Proposal Title

Reinventing First Nations Feminist Thought through Television: Mohawk Girls and Settler Colonialism in Canada

Start Date

June 2022

End Date

June 2022

Abstract

In this presentation, I analyze the intersection of gender, Indigenous citizenship, and community formation as expressed in Mohawk filmmaker Tracy Deer’s 2014 sitcom, Mohawk Girls, thereby revealing the show’s Indigenous feminist critique of settler-colonialism and patriarchy. I read Mohawk Girls through the lens of federal Indian policy in order to bring to light that the roots of contemporary societal pressures and legal policing surrounding Mohawk women’s bodies at Kahnawá:ke lay in the settler-colonial objectives of installing patriarchy, dismantling Indigenous governments, and assimilating Indigenous communities. By merging cinematic analysis and a legal history of the Indian Act--the legislation which Mohawk scholar Audra Simpson identifies as having “made” and “unmade” Indians as a legal body in Canada--I reveal the ways in which Mohawk Girls specifically contests the political pressures experienced by Mohawk women as the reproducers of their First Nation. This analysis builds upon Indigenous feminist scholarship that identifies film as a means of confronting gender violence and trauma, highlights contemporary Indigenous women’s cinematic expressions of the 1876 Indian Act’s history and present manifestations, and showcases Indigenous feminist interventions to confront this violent past while forging a decolonized future. This paper is derived from my book manuscript, Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood, and engages the themes of the 2022 Console-ing Passions Conference by exploring television as a space for reimagining popular depictions of Native women and by investigating media production as a means of reinventing a national dialogue around contemporary Indigenous feminist thought.

Bio

Dr. Elizabeth Rule (Chickasaw Nation) is Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University. Rule’s research on Indigenous issues has been featured in the Washington Post, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, The Atlantic, Newsy, and NPR. She is also a published author, releasing articles in American Quarterly and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Rule has two forthcoming monographs: the first, Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood, analyzes the intersection of violence against Native women and reproductive justice; the second, Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation’s Capital, analyzes historical and contemporary sites of Indigenous importance in Washington and compliments her Guide to Indigenous DC mobile application. Previously, Dr. Rule has held posts as Director of the Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy at George Washington University, MIT Indigenous Communities Fellow, and Ford Foundation Fellow. Rule received her Ph.D. and M.A. from Brown University, and her B.A. from Yale University.

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Jun 25th, 3:00 PM Jun 25th, 4:30 PM

Reinventing First Nations Feminist Thought through Television: Mohawk Girls and Settler Colonialism in Canada

In this presentation, I analyze the intersection of gender, Indigenous citizenship, and community formation as expressed in Mohawk filmmaker Tracy Deer’s 2014 sitcom, Mohawk Girls, thereby revealing the show’s Indigenous feminist critique of settler-colonialism and patriarchy. I read Mohawk Girls through the lens of federal Indian policy in order to bring to light that the roots of contemporary societal pressures and legal policing surrounding Mohawk women’s bodies at Kahnawá:ke lay in the settler-colonial objectives of installing patriarchy, dismantling Indigenous governments, and assimilating Indigenous communities. By merging cinematic analysis and a legal history of the Indian Act--the legislation which Mohawk scholar Audra Simpson identifies as having “made” and “unmade” Indians as a legal body in Canada--I reveal the ways in which Mohawk Girls specifically contests the political pressures experienced by Mohawk women as the reproducers of their First Nation. This analysis builds upon Indigenous feminist scholarship that identifies film as a means of confronting gender violence and trauma, highlights contemporary Indigenous women’s cinematic expressions of the 1876 Indian Act’s history and present manifestations, and showcases Indigenous feminist interventions to confront this violent past while forging a decolonized future. This paper is derived from my book manuscript, Reproducing Resistance: Gendered Violence and Indigenous Nationhood, and engages the themes of the 2022 Console-ing Passions Conference by exploring television as a space for reimagining popular depictions of Native women and by investigating media production as a means of reinventing a national dialogue around contemporary Indigenous feminist thought.