioritized reproduction and the accumulation of capital through patrilineal property systems.

The roles that gender and sexuality play in Indigenous politics are important to understand because they bring light to historic inequalities institutionalized by colonizers into Indigenous societies that are predicated on European understandings of gender and sexuality. Such understandings have left little room for Indigenous ways of experiencing self-identification and expression. Decolonization starts by looking within and interrogating the ways in which your person has become accustomed to ways of knowing that were used to destroy others.

About the Author

I am a student of secondary education at the University of Alberta particularly interested in the experiences of intersectional identities in politics and history. In my writing and teaching, I focus on Indigenous relationships with capitalism, kyriarchal systems of power and oppression, identity (re)construction and negotiation in traditional culture and in diasporic and/or (post)colonial societies, and policy on refugee crises.