Opinion

Alex Jacobs: Native women have always been on the frontlines






Indigenous Women Rise in Washington, D.C. Photo: Indigenous Women Rise

Mohawk artist and poet Alex Jacobs reflects on the role of women in indigenous societies:
The U.S. Constitution does not mention women, blacks, slaves or Natives when it describes who should be treated fairly and equally. But it also does not dismiss or exclude them specifically and often states, “All Persons”. But over time the politics of the new nation with its north-south and east-west issues made political debate eventual over who was included or excluded, and who had what kind of rights. The American system looked upon the voting franchise as sacred and solemn, even if dirty tricks were played throughout history. Women did not fully receive the right to vote (suffrage) until after WW1 when they had replaced men in the work force but many nations would wait until the WW2 era and even decades after. In some Middle East nations, women are still denied rights employed by women around the world.

The Seneca Falls Convention for Women’s Rights in 1848, was held in Iroquois territory where Native women traditionally held political, economic and social power. This obviously influenced the Women’s Suffrage Movement, since the organizers could draw on the history of this continent to show proof that the subordinate position of white women was “neither natural nor divinely inspired.”

Native women are in and have always been on the front lines, defending the children, land, water, animals and plants, which are our traditional relatives and medicines, and all part of our economic and cultural freedoms. Sarah Winnemuca, Ada Deer, LaDonna Harris, Wilma Mankiller, Buffy Ste. Marie, Winona LaDuke, are modern day advocates who fought for their people. Social movements are being led by women, both elders and young. They will run across the country, organize protests, network on social media, and document all aspects of this empowerment. Faith Spotted Eagle, Ladonna Allard, Phyllis Young and Bobbi Jean Three Legs became spokeswomen for the Standing Rock Resistance, just like women wrote manifestos at Alcatraz and wo-manned the barricades at Wounded Knee and were equals at Oka and with the Zapatistas. Ingrid Washinawatok, Laheenae Gay and Anna Mae Aquash died for their activism. Last year, the world was shocked by the assassination of environmental indigenous activist Berta Caceres.

Read More on the Story:
Alex Jacobs: Native Women’s Day Is Every Day (Indian Country Today 3/8)