“I don’t accept colonizers propaganda about what constitutes a ‘successful’ Indian. In my opinion, any Indian still alive is a success.”
For as long as the United States has existed as a settler-colonial nation — a good 500 years at least — Indigenous people have resisted state violence and worked tirelessly to survive and thrive. Yet despite this long history of protest and community-building, Indigenous voices and issues are predominantly invisible in conversations on social justice.
What does this continued erasure — even by those who claim to be anti-racist — mean for Indigenous people, our tribal nations, and the nation as a whole? How are Indigenous activists, creators, and scholars building resilient and healthy communities?
I recently spoke with four prominent Indigenous people about feminism, resistance, and tribal sovereignty:
Leanne Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg activist, scholar, and poet who was heavily involved with the Idle No More movement that called attention to treaty violations and environmental degradation.
Chrystos, a Menominee two-spirit poet and activist, has published several books of poetry and was featured in the seminal anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua.
Sarah Deer is a lawyer and advocate from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who was deeply involved with the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that expanded tribal ability to prosecute sexual predators and abusers on reservations.