By Alexsandra Coltun Schneider
May 14, 2019
More than 1.5 billion acres of land have been taken from Native Americans, according to a study by Slate Magazine.
Amid the virtual normalization of this process, the idea of returning land to indigenous individuals shouldn’t be left off the table, said author and educator Dina Gilio-Whitaker.
UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center will host a book talk Tuesday in Bunche Hall focusing on Gilio-Whitaker’s book “As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock.” The book discusses the environmental conflicts Native Americans have faced. Gilio-Whitaker said she is interested in discussing the chapter in her book that focuses on Native American women and their ties to environmental issues.
“Native women have always been examples of profound leadership, even going back to the … early 20th century … where women fought equally side-by-side with men,” Gilio-Whitaker said. “Native people have (had) very sophisticated political cultures before people really even realized it.”
When settlers first came to America, they discovered how traditional indigenous societies were founded on the principles of gender equity, such as shared governance of power and equitable distributions of work, Gilio-Whitaker said. Research has found that early white feminists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were neighbors with Iroquois women. In this regard, indigenous women have influenced others on the notion of gender equity, Gilio-Whitaker said.
The organization Women of All Red Nations, which was co-founded in 1974 by Native American women including Madonna Thunder Hawk and Janet McCloud, focused on reproductive rights for indigenous females. Additionally, water sources in South Dakota have been contaminated by uranium mining, Gilio-Whitaker said, which has caused high levels of birth defects and miscarriages for pregnant indigenous women. In this, Gilio-Whitaker said she sees the connection between the organization of Native American women and land protection.