In the Trenches of Academia
For the woman writer, no matter what position she decides to take, she will sooner or later find herself driven into situations where she is made to feel she must choose from among three conflicting identities. Writer of color? Woman writer? A woman of color? Which comes first? Where does she place her loyalties? — Trinh T. Minh-La, Woman, Native, Other
What comes first, race, gender, or profession? — Sara Suleri, “Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition”
Our jobs as Indigenous women scholars are an integral part of our lives and identities. Success in the classroom and in the world of publishing contributes to our feelings of self-worth and confidence, but because we are Native female scholars we often face confusion in the workplace. Concerns about tribe, community, and family are major focus points in our lives. We also are interested in earning a degree, acquiring a job, publishing, and receiving tenure and promotion—all of which require approval from dissertation, search, and promotion and tenure committees that sometimes comprise individuals disinterested in minority issues. Tribes need us to utilize the data we amass to assist in political, economic, social, and educational spheres, but many universities do not support these activist interests. We are concerned about recruitment and retention of Indigenous students, and we are sensitive to how universities use images of Natives for self-promotion.
I am often asked by Natives with freshly earned Ph.D.s what they can expect after they find a position in academia. The answer is complex because issues of racism, sexism, identity, authoritative voice, and curricula consistently arise. Misconceptions about Natives in scholarly and popular literature, the media, and the entertainment industry compel many of us to spend much time correcting stereotypes and misinterpretations of tribal histories and cultures. We work with faculty and students who see no value in oral histories, American