Say We Are Nations: Documents of Politics and Protest in Indigenous America since 1887

Say We Are Nations: Documents of Politics and Protest in Indigenous America since 1887

Say We Are Nations: Documents of Politics and Protest in Indigenous America since 1887

Say We Are Nations: Documents of Politics and Protest in Indigenous America since 1887

Synopsis

In this wide-ranging and carefully curated anthology, Daniel M. Cobb presents the words of Indigenous people who have shaped Native American rights movements from the late nineteenth century through the present day. Presenting essays, letters, interviews, speeches, government documents, and other testimony, Cobb shows how tribal leaders, intellectuals, and activists deployed a variety of protest methods over more than a century to demand Indigenous sovereignty. As these documents show, Native peoples have adopted a wide range of strategies in this struggle, invoking "American" and global democratic ideas about citizenship, freedom, justice, consent of the governed, representation, and personal and civil liberties while investing them with indigenized meanings.The more than fifty documents gathered here are organized chronologically and thematically for ease in classroom and research use. They address the aspirations of Indigenous nations and individuals within Canada, Hawaii, and Alaska as well as the continental United States, placing their activism in both national and international contexts. The collection's topical breadth, analytical framework, and emphasis on unpublished materials offer students and scholars new sources with which to engage and explore American Indian thought and political action.

Excerpt

Over the past several decades, reflexivity has transformed the field of anthropology. It began as a critique of the ethnographic method, but I consider the concerns it raises applicable to any scholarly enterprise. Essentially, reflexivity refers to the process of consciously locating ourselves in the work we create. Reflecting on our positionality allows us to think critically about the intersubjectivity of the stories we tell—to recognize that there is an awful lot about “us” in what we write about “them” (no matter who the “us” or “them” happen to be). The importance of reflexivity to scholarship about the past has not been lost on historians. In fact, even Frederick Jackson Turner, propounder of the infamous “frontier thesis” in 1893, recognized that there’s a lot about “now” in what gets written about “then.” “When … we consider that each man is conditioned by the age in which he lives and must perforce write with limitations and prepossessions,” he observed in 1891, “I think we shall all agree that no historian can say the ultimate word.” One would like to think that this self-awareness would have injected Turner with a dose of humility. It didn’t.

Indigenous people and scholars of American Indian and indigenous studies are well aware of the power of history—and of the need to understand the consequences of its being “conditioned by the age” of its authors. For too long a time, non-Indians like Turner wrote as though American Indian history began in 1492—set in motion, of course, by the “discovery” of the “New World.” From that point forward, at least according to these texts, indigenous peoples became supporting actors in the story of “America”—bit players in a “master narrative” that celebrated the founding and expansion of the United States. At worst, Indians were cast as treacherous villains and bloodthirsty savages; at best, as co-conspirators in their own undoing or “tragic heroes” who valiantly resisted before accepting the inevitability of their demise. “For Native people,” Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche) and Ann McMullen of the National Museum of the American Indian noted, “history itself became another battleground, another weapon of conquest.”

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