WASHINGTON, D.C.—November marks Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the over 575 tribal communities of the United States, their cultures, and the countless contributions Native and Indigenous people have made to our society. At NOW, we are particularly thankful for the immeasurable contributions Native women have made in the name of feminism, climate justice, and equal rights for all.
From LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the Standing Rock Sioux woman who founded the first resistance camp of the #NoDAPL movement, to Sarah Deer, a Muscogee (Creek) lawyer who works to combat domestic and sexual violence and played a key role in the movement to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, Native women have and will always be an integral force within the feminist movement. Today, many young Native women are taking on the historic and ancestral roles of organizing for their communities. Jasilyn Charger from the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe and Naelyn Pike of the San Carlos Apache tribe are just two of the amazing young Native women activists working to protect sacred land.
This year has seen victories in terms of justice for Native people. In October, Savanna’s Act, which aims to put an end to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis, was finally passed and signed into law. More recently, the United States elected a record number of Native lawmakers to Congress, many of whom are Native women. The work, however, is far from over.
As we approach Thanksgiving, it is crucial that we focus on disavowing the centuries-old myth that the first feast between colonists and the Native American tribes of what is now New England was one of friendship and fairness. To uphold this as truth is to deny a reality in which hundreds of Native people were slaughtered at the hands of colonizers, setting up a legacy of continuous colonization, murder, displacement, and erasure. Even today, the Mashpee Wampanoag—who were the first tribe to encounter the colonists from the Mayflower—are still facing land-theft. A bill currently sits in the Senate aimed at protecting their reservation from Trump’s Administration’s attempted disestablishment.
We urge our grassroots to mobilize for reparations and legislation that aims to preserve the land and cultures of tribal communities. In order to make certain that our feminist agenda is truly intersectional, it is essential that we uplift the voices of Native and Indigenous women and ensure that their opinions, values, and beliefs are being represented in both activist organizations and government bodies. Native women are enacting change on multiple fronts, and it is our duty as feminists to elevate their work and include it in our activism in every way that we can.