4. Indigenous Feminisms

“Being Indigenous and being feminist does not have to be an either/or identity. Both can be connected as a way of ‘talking back’ to the dominant society and mainstream feminism, and a way to enable Indigenous women as agents and knowers”

– Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Indigenous Feminist Studies


This module introduces you to Indigenous feminisms as a form of resistance to settler colonialism.  As you will learn in this module, settler colonialism is a distinct form of colonialism. Settler colonialism is a project focused on taking control of Indigenous land and peoples for the purposes of the accumulation of capital and resources.  We will distinguish our study of settler colonialism from our study of imperialism, colonialism, and decolonization in the global context — particularly in the Global South.

The Canadian state has institutionalized patriarchy and gender inequality in Indigenous communities to further its settler colonial project.  This has involved systemic violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.  In 2019, Reclaiming Power and Place: Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls identified ongoing violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people as a form of genocide.  Indigenous feminisms advocate for a decolonization process focused on gender justice and emphasizes the connection between land consent and bodily consent. This module responds to the following call for justice issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019):

“We call upon all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions and education authorities to educate and provide awareness to the public about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, and about the issues and root causes of violence they experience.  All curriculum development and programming should be done in partnership with Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Such education and awareness must include historical and current truths about genocide against Indigenous peoples through state laws, policies, and colonial practices.” (193)

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Define imperialism, colonialism, and settler-colonialism and explain the difference between each.
  • Define Indigenous feminisms and decolonization. 
  • Explain the term “Two Spirit” and why 2S identity is Indigenous.
  • Explain how European contact and settler-colonialism have transformed Indigenous women’s and 2S roles and identities in North America.  
  • Explain how the Indian Act has regulated Indigenous women’s identities. 
  • Explain the connection between land and body consent.

Content warning: This module features discussions of residential schools and violence against MMIWG2S.

Moving Forward