The sexuality of settler colonialism: Deanne Linn Grant, Indigenous Women at the Heart: An Imagining of Indigenous Decolonial Sexualities, PhD dissertation, University of Colorado, 2020


Abstract: For Native American and Indigenous peoples, settler colonialism in the United States continues to disrupt many cultural understandings and practices. There is a particular disruption upon Indigenous sexualities, given the ways in which gender and sexuality are used to uphold white supremacy and settler colonial political objectives. Native American women’s sexuality is rarely discussed within academia or even within Native communities. The heavy silence on the topic of Native women’s sexuality must be disrupted. The high rates of gendered-based abuse against Native women represent a singular story. Instead, I research how Native women understand their own sexualities, sexual imaginations, and sexual knowledge. Native American women’s sexuality is an important topic for decolonization and represents a way to re-construct Indigenous realities. I center Native women’s views on sexuality and how Native women’s sexual experiences can be expanded. My theoretical contribution is Indigenous decolonial sexuality and it challenges the monolithic representation of Native women and argues for new Native sexualities free of violence. To decolonize sexuality, Native women must be given the opportunity to share their voices, exposing harsh experiences of sexual assault, but also their sexual imaginaries.

The first of my four body chapters centers Native women’s voices through one-on-one interviews with approximately forty Native American and Indigenous women in and around the Denver area. I propose that Native women’s sexuality is currently based on complex influences of settler colonialism, power structures, and a desire to re-construct Indigenous-based constructions on sexuality. My second chapter draws from Cheyenne Arapaho artist, Brent Learned’s, 2017 exhibition titled Native American Body of Art. This exhibit challenges the idea that Native women are only sexual assault victims within the realm of sexuality and serves as a material representation of the Indigenous erotic. My third chapter analyzes early anthropological ethnographies that document Pawnee mythologies as guidance for Pawnee people to include and value queer/Two-spirit Pawnee people as significant members of community. Chapter Four analyzes a progressive sex education curriculum, which I use as a template to theorize a sex education curriculum intended for Native Americans.

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