Indigenous Cities: Urban Indian Fiction and the Histories of Relocation

Indigenous Cities: Urban Indian Fiction and the Histories of Relocation

Indigenous Cities: Urban Indian Fiction and the Histories of Relocation

Indigenous Cities: Urban Indian Fiction and the Histories of Relocation

Synopsis

In Indigenous Cities Laura M. Furlan demonstrates that stories of the urban experience are essential to an understanding of modern Indigeneity. She situates Native identity among theories of diaspora, cosmopolitanism, and transnationalism by examining urban narratives--such as those written by Sherman Alexie, Janet Campbell Hale, Louise Erdrich, and Susan Power--along with the work of filmmakers and artists. In these stories Native peoples navigate new surroundings, find and reformulate community, and maintain and redefine Indian identity in the postrelocation era. These narratives illuminate the changing relationship between urban Indigenous peoples and their tribal nations and territories and the ways in which new cosmopolitan bonds both reshape and are interpreted by tribal identities.

Though the majority of American Indigenous populations do not reside on reservations, these spaces regularly define discussions and literature about Native citizenship and identity. Meanwhile, conversations about the shift to urban settings often focus on elements of dispossession, subjectivity, and assimilation. Furlan takes a critical look at Indigenous fiction from the last three decades to present a new way of looking at urban experiences, one that explains mobility and relocation as a form of resistance. In these stories Indian bodies are not bound by state-imposed borders or confined to Indian Country as it is traditionally conceived. Furlan demonstrates that cities have always been Indian land and Indigenous peoples have always been cosmopolitan and urban.

Excerpt

The rerelease of Kent Mackenzie’s neorealist film The Exiles in 2008 coincided with a renewed interest in urban Indians, surely stirred by Sherman Alexie’s endorsement and extensive promotion of the release. the film, begun while Mackenzie was a student at the University of Southern California, was intended to document the lives of a group of urban Natives in the Bunker Hill neighborhood of Los Angeles in the 1950s. the narrative follows an unmarried couple, Yvonne Williams and Homer Nish, during the course of one Friday evening as Yvonne takes in a movie and visits with a neighbor while Homer and his friends spend the night carousing at Indian bars before ending up on “Hill X” for an after-hours gathering. the 35 mm black-and-white film presents itself as a documentary of urban Indians, though, like historical Indigenous documentaries, the action and dialogue are mediated by Mackenzie, a non-Native filmmaker. However, The Exiles is a complex text and not so easily dismissed: it is drawn from Mackenzie’s research on the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation program and fieldwork on several Arizona reservations and meant to be an exposé of relocated Indians. the plot is drawn directly from interviews with urban Indians, and the film in . . .

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