The gender of anti-settler colonialism: Matthias André Voigt, ‘Between powerlessness and protest: Indigenous men and masculinities in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the emergence of the American Indian Movement’, Settler Colonial Studies, 2021


Abstract: The Red Power era (1969-1978), the most pivotal time for Indigenous people in the twentieth century, is commonly associated with a fundamental restructuring of Indigenous-settler colonial relations and a major cultural renewal of self and society across Indian Country. This article examines the social formation of those Indigenous men and masculinities who instigated that profound change and became politically active, questioning domestic colonialism and challenging their subaltern status vis-à-vis dominant U.S. society. More specifically, this article explores the shared experiences of Indigenous male activists within the American Indian Movement (AIM) during its early beginnings between 1968 through mid-1972. AIM (1968–1978) originated in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St-Paul and rose to become the most significant player in Indigenous protest politics at its time. Indigenous men in AIM shared key experiences with settler colonial institutions and the forces of modernity (boarding schools, military service, prisons, the urban experience) that affected their male identities in multiple, complex, and contradictory ways. Western-centric concepts of race, gender, and nation have consistently worked towards the marginalization and oppression of the Indigenous ‘other’ -commonly through the imposition of colonial standards as a ‘civilizing force.’ This article argues that the inculcation of Indigenous men with hegemonic ideals, together with experiences of emasculation, have led to an unintended outcome, namely the emergence of a ‘protest masculinity.’ This ‘protest masculinity’ arose as a result of and in reaction to assimilationist policies. Paradoxically, Indigenous male activists contested dominant concepts of masculinity, yet at the same time conformed to the very cultural ideals they struggled against. This article offers an understanding of how gender and race bias intersect to disadvantage Indigenous men and how this in turn constitutes a powerful catalyst for change.

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