Ecofeminist Activism and the Greening of Native America


  • Tina Parke-Sutherland Stephens College



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


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.”

Author Biography

Tina Parke-Sutherland, Stephens College

Tina Parke-Sutherland is Professor of English, Creative Writing and Women’s Studies, as well as Director of the Core Curriculum at Stephens College, a small women’s college in Columbia, Missouri. She earned her PhD in Literature from the University of Michigan and her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where for ten years she taught in the Cross Cultural Communications program of Alaska Native Studies. In 1998 she served as Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Tampere, Finland, and since then hasn’t missed a Maple Leaf & Eagle Conference. She can be reached at




How to Cite

Parke-Sutherland, T. (2018). Ecofeminist Activism and the Greening of Native America. American Studies in Scandinavia, 50(1), 123–149.