Document Type



Indigenous, Indian, and Aboriginal Law


In this contribution to the symposium on Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez held by the Tribal Law Center at the University of Kansas, I reflect (with pictures!) on the role of women in federal American Indian policy and tie this history to current debates about the Martinez decision. I argue that the perception by non-Indians that they were riding to the rescue of oppressed and exploited Indian women was always a powerful justification for Indian policy, but that the Indian women whose plight called out for European and American protection were not real women, but were instead imagined by the colonizers according to their ideas of gender and culture and their needs in justifying the colonial project. I then argue that this tradition is echoed in reactions to the Martinez case and discussions of the situation of Indian women today, and suggest ways that this tradition may make it more difficult for tribes to identify and address practices that do need to be changed.