“A significant addition to research, Who Is an Indian? provides an extended examination and a clear picture of Indigenous identity issues in the Americas. Among the book’s important contributions are its examination of the site of interface between the modern state and Indigenous peoples, as well as its analysis of how state discourses of identities are interpolated by Indigenous peoples and come to be important sites of tension.”
–David Newhouse, Department of Indigenous Studies, Trent University
“Who Is an Indian? makes a strong and distinct contribution to the literature on Indigenous identities. The contributors examine imposed markers of distinctiveness, particularly those racial categories that have often been formulated by experts and imposed by dominant societies. This is a topic that is rife with controversy, but it is handled here with directness and historical acumen.”
–Ronald Niezen, Department of Anthropology, McGill University
Who Is An Indian? Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas is my newest edited collection, published by the University of Toronto Press. It completes a trilogy of edited volumes on indigeneity in the Americas that I began in 2006 with Indigenous Resurgence in the Contemporary Caribbean: Amerindian Survival and Revival, and in 2010 with the publication of Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century.
About this Book
Who is an Indian? This is possibly the oldest question facing Indigenous Peoples across the Americas, and one with significant implications for decisions relating to resource distribution, conflicts over who gets to live where and for how long, and clashing principles of governance and law. For centuries, the dominant views on this issue have been strongly shaped by ideas of both race and place. But just as important, who is permitted to ask, and answer this question?
This collection examines the changing roles of race and place in the politics of defining Indigenous identities in the Americas. Drawing on case studies of Indigenous communities across North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, it is a rare volume to compare Indigenous experience throughout the western hemisphere. The contributors question the vocabulary, legal mechanisms, and applications of science in constructing the identities of Indigenous populations, and consider ideas of nation, land, and tradition in moving indigeneity beyond race.
Genesis of the Project
This latest volume is probably the longest I have worked on any one publication project. It first began to take shape in 2006, as an effort exclusively focused on race, motivated by recognition of the fact that there were no volumes, treating the Americas as a whole, that compared and contrasted different ideas and applications of race in the definition of Indigenous identity. This was the basis for the first symposium in 2006, “Indigeneity and Race: ‘Blood Politics’ and the ‘Nature’ of Indigenous Identity,” organized under the auspices of the Canadian Anthropology Society’s annual conference, held at Concordia University on May 13, 2006. The same theme carried over into a following seminar, “Who Is an Indian? Race, Blood, DNA, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas” involving 14 participants and hosted at the Clarion Hotel in Montreal, August 2-5, 2007, with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. However, as a result of the discussions held at the second symposium, we came to the realization that race alone could not be the exclusive subject of our concerns in addressing people who have historically answered the question, “who is an Indian.” The role of place, land, and territoriality, and resistance to neoliberalism, figured prominently in a number of the papers to the extent that we concluded that both race and place should be our dual, framing concepts.
The original impetus for this project came from a very particular context of concern. My research in the Caribbean alerted me to the extent to which notions of “purity,” “blood,” and lately even DNA analysis came to figure prominently not just as ways of ascribing Indigenous identities, but also as means of claiming them in light of widespread, categorical assertions by colonial rulers and scholars that these peoples had vanished. To my surprise, similar politics of identity were being instituted in North America—indeed, the interest in DNA studies had spread from the U.S. to the Caribbean, and in North America as well I found a concern with blood, purity, and the stigma faced by “Black Indians” who were being rejected as claimants to Cherokee citizenship. In Canada, First Nations residents carry cards indicating what degree of Indigenous “blood” they possess. Also in Canada, I repeatedly hear Euro-Canadians refer to this or that Aboriginal figure as “not a real Indian…he looks white”. (I had encountered similar purist prejudices during my years in Australia, directed at some of the most prominent Aboriginal activists who, phenotypically and superficially appeared to be “mixed” if not “almost white”.) If race, blood, and DNA were so prevalent, could we find similar concerns spread out across all of the Americas? If so, why? If not, why not? Are race, blood, and DNA essentially the same thing? These were the very first, seemingly very simple questions that led to the emergence of this project.
Taking together all stages of this project, it included a total of as many as 21 scholars from across the Americas and from across the disciplines, only some of whom appear in this volume. In particular I would like to thank and acknowledge the advice, support, varying degrees of participation and interest, and correspondence of individuals who were involved at different stages of the project, including: Kimberly Tallbear, José Barreiro, Phil Bellfy, Marisol de la Cadena, Alice and Dennis Bartels, and the late Melissa Meyer who sadly for us passed away mid-way through the development of this project. We also benefited from the participation of Indigenous scholars, who comprised half the number of participants in the overall project. With an immense amount of research and writing taking place in the U.S., there was often a tendency to have greater American representation, more than Canadian, Latin American, and least of all, from the Caribbean. The result of this struggle, the constant revision and reinterpretation, we hope will offer some critical insights into the processes of making “race” out of (or against) Indigenous identity and the role of “place” in debates about Indigenous identity. The final product strikes some geographic balance, with two chapters on Canadian cases, two dealing with American Indians, two focused on Central America and the Caribbean, and two pertaining to South America.
What about DNA Testing?
The previous concern with DNA, represented by as many as four participants early on in the project, largely diminished and then vanished altogether, especially when we no longer had the same participants as in earlier stages of the project. This is not to say that DNA debates are absent in the volume as a whole, but rather that they no longer structure the volume as a leading focus, which in any case would be more relevant to the North American situation than elsewhere. Yet even that is not entirely accurate, as the use of DNA testing to determine Indigenous ancestry has traveled to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and to my great surprise to the very community I studied for four years in Trinidad & Tobago, as the result of the work a team from the Molecular Anthropology lab at Pennsylvania State University and the National Geographic Genographic Project. In the past, similar studies have also been conducted among the Garifuna in Central America and recently in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, in the latter case again by the Penn State team.
|Sidebar on U.S. “Science”: DNA Testing for Indigeneity Comes to Trinidad|
|DNA testing comes in for severe questioning and criticism in the volume, and I would also add here to my public objections to the DNA research done in Trinidad. Aside from the more than just questionable merits of using genetics to prove cultural identities and political constructs such as tribal affiliations, I also pointed out that, “given the harvesting of biometric data by U.S. universities with research ties to the Pentagon, there is always the risk that this information could be put to uses of which the Caribs are unaware.” Indeed, one of the researchers involved in the Trinidad DNA study, Jada Benn-Torres, from a military family, has conducted research in the field funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. I cannot see any reasonable purpose for conducting the study in Trinidad, as the local Carib community has been officially recognized for decades, and is not possessed by any self-doubts of their identity. Indeed, not all of the Caribs in Arima chose to participate in the study, which raises more questions about the extent to which those examined are representative of the community as a whole, and thus places in doubt even the basic scientific merits of the study. What has also not been made known is what is the ultimate purpose of the research, where the information is stored and for how long, and who has access to the database.|
The Historical Importance of a Bad Question
The collaboration that produced this volume through much iteration has been focused on what is arguably one of the worst questions to be posed to or against Indigenous Peoples (“Who is an Indian?”), one that ultimately calls on them to give an account of themselves, for being who they are in the light of foreign invasions and occupations. It’s as if being who they are is a problem, and furthermore, it is a problem that they caused. Worse yet, they may not even be who they think they are.
As with all bad questions, one can expect to get a lot of bad answers. So why address such a question, going as far as making it the leading question of this project? The answer is simple: the question, however one may assess its epistemological qualities, is a politically important question (the most important perhaps), an institutionalized question, a governing question that structures people’s lives, their access to resources, and even their self-perceptions. It is also a key historical question, one that continues to be asked repeatedly, and one that will inevitably lose relevance. That this question has been raised across the Americas, in different forms (substituting, as the case may be, any number of cognate or tribal labels in the place of “Indian”), is due to a shared history of colonization and state-building and the dominance of European theories of citizenship, nationhood, race, and identity. Here we can start to look beyond the constraints and limitations of that question and in seeing past the constraints imposed today by states.
It was not the intention of the contributors of the volume to either advance academic expertise as the ultimate arbiter of Indigenous identities, to provide an easy-to-follow menu for “accurately determining” who is Indigenous, or to provide advice that caters to the functioning of government bureaucracies and their micro-management of Indigenous affairs. Our greater concern was with the politics that work to preserve the dominance of a “bad question,” a very “bad” and yet historically very important question: “Who is an Indian”? Our hope is that readers will come away from this effort with a determination to ask better questions—better in the sense of being more analytically productive and with implications that are more socially just and fair. Among the questions we would like to see posed are those that posit indigeneity as a historically specific type of relationality, that involves issues of power and affectivity, without searching for the elusive “one size fits all” solution. If, however, we overcame the stigmatization of being Indigenous only to then treat it as a category implying “privilege” and uniquely demanding “proof” of belonging, then we will not have gone far past the point of endorsing extinction.
Setting the Stage: Some Opening Quotes to Remember
“When they get off the boat, they didn’t recognize us. They said: ‘Who are you?’ And we said: ‘We’re the People, we’re the Human Beings,’ and they said: ‘Oh Indians,’ because they didn’t recognize what it meant to be a human being. ‘I’m a Human Being, this is the name of my tribe, this is the name of my people, but I’m a human being.’ But the predatory mentality shows up and starts calling us ‘Indians’ and committing genocide against us as a vehicle of erasing the memory of being a human being….Even in our own communities, how many of us are fighting to protect our identity of being an Indian, and 600 years ago that word, ‘Indian,’ that sound was never made in this hemisphere—that sound [‘Indian’], that noise, was never ever made! Ever. We’re trying to protect that as an identity, see, so it affects all of us”.
—John Trudell, Lakota poet and activist.
“It is one of the many ironies of the American experience that the invaders created the category of Indians, imposed it on the inhabitants of the New World, and have been trying to abolish it ever since”.
—David Maybury-Lewis, co-founder of Cultural Survival.
“There’s tremendous racism in Peru. In Lima, brown people, the descendants of Indigenous people, try to live as white as possible. That’s because of the influence of the media and government. If you embrace your Indian-ness, you’re shunned. You’re less than a third-class person. It’s an insult to call someone an Indian. It’s the equivalent of calling someone stupid”.
—Benjamin Bratt, actor.
“The question of my identity often comes up. I think I must be a mixed blood. I claim to be male, although only one of my parents is male”.
—Jimmie Durham, Cherokee artist.
“What does part Indian mean? (Which part?)….you don’t get 50% or 25% or 16% treatment when you experience racism—it is always l00%”.
Preface, pages vii-ix
Introduction: “Who Is an Indian?” The Cultural Politics of a Bad Question, pages 3-51
Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Sociology and Anthropology)
In this chapter I discuss the genesis, multiple meanings and historical applications of this “bad question,” across the Americas. In the process I also defend the thesis that the Americas as a whole serve as the appropriate unit for analysis in understanding the colonial, “scientific,” ideological, and (geo)political efforts to define Indigenous identities. While I outline how the racialization of indigeneity spread across imperial domains in the Americas, I also examine the centrality of place, of territoriality, and how place also intersects race. I discuss the emergence of “Indian” as a racial construct, and from there I proceed to build the larger theoretical and analytical narrative which the various chapters help to form. Who is the “real Indian” and issues of “race mixture” and the impact of slavery and the plantation system in North and South America and the Caribbean forms one level of analysis. Another has to do with kinship and science, with blood, DNA, and how these relate to ideas of “race purity.” Going beyond “blood quantum” and race, I provide some context and the wider debate around the critically important contribution by Julia Coates in this volume, on the always timely issue of the Freedmen and the Cherokee Nation. Debates around self-identification, and tribal politics, progress toward a discussion of the many cases of “Indian non-Indians” and “Non-Indian Indians”. Finally I end with an overview of the problems involved with “recognition”, with some discussion of the geopolitics of recognition and then, pointing toward the Conclusion, looking beyond the politics of recognition.
Inuitness and Territoriality in Canada, pages 53-70
Donna Patrick (Carleton University, Sociology and Anthropology and the School of Canadian Studies)
“The question of who counts as Aboriginal [in Canada],” explains Donna Patrick, “has long been linked to the question of who owns traditional Aboriginal lands”. Patrick’s chapter explores “the question of categorizing Indigeneity in Canada by examining the linguistic, political, and judicial processes associated with the notions of territory, ancestry, and belonging that shape Indigeneity today,” with a focus on the Inuit in Canada, situated within a broader analysis of Aboriginal identity in Canada. “Inuitness” in Canada, as Patrick tells us, followed a different trajectory from that of First Nations, in that the construction of Inuit identity has been guided not just by state policy but by Inuit attachments to both land and language. In Patrick’s chapter we learn that for the Inuit “the notion of ‘territoriality’ operates together with the notion of ancestry” in shaping the identities of Inuit living in urban centres of the Canadian South as much as those living in the Arctic. Donna Patrick observes that Indigenous ideas of identity in early colonial Canada “had little to do with race, biology, or ethnicity” and that Indigenous Peoples in fact demonstrated in practice that they were guided by a “notion of inclusivity” whose existence “has been supported by numerous accounts of Euro-American settlers and soldiers being accepted and adopted into First Nations groups”. While Patrick argues that we do not see in Canada a dominant discourse about the bio-politics of Indigenous identities to the same extent that we find in the U.S., she admits that a “‘covert’ or de facto blood quantum” has been part of policies governing Aboriginal, and in particular First Nations, peoples.
Federally-Unrecognized Indigenous Communities in Canadian Contexts, pages 71-91
Bonita Lawrence (York University, Equity Studies)
In her chapter Bonita Lawrence points out the cases of First Nations that span the Canada-U.S. border, where for example “the Passamaquoddy Nation of New Brunswick, or the Sinixt Nation, in British Columbia, have federal recognition in the United States but not in Canada,” which underscores the arbitrary, shifting, and inconsistent standards used by states to “appraise” indigeneity, as Lawrence argues. Bonita Lawrence explores identity issues among two federally-unrecognized groups—the Algonquins of Eastern Ontario and the Mi’kmaqs of Newfoundland—which have been the subject of her research for the last decade, providing a window into how the Canadian state produces unrecognized Aboriginals. As she explains, “most federally-unrecognized bands or nations are created by the nature of the treaty process itself,” while other bands are federally-unrecognized “because Canada has refused to honour historic relationships or has disregarded the traditional boundaries of Indigenous nations”. The primary means for such communities to gain federal recognition, to legally become Aboriginal again, is to assert Aboriginal title through the courts (if there is a treaty governing particular territory), or as Lawrence outlines in her chapter, “to take part in the comprehensive claims process if no treaty has been signed in the territory”. Otherwise, federally-unrecognized Indigenous peoples are “incorporated simply as ‘citizens’ within the wider nation-state dominated by settlers”.
The Canary in the Coalmine: What Sociology Can Learn from Ethnic Identity Debates among American Indians, pages 92-123
Eva Marie Garroutte (Boston College, Sociology) and C. Matthew Snipp (Stanford University, Sociology)
Eva Marie Garroutte and Matthew Snipp in their chapter devote considerable attention to debating the racialization of indigeneity. As just one example of the kinds of interests vested in the non-recognition of “mixed” American Indians, Garroutte and Snipp point to Donald Trump: as a competitor against the newly recognized Pequots, and their plans to open a casino, he produced a definition of “who is an Indian” in phenotypical terms: “they don’t look like Indians to me. They don’t look like Indians to Indians,” injecting his racial bias by further calling them “Michael Jordan Indians”. This is useful in showing how ultimately one of the most common ways of assigning Indigenous identity in the Americas is focused on appearance, and where racial discourses prevail, a specific type of appearance: phenotype. Garroutte and Snipp also discuss some of the additional, problematic conceptual issues raised by the quantification of identity, which can apply to both genetic testing and blood quantum. Quantification establishes distance as a prerequisite for measurement, “with the corollary that, at some point, individuals’ connection to American Indian forebears becomes exhausted”. Quantification of identity presupposes distance, and tends toward disappearance. It raises physical standards about ideational and subjective identities, even as it creates new subjectivities around the use of scientific resources. The right to measure involves a power to erase, just as the power to speak for Indigenous peoples, and to assign their identities, is the power to silence them, permanently. The two case studies at the focus of their chapter, the Mashantucket Pequots and Kennewick Man, make for highly engaging and illuminating reading.
“This Sovereignty Thing”: Nationality, Blood, and the Cherokee Resurgence, pages 124-150
Julia Coates (University of California Davis, Native American Studies)
Julia Coates strongly and productively challenges a number of prominent, published perspectives that have been critical of definitions of Cherokee identity by the Tribal Nation’s government. Coates argues that legal definitions are often overlooked in discussions of indigeneity, while race and culture gain greater attention. Yet, as she explains, many tribal governments in the U.S. regard legal definitions, not as artificially imposed from external colonizing institutions, but as internally achieved definitions of nationality and their sovereign statuses. While the Cherokee Nation’s lack of cultural requirements are frequently not understood by non-Indians and derided by other tribal nations, the Cherokee Nation has continued to assert that nationality derived from their specific history of tribal citizenship is a more inclusive category for contemporary times than race or cultural markers. This is almost a reversal of arguments criticizing the Tribal Nation’s exclusion of certain persons. Based on interviews with what Coates calls “a particularly challenging group of Cherokee nationals,” the 60 percent of the citizenry living outside the tribal core in northeastern Oklahoma, her chapter examines the potential of nationality as a basis for self-identification for those in the Cherokee diaspora, and the role the concept of citizen plays in the contemporary Cherokee resurgence. Coates points to problems with a debate that “focuses on identity construction as located in race, heritage, DNA, and cultural attributes and expressions” and that leave out law and sovereignty. She says that one reason why the cultural, racial, and ethnic aspects of identity may be the primary sites for investigation and discussion, for many Indigenous Peoples is the fact that many of them are not formally organized into nominally sovereign political entities with an internal jurisdiction. Speaking of academics, Coates suggest that one reason most academics seem to differ from tribal governments’ rigid determinations of citizenship, is that academics tend to be more inclusive in their view of who is an American Indian, not wanting to serve as identity police and imposing definitions of Indigenous identity on Natives. Her emphasis is on nationality as a potential for retention and resurgence (or what some call resilience), rather than simply acting as a colonialist mechanism of control and exclusion.
Locating Identity: The Role of Place in Costa Rican Chorotega Identity, pages 151-171
Karen Stocker (California State University, Anthropology)
Designating a special place as the locus of persons with an Indigenous identity can be a way for an assimilationist state, one that historically rejected the Indigenous presence as in the case of Costa Rica, to create the illusion that indigeneity is minimal and marginal. As Karen Stocker explains in her chapter in this volume, in Chorotega some residents of what later became the reservation opposed reservation status given their “tremendous resentment at being the only community in the region officially designated as Indigenous when the whole area had Indigenous roots, and aversion to the stigma attached to Indigenous identity in a country that often projected an image of whiteness and European heritage”. The Costa Rican government’s imposition of an Indigenous identity on residents of Chorotega was a convenient way of removing that label from everyone else who resided outside of that particular place, using the assigned indigeneity of some to reassure others of their Europeanness. Karen Stocker’s chapter, based on ethnographic research carried out between 1993 and 2007, addresses how various residents of the Chorotega reservation, those who live just outside the reservation, scholars, legal discourse, historical discourse, those who have resided or studied in other Costa Rican reservations and, more recently, the tourism industry have “defined Indigenous identity in contradictory ways, and in manners that have had varying consequences for those labeled as Chorotega in Costa Rica”. She addresses the history and impact of these multiple competing definitions. Stocker traces the ways in which “one set of customs has gone from Indigenous to non-Indigenous, national custom, and back again, as a result of the shifting of discourses around it”. Stocker spotlights what she finds to be “a common thread through all of these definitions and interpretations of indigeneity,” and that is “the role of place, and how the same concept that mired inhabitants of the Chorotega reservation in discrimination now serves to authenticate its practices”.
Carib Identity, Racial Politics, and the Problem of Indigenous Recognition in Trinidad and Tobago, pages 172-193
Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Anthropology)
My own chapter in this volume, based on four years of ethnographic research and ethnohistoric research dating to early colonial times, shares some features similar to both those by Donna Patrick and Karen Stocker. On the one hand, the state’s recognition of only one single, organized Indigenous community in just one of Trinidad’s 16 former mission towns—the Santa Rosa Carib Community in Arima, on the island of Trinidad—makes it seem, however implausibly, that indigeneity was somehow contained and delimited (which instead reflects the state’s bias in how indigeneity ought to be controlled and secluded). On the other hand, in articulating their own indigenous identity, members of the Carib Community point to a multitude of factors, beyond but including race, to include a history of residence in Arima. The structure of this chapter follows three basic lines of argument: first, that the political economy of the British colony dictated and cemented racializations of identity. Second, the process of ascribing Indigenous identities to individuals was governed by the economic rights attached to residents of missions, rights which were cut off from any miscegenated offspring. There were thus political and economic interests vested in the non-recognition of Caribs, and race provided the most convenient justification—a justification that took the form of a narrative of extinction. Third, over a century later, while racial notions of identity persist, current Carib self-identifications stress indigeneity as a cultural heritage, an attachment to place, a body of practices, and recognition of ancestral ties that often circumvent explicitly racial schemes of self-definition. State recognition of the Caribs occurs within this historical and cultural context, and therefore imposes limits and conditions that simultaneously create new forms of non-recognition.
Encountering Indigeneity: The International Funding of Indigeneity in Peru, pages 194-217
José Antonio Lucero (University of Washington, The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies)
As José Antonio Lucero explains in this volume, “blood” is already incorporated in national ideologies of race-mixture, and is not specific and particular enough to be used as part of the regimes of identifying the Indigenous. As Lucero adds, “in a region where ‘everyone’ has native blood, but not everyone is ‘Indian’ the social category and social fact of Indianness rely, necessarily, less on biology or blood than on the intersecting socio-cultural workings of politics, language, place, class, and gender”. More specifically, Lucero’s chapter takes the work of Oxfam America as the focus of his case study, as it has been among “the earliest funders of Indigenous activism”. His chapter examines two different moments in the interactive process of legitimation between organizations such as Oxfam America and Indigenous political organizations in Peru, “as actors on both sides of the development encounter shape discourses over the meanings of development and indigeneity across local and global scales”. The “geopolitics of recognition” is what Lucero conceptualizes as regimes of indigeneity that span local, national and global scales. Lucero discusses how Indigenous people throughout the Americas (and beyond) have often found it inevitable, and sometimes useful, to engage a variety of legal, economic, and political systems. “Since the first contacts with missionaries,” he writes, “the state, and agents of global capital, Indigenous people have found that new systems of domination are not without points of entry within which they can contest the very terms of domination,” and in the present context, “the rising importance of non-state actors in the wake of aggressive neoliberal economic reforms (which shrank already weak states) provided an additional set of opportunities that Indigenous people have been able to use”. However, one of the problems for Indigenous actors bound in relationships with external agencies is that the reconstruction of indigeneity that results is often Janus-faced, where “some discourses are for external consumption and have little to do with the lived ‘social fact’ of indigeneity at the local level”.
The Color of Race: Indians and Progress in a Center-Left Brazil, pages 218-223
Jonathan Warren (University of Washington, International Studies, Chair of Latin American Studies)
Jonathan Warren begins by telling us that “since the 1990s a large number of Brazilian Indigenous communities have been federally recognized, successfully acquired land, established their own schools, and achieved a higher degree of autonomy and self-determination. Furthermore, anti-Indian violence is no longer condoned by the Brazilian government; racism has been officially acknowledged; race-cognizant government policies, such as affirmative action, have replaced race-neutral ones; and a number of antiracist commissions and initiatives have been established at federal, state and municipal levels. Finally, the first centre-left politicians in Brazilian history, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva (2003–2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011–present), both of the Workers’ Party, have controlled the executive branch of government for almost a decade. Given these substantial changes, one could be forgiven for expecting a positive report on the state of Indigenous affairs in contemporary Brazil. Unfortunately, the outlook is rather dim. Perhaps most surprising is that many of the culprits are from the centre-left, namely the Workers’ Party, social scientists, and sectors of the movimento negro”. Jonathan Warren’s chapter reveals to us that in Brazil, the racial question, and thus conceptions of antiracism—like much of “critical race studies,” he adds—simply removes the Indian from analysis, as if Indian subjectivities were entirely irrelevant. A key example of how this has occurred in critical race studies comes from Howard Winant’s very own analysis of racism in Brazil, which singles out Africans. This is odd, as Warren finds, given that as many as a third of Brazilians have some Indian ancestry. As Warren explains in this volume, Brazilian Indians are removed from the racial question in Brazil: “race is reduced to a question of blackness”. Indeed, throughout Latin America, Warren sees that Indigenous peoples are “not considered germane to race matters,” and quoting Peter Wade he adds: “the virtually unquestioned assumptions [prevails] that the study of blacks is one of racism and race relations, while the study of Indians is that of ethnicity and ethnic groups”. Warren also shows that phenotype is present in Brazilian estimations of “authentic” and “real” Indigenous identities, with those who have African and European features routinely dismissed as “racial charlatans,” in ways that echo experiences both in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Warren’s chapter is critical to this volume’s contention that race is a problem that needs to be studied in connection with indigeneity, not apart from it. His argument is critical not only for developing critical race studies, but also for political practice: the antiracist movement in Brazil cannot be just a Black movement.
Seeing Beyond the State and Thinking beyond the State of Sight, pages 234-241
Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Sociology and Anthropology)
Rather than restating or summarizing the contents of this volume, the Conclusion helps to sketch some of the ways in which critical Indigenous perspectives have sought to develop alternative ideas and practices of indigeneity and indigenization. In a hemisphere which sees, in most cases, Indigenous Peoples moving to cities, and an increased decoupling of indigeneity and territoriality, along with the incursion of the industrialization of ethnic ascription–the commerce in genetic identities–these issues become especially important. The volume closes with a sharp reminder of why “Who is an Indian?” is a bad question that produces even worse answers, and what our task as intellectuals ought to be when confronted with such questions.
Contributors, pages 243-246
Index, pages 247-254
A Little About the Contributors
Julia M. Coates (Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, Oklahoma) is presently at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her title is Senior Writer/ Oral Interviewer in American Indian History for the Center for Oral History Research of the Charles Young Research Library. At the time of writing she was an assistant professor in the Department of Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests cover Native American diasporas, history, identity, women, and politics. She has conducted participant-observation fieldwork with hundreds of Cherokee citizens in California, Texas, and New Mexico. Coates also helped to form numerous Cherokee community organizations throughout California and in other states. For over six years, she was the project director and lead instructor for the award-winning Cherokee Nation history course, which brought her into personal contact with most of the employees of the Cherokee Nation, along with thousands of Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma communities and throughout the country. She also serves on the Tribal Council of the Cherokee Nation as its “At Large” representative. She teaches the Introduction to Native American Studies as well as classes on race, women, development and history within Native America.
Eva Marie Garroutte (Cherokee Nation) is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Boston College. She has a background of research and publication related to the study of Native American issues, health and aging, racial/ethnic identity, and religion. She is the author of the influential book Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America (University of California Press) and various articles in sociological and health-related journals. In collaboration with Cherokee Nation Health Services, she has conducted a series of research projects funded by the National Institute on Aging to examine medical communication needs among American Indian elders using tribal clinics. Her current service on editorial advisory boards includes the Journal of Native Aging and Health, American Indian Quarterly, and the University of Arizona Press series Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies. She is a past Area Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Bonita Lawrence (Mi’kmaw) is an associate professor at the School of Social Sciences of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada, where she teaches Indigenous Studies and anti-racism. Her research and publications have focused primarily on urban, non-status, and Métis identities, federally unrecognized Aboriginal communities, and Indigenous justice. She is the author of “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native People and Indigenous Nationhood (UBC Press), and co-editor of Strong Women’s Stories: Native Vision and Community Survival, a collection of Native women’s scholarly and activist writing (Sumach Press). She is a traditional singer who sings with groups in Kingston and Toronto at Native social and political gatherings.
José Antonio Lucero is an assistant professor in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author of Struggles of Voice: The Politics of Indigenous Representation in the Andes (University of Pittsburgh Press) and the editor of Beyond the Lost Decade: Indigenous Movements, Democracy, and Development in Latin America (Princeton University Program in Latin American Studies). He teaches courses on government, politics, and social movements in Latin America, among others. His research interests focus on comparative politics, Latin American politics, democratization, social movements, and the politics of race and ethnicity.
Donna Patrick is professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Her current SSHRC-funded research focuses on multiliteracies, identity, and community-building among urban Inuit in Ottawa. Her other interests lie in the broader area of Indigeneity and urban Aboriginality in Canada, as well as in the political, social, and cultural aspects of language use, with a focus on language endangerment discourse and Aboriginal languages in Canada. Her 2003 book, Language Politics and Social Interaction in an Inuit Community (Mouton de Gruyter), examines these issues in Arctic Quebec. She teaches courses in language, culture, and power and in Aboriginal and northern issues, with a focus on the Arctic. In teaching and research, Donna approaches the study of Aboriginal issues, language, and discourse through an interdisciplinary lens, focusing on historical, geographical, and social processes.
C. Matthew Snipp is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University where, among other positions, he has been the director of the Center for Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity. He teaches courses in contemporary and historical American Indian Studies as well as rural sociology. He is the author of American Indians: The First of the Land (The Russell Sage Foundation, New York), which was selected as an academic book of the year by CHOICE.
Karen Stocker is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Fullerton. She is a scholar of applied anthropology with interests in education, the social constructions of race and ethnicity, language, and Latin American ethnography. She is the author of “I Won’t Stay Indian, I’ll Keep Studying”: Race, Place and Discrimination in a Costa Rican High School (Colorado University Press).
Jonathan W. Warren is an associate professor in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is also the director of the Latin American and Caribbean Contributors Studies Program. Within the broad area of critical race studies he has focused on Whiteness, racism literacy, racial identity formations, and the links between everyday practices and racism in the U.S. and Brazil. He is the author of the highly regarded book Racial Revolutions: Antiracism and Indian Resurgence in Brazil (Duke University Press).
One thought on “Who Is An Indian? Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas”
Reblogged this on Militainment and the National Security State and commented:
This collection edited by Maximilian Forte looks like a great reading on race, place, and space looking at Indigenous identity issues in the Americas.
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