Ecofeminist Activism and the Greening of Native America

Tina Parke-Sutherland


Ancient female-centered Native American myths reveal pre-colonial attitudes about gender, gender roles, and sexuality as well as about human persons’ essential relations with the non-human world. Girls and women in these stories variously function as creators, embodiments of the sacred, and culture-bringers. After settler colonialism, the subsistence contract embodied in these women-centered myths was broken. On Native lands, unparalleled ecological disaster followed. Since then, Native people and their lands have suffered. Women and girls have doubly suffered from the colonizing culture and its patriarchal institutions as well as from their own cultures’ adopted misogyny. But in the last few decades, Native girls and women have taken the lead in rejecting the false choice between prosperity and sustainability. Their ecofeminist activism has spread throughout Native America, perhaps most successfully in the Southwest with the Hopi and Navajo Black Mesa Water Coalition and in North Dakota with the Water Protectors encampment on the Standing Rock Reservation to block the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. This essay details those two inspirational projects that, in the words of Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz, bear witness to “a spring wind / rising / from Sand Creek.”


Native American; ecofeminist activism; Black Mesa Water Coalition; Water Protectors; Standing Rock Reservation

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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