Native American Heritage Month: Tribal Membership, Marriage, and Mohawk Girls: Indigenous Feminism on the Screen

Monday, November 18, 2019 3:00pm

Parker Auditorium, 102 Stewart Hall

Elizabeth RuleIn 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 that 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.