Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Santa Cruz

"Water is Sacred! Womxn are Sacred!": Indigenous Womxn's Embodied Knowledge on the Frontlines


“Water is Sacred! Women are Sacred!”: Indigenous Womxn’s Embodied Knowledge on the Frontlines engages with the issues of gendered environmental violence by exploring the ways Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous womxn, continue to fight for sovereignty and environmental wellbeing of the Fourth World. The issue of U.S. colonial state attacks against Indigenous Nations and lands have made it mainstream, and the politics of Indigenous Knowledge begs the question of how to best support activists’ work to transmit environmental knowledge while not erasing the connected issue of localized colonial violence that affects, though differently, every major region in the world. To help make sense of the intersections of gendered violence and environmental degradation, “Water is Sacred! Women are Sacred!” explains why and how IK is mobilized, both as an enactment of anticolonial relations and an identity-knowledge-object, in different forms across the frontlines.

I supplemented participatory observations in Indigenous lead activists’ spaces with archival research and over 30 in-depth interviews with Indigenous activists, mostly womxn. The in-depth interviews, ranging from 1 to over 2 hours each, include mothers supporting the movement through digital activism to internationally known leaders in the United States and Canada. I gathered supplementary materials from Indigenous lead conference proceedings, online archives, and the Freedom Archives in San Francisco.

Water is Sacred! Womxn are Sacred! proposes that to reinvigorate knowledge production as an anticolonial process and strengthen our abilities as radical environmental justice pedagogues, scholars must reimagine Indigenous ways of knowing as more significant than and beyond an intervention to sustainability. In documenting Indigenous womxn’s embodied critiques embedded within their analysis of environmental degradation, the dissertation recasts the seemingly new narratives about recognition and decolonization in mainstream sustainability as modes of extraction. The foundational claim is that U.S. American research bent toward the arch of radical transformation must consider settler colonialism as an ongoing process, especially with understandings of knowledge, law, and power.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View