Famed feminist Gloria Steinem recently called out women who supported presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, suggesting women who support Senator Sanders are doing so because they are looking to meet men. But Steinem, a white feminist, may be missing several key points on what is making young feminists gravitate to Senator Sanders.
Senator Sanders is the first presidential candidate so far to really address Native Americans and their issues. I am as much Native American as I am woman. I know that, according to the Department of Justice, Native American women suffer domestic violence at a 50 percent higher rate than other minorities. While I will openly admit that I am going to vote for former Secretary Hillary Clinton, and have given many hours phone banking and organizing her, I also openly admit that I have been disappointed by her lack of Native American outreach. I contacted her campaign and asked to help with outreach for the Native vote, but have never heard anything. I have not seen any Native policies laid out on her website. Even though she may be my candidate, an important part of politics is holding your politicians accountable. I’ve seen former secretary Clinton progress on things like the Keystone pipeline and other issues important to progressive voters, but I am still waiting on her to address Indian Country.
White feminists cannot truly relate to Native issues; they can sympathize, but they can never really know what it’s like to grow up as a Native woman. While white feminist urge that there is a special place in hell for women who do not support other women, white feminist do not realize that hell is a concept forced upon Native people. We have already been to hell, ask my grandmother about the Indian Boarding school she was forced to attend. My grandmother’s personal hell is one Native families carry, and their historical trauma is passed on through generations. With our higher poverty rates and higher addictions rates, many Native kids already grow up in harsh conditions which seem hellish. We should neither be ashamed nor afraid to hold our presidential candidates accountable and ask them how they will fight for us.
Native voters both men and women are watching both candidates, and this is evidenced by Tamar County in Iowa where the Meswaki tribe overwhelming voted for Senator Sanders. If Secretary Clinton wants to secure more of the young Native vote, she must bring us in, she must let our voices be a part of her campaign. Our voices must be heard, and there is nothing un-feminist about demanding so.
Jennifer K. Falcon is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux tribe. She grew up an urban Indian in Denver, and is now a progressive political organizer in San Antonio Texas.