Sovereign Bodies: Native Nations, Native American Women, and the Politics of 2018

Date01 June 2021
Published date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2021, Vol. 74(2) 491 –505
© 2020 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912920913303
“It is impossible to have a truly self-determining nation
when its members have been denied self-determination over
their own bodies.”
—Sarah Deer, Muscogee (Creek) Nation (2015, xvi)
Like many U.S. leaders over the centuries, President
Donald Trump poses a threat to the safety of Native
Americans, and Native American women in particular.1 In
verbal attacks toward a political opponent, Trump fre-
quently used a racial slur employed to stereotype and deni-
grate Native American women for years (Elfrink 2019;
Gorsevski 2018; Traister 2018). Unfortunately, the presi-
dent’s policy agenda reinforces these symbolic threats. In
the fall of 2018, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
failed to receive renewal on Trump’s watch. VAWA
included important resources and protections for Native
American women. This inaction came in spite of increased
demands for attention and resources toward missing and
murdered indigenous women (MMIW; Huyser, Sanchez,
and Vargas 2017). More generally, Trump questions the
trustworthiness of women who claim sexual assault. For
Native American women, who are twice as likely to have
experienced rape than non-Native American women, this
characterization triggers their personal experiences and the
sexual violence experiences of others in their networks
(National Congress of American Indians Policy Research
Center 2018). Trump is not an historical aberration; since
the first European contact, attacks on Native American
women’s bodily autonomy and social status have been
integral to the colonial enterprise (Estes 2019).
In this context, we examine differences in the atti-
tudes and opinions of Native Americans as they relate
to Donald Trump and policies about gender equality. In
particular, we are interested in whether Native
Americans hold Trump accountable for the well-being
of Native American women. In addition, we consider
whether such concerns anchor other political percep-
tions. We consider Deer’s observation that for Native
Americans, egalitarian gender relations are a rejection
of colonialism and an assertion of Indigenous sover-
eignty (Deer 2009, 2015).
913303PRQXXX10.1177/1065912920913303Political Research QuarterlySanchez et al.
1The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA
2First Nations Development Institute, Longmont, CO, USA
3University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Corresponding Author:
Laura E. Evans, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and
Governance, University of Washington, Condon Hall, 1100 NE
Campus Parkway, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.
Sovereign Bodies: Native Nations,
Native American Women, and
the Politics of 2018
Gabriel R. Sanchez1, Raymond Foxworth2,
and Laura E. Evans3
What did Native American women and men voters think about Donald Trump on the eve of the 2018 election? This
question has important implications for understanding the gendered political attitudes of peoples adversely targeted
by Trump’s politics. To examine this issue, we analyze a path-breaking, nationally representative sample of six hundred
Native American voters. We find that Native Americans’ attitudes about sexual harassment are central to their
attitudes about politics and policy in the Trump era. This relationship suggests that Native American voters are an
informed electorate influenced by the president’s words and actions. Our work demonstrates multiple ways that
gender influenced Native American politics during an election where gender and racial identities were central. In so
doing, our work illuminates how race, institutions, and vulnerability affect the political attitudes of Native American
voters, one of the least studied groups in American politics.
Native Americans, political attitudes, voting, gender

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