I Am Indigenist
Notes on the Ideology of the Fourth World
By Ward Churchill
Would sexism be perpetuated? Ask the Haudenosaunee clan mothers, who continue to assert political leadership in their societies through the present day. Ask Wilma Mankiller, recent head of the Cherokee Nation, a people who were traditionally led by what were called "Beloved Women." Ask a Lakota woman—or man, for that matter—about who owned all real property in traditional society, and what that meant in terms of parity in gender relations. Ask a traditional Navajo grandmother about her social and political role among her people. Women in most traditional native societies not only enjoyed political, social, and economic parity with men, but they also often held a preponderance of power in one or more of these spheres.
Homophobia? Homosexuals of both genders were, and in many settings still are, deeply revered as special or extraordinary, and therefore spiritually significant, within most indigenous North American cultures. The extent to which these realities do not now pertain in native societies is exactly the extent to which Indians have been subordinated to the morés of the invading, dominating culture. Insofar as restoration of Indian land rights is tied directly to the reconstitution of traditional indigenous social, political, and economic modes, one can see where this leads; the Indian arrangements of sex and sexuality accord rather well with the aspirations of feminism and gay rights activism.
That leaves militarism and racism. Taking the last first, there really is no indication of racism in traditional indigenous societies. To the contrary, the record reveals that Indians habitually intermarried between groups and frequently adopted both children and adults from other groups. This occurred in precontact times between Indians, and the practice was broadened to include those of both African and European origin, and ultimately Asian origin as well, once contact occurred. Those who were naturalized by marriage or adoption were considered members of the group, pure and simple. This was always the native view.
And of course Churchill describes the way things were, not the way they are. Today most Indians speak English, live in cities, have jobs, own property, practice Christianity, etc. Most don't live a traditional lifestyle, to put it mildly. For better or worse, they've adopted Western ideas and attitudes.
On the other hand, I think there's a lot of validity to these claims. Native cultures were arguably much more egalitarian than the contemporaneous Western cultures. A return to the Native values of liberty, equality, and brother- and sisterhood would be a good thing. If a Native society were free to develop on its own, it might embrace these values.
For more on the subject, see Indians Gave Us Enlightenment. For more of Churchill's thoughts on indigenism, see:
Only one Indian civilization?
Churchill the indigenist
Disclaimer: Nothing in this posting is meant to support any of Churchill's words or deeds except the words noted here.