Indigenous Feminisms

Lani Teves

For many, the word feminism conjures imagery of white women burning their bras, complaining about men (or everything) and having no sense of humor. These images remain pervasive in dominant Western media, so it makes sense that many Indigenous, Black, or other people of color are hesitant to identify as a “feminist” or to affiliate with feminism as an intellectual or political movement. However, dismissing feminism as “white” is a gross undermining of the labor of Indigenous feminists who have been “fighting colonialism since 1492” or in the Hawaiian case, 1778. Further, feminism of every stripe owes a great debt to the contributions of Black, Indigenous, and other Women and non-binary people of Color who have fought tirelessly to protect their families and communities. Indigenous feminism is therefore vital to Indigenous futures. Feminism is both praxis and theory and necessary for Kānaka and Indigenous life. Our goal must be to claim feminism as our own.

Hawaiian feminism and Indigenous feminisms in general have been at the forefront of Indigenous struggles to survive, protect the environment, and to perpetuate culture. In this section of the syllabus, we will examine the contributions of Indigenous feminists who use their experiences to create theories and methods that challenge colonial (and sometimes Indigenous) conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and settler colonialism in multiple contexts. Our goal is to enable a broader awareness of how Indigenous feminists have continued to resist colonial power and challenge the proliferation of heteropatriarchy within their communities. Specifically, the different readings explore what Indigenous feminism has to do with cultural revitalization, sex and gender, change and continuity under cycles of colonialism and settler-colonialism, the connection between colonialism and sexual violence in Indigenous communities, debates over citizenship and sovereignty, and contemporary Native gender roles and identities.

There are also a few artistic and policy-oriented documents linked in the syllabus. Our intention is to situate Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian women alongside other Indigenous women from Turtle Island (the “U.S.” continent and Canada). Under the broad umbrella of “Indigenous” we analyze the growth of the term and how feminists have been involved in trans-Indigenous solidarity, such as through the United Nations or through a play like Sliver of a Full Moon (see below), that documents the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act which included additional criteria for Native survivors of violence (see Deer).

And finally, while the category of “woman” is far from universal and certainly problematic in its cis-centric implementation at times, we will be drawing from readings across feminist movements to make links between Indigenous feminisms and Latinx feminisms, Black feminisms, and transnational feminisms. Rather than shy away from the tensions that emerge between multiple feminisms, instead we will attempt to cultivate nodes of alliance and solidarity to diversify our anti-colonial tactics.

Guiding Questions

  1. What are the possibilities and limits of sovereignty?

  2. How can movements for gender equity and liberation alongside Indigenous sovereignty support eachother?

  3. What are the key issues and struggles of Indigenous feminists around the world?

  4. How is Indigenous feminism expressed and experienced in specific nations and commuities throughout Oceania, Turtle Island, and its diasporas?

  5. How can Kanaka Maoli, broader Oceanic and Native American enactments of gender and sexuality guide or challenge our kuleana and pilina today?


Turtle Island

Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions” (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986)

Arvin, Maile, Eve Tuck, and Angie Morrill, “Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy” (8-34), Feminist Formations, Vol 25, #1 (Spring 2013).

Deer, Sarah. The Beginning and End of Rape. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Denetdale, Jennifer & Mishuana Goeman, eds. “Native Feminisms: Legacies, Interventions, and Indigenous Sovereignties” in Wicazo Sa Review 24.2 (2009). (The entire issue)

Flowers, Rachel. “Refusal to Forgive: Indigenous women’s love and rage” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 4, No. 2, 2015 pp. 32-49.

Jacob, Michelle M. Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2013.

Mihesuah, Devon Abbott “A Few Cautions on the Merging of Feminist Studies with Indigenous Women’s Studies” (1-8) in Indigenous American Women (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003).

Million, Dian. “There Is A River in Me: Theory From Life,” in Theorizing Native Studies, Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson, eds., Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.

Navarro, Jenell & Kimberly Robertson, "The Countdown Remix: Why Two Native Feminists Ride with Queen Bey" in Imagine Otherwise (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020)

Ramirez, Renya. “Julia Sanchez’s Story: An Indigenous Woman Between Nations” (65-83), Frontiers, Vol. 23 #2 (2002).

Ross, Luana. “From the ‘F’ Word to Indigenous/Feminisms” (39-52), Wicazo Sa, Vol 24, #2 Fall 2009.

M. Shadee Malaklou, “DAPL and the Matter/ing of Black Life"

Smith, Andrea & Kēhaulani Kauanui, “Native Feminisms Engage American Studies” American Quarterly, Vol. 60, #2 (2008).

St. Denis, Verna. “Feminism is for Everybody” (33-52) in Making Space for Indigenous Feminism, edited by Joyce Green (Zed Books, 2007).

"Violence on the Land Violence on our Bodies" Toolkit by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network

“Sliver of a Full Moon” script by Mary Kathryn Nagle


Akaka, Moanike‘ala, Maxine Kahaulelio, Terrilee Keko‘olani-Raymond, and Loretta Ritte. Nā Wāhine Koa. U of Hawaii, 2018. E-book available free through UH library -

Hall, Lisa Kahaleʻole. “Navigating Our Own ‘Sea of Islands’: Remapping a Theoretical Space for Hawaiian Women and Indigenous Feminism.” Wicazo Sa Review 24, no. 2 (2009): 15–38.

hoʻomanawanui, kuʻualoha. “Feminism and Nationalism in Hawaiian Literature”

Kameʻeleihiwa, Lilikalā, Nā Wāhine Kapu

Kaʻōpua-Goodyear, Noelani. “Domesticating Hawaiians” (16-32) in Indian Subjects, Brenda Child & Brian Klopotek (eds), (SAR Press, 2014).

Kauanui, Kēhaulani. “Native Hawaiian Decolonization and the Politics of Gender” (281-287), American Quarterly, Vol. 60, #2 (2008).

Silva, Noenoe. “Kūʻē! Hawaiian Women’s Resistance to the Annexation” (

Trask, Haunani-Kay. “Feminism and Indigenous Hawaiian Nationalism.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 21, no. 4 (July 1996): 906–16.

———. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

Young, Kalaniopua. “From a Native Trans Daughter: Carceral Refusal, Settler Colonialism, Re-routing the Roots of an Indigenous Abolitionist Imaginary” 83-96 in Captive Genders, Eric Stanley & Nat Smith (eds), (AK Press, 2015).



The Mana Wahine Reader Pts 1 & 2

DeLisle, Christina. "A History of Chamorro Nurse-Midwives in Guam and a 'Placental Politics’for Indigenous Feminism” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific Issue 37, 2015.

Grey, Sam. “Decolonising Feminism: Aboriginal Women and the Global ‘Sisterhood,’” n.d., 15.

Griffen, Vanessa. “Pacific Women’s Speak Out” The Pacific Women’s Conference, 1976. Suva, Fiji.

Jones, Alison, Phyllis Herda and Tamasauilau M. Suaalii. Bitter Sweet: Indigenous Women in the Pacific. Otago: University of Otago Press, 2000.

Swan, Quito. “Giving Berth: Fiji, Black Womenʻs Internationalism, and the Pacific Womenʻs Conference of 1975.” Journal of Civil and Human Rights, vol. 4, no. 1, 2018, pp. 37-63.

Teaiwa, Teresia. “Bikinis and Other Pacific N/Oceans.” In Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Setsu Shigematsu and Keith L. Camacho, 15-32. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.