Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
The premiere international & interdisciplinary professional organization for scholars, graduate students, independent researchers, and community members interested in all aspects of Indigenous Studies.
In a supermassive black hole, the gravitational pull is so intense that light cannot escape it, rendering the hole the truest black in existence. Any bit of matter, be it space dust, radiation, stars or light itself, disappears without a trace once it enters the realm of a black hole. Picture this: a thriving solar system, something greater than and more complex than anything we can comprehend, destroyed in an instant. In the United States justice system, there exists a black hole. In fact, there are places in America that a criminal can go to hunt without fear of retribution. In these black holes it is open season all year, and no justice exists. Native American reservations are the hunting grounds, and Native American women are the game.
According to the United States Department of Justice, one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime. Eighty percent of these rape cases will be done by white males. The law states than any non-Native person that commits a crime on tribal land cannot be tried in a tribal court, so federal authorities then have the power to step in and prosecute the assailant. However, more often than not, they do not. Tribal sovereignty is so limited that tribal women have become targets for twisted criminals that are on the hunt for women to rape, and once the rape occurs, justice is nowhere to be found.
A term that has been thrown around recently surrounding this issue is “toothless sovereignty” (coined by Louise Erdrich in her novel, The Round House). The significance of and truth behind this metaphor is compelling. A mouth without teeth cannot eat; Native Americans without the ability to prosecute cannot find justice. Because of this, predators are free to roam reservation grounds among prey that cannot defend themselves with the law.
The relegation of Native American rape cases within local justice departments is real and harmful to the victims and the victims’ communities. A 2006 Michigan Law Review substantiates this claim:
Because Indian country tends not to be a prestigious posting, the agents in the RAs are often rookies or "first office agents" who seek transfer as soon as they are eligible, leading to sometimes high turnover among the FBI personnel dealing with Indian country offenses. (Washburn, 2006)
Families should not continue to be placed on the backburner. Human lives are not to be relegated and deprioritized. It is unthinkable that the level of harm and destruction caused by rape is being left almost entirely unchecked throughout the entire country.
Native Americans have protested sexual abuse and the incessant open season for decades, but protest has increased in recent months after a 2015 supreme court case did not rule in favor of the Native American agenda. The case, Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, is popularly referred to as the “most potentially devastating case for Indian Tribes in half a century” (Brewer, 2015) because it reinforced the jurisdictional black hole that is reservations. This was not the first time in US history that the Supreme Court decided against the expansion of Indian sovereignty. In fact, almost every case of the past three centuries has decided against the Native American party. The only exception to this happened very recently, under the current United States President, Barack Obama. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Tribal law and Order Act. The act allows for tribes to increase the length of sentences of offenders on Indian Country land. The act itself emphasizes decreasing violence on Native American women who are especially in danger.
Why is it that this issue, which has been growing so large for decades, was addressed for the first real time six years ago? It could be that the US government was focused on issues it believed to be more important. It could be that discrimination in areas surrounding Indian Country made it hard for protests to progress. It could be that Native voices just weren’t loud enough. Or, it could be all three.
Change will not begin to occur with the Supreme Court. In fact, change will not begin happening at any governmental platform. Change begins among the people. Once the world is informed about great issues such as this, individuals begin to take action. Once individuals take action, coalitions are formed, and these coalitions can create change. When the people demand it, the government should, in theory, supply it. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and injustice can only be corrected with cognizant individuals.
The “black hole” analogy does not end with the empty space in the law, or with the hunting ground that is reservations. Rape itself is a black hole in our society and in the lives of those who are affected by it. Just as a beautiful, miraculous galaxy can be swallowed in an instant, an invaluable life can be torn to pieces after a rape, never to return to its original state. Those who experience rape or who love somebody who has experienced rape should not have to live in fear of that rapist walking free. Justice can only be attained once Native American sovereignty is heightened, recognized, and respected. Once this is achieved, open season will finally come to an end.
**indicates cited work
Ethics of Belonging: Protocols, Pedagogies, Land and Stories: ILSA’s Annual Conference
this year held at the Stó:lō Nation Teaching Longhouse 7201 Vedder Road, Chilliwack on the Unceded, traditional territories of the Stó:lō peoples
We invite scholars, knowledge-keepers, artists, and community members to join us in generating new conversations about protocols, pedagogies, land, and stories from a wide variety of perspectives, including tribally-centred, inter-tribal, pan-national, urban/suburban, and trans-Indigenous, at ILSA’s third annual gathering, this time taking place on the unceded, traditional territories of the Stó:lō peoples in the Stó:lō Teaching Longhouse in Chilliwack, B.C. In a 2007 essay Stó:lō historian Dr. Albert Sonny Naxaxalhts’i McHalsie shares a Halq’emélem statement that is often interpreted as an assertion of Aboriginal rights and title: “S’ólh Téméxw te ikw’elo. Xolhmet te mekw’stam it kwelat,” which can be translated as “This is our Land. We have to take care of everything that belongs to us” (85). As McHalsie reflects on the boundaries of his territory, he follows the protocols of his community, consulting his elders to uncover teachings embedded in the Halq’emélem language and in Stó:lō stories. Through these protocols he replaces Western concepts of ownership with Stó:lō understandings of personal connection to place, sharing stories that explicate multiple ways of reading the land around him. McHalsie concludes that the statement is not merely an assertion of what belongs to Stó:lō but of belonging, insisting that as his people take care of their territory they necessarily have to take care of stories and understandings of the world embedded within wider kinship relations—between communities, nations, cultures, languages, as well as with the other-than-human.
Inspired by McHalsie’s words, Ethics of Belonging: Protocols, Pedagogies, Land and Stories asks participants to consider ways in which our scholarship, activism, and creative work cares for stories and centres Indigenous perspectives. In what ways can this care and attention honour Indigenous protocols and shape our pedagogies? How might writers or artists who live distanced or alienated from home territories practice such ethics? How might we consider Indigenous cultural production in cyberspace as linked to land? What does it mean to read texts through treaty documents, the history of colonization, or stories that emerge from land-theft and dislocation? What new traditions are Indigenous people, especially those who live in the city, creating?
The Indigenous Literary Studies Association supports diverse modes of creating and disseminating knowledge. Prospective participants are invited to propose conference papers, panels, roundtables, workshops, performances, and other formats for special sessions. Panel sessions will be 90 minutes in duration, with at least 15 minutes for questions and discussion. In keeping with our desire to enable dialogue and community- based learning, we welcome session proposals that utilize non-standard or alternative formats. While open to all proposals dealing with Indigenous literary arts, ILSA encourages proposals for sessions and individual presentations that engage with the following topics:
• “Taking care of everything that belongs to us,” land claims and cultural repatriation
• Stó:lō narrative arts and Stó:lō literary history, present, and future
• Politics of belonging and kinship relations
• Land, ecological responsibility, and environmental ethics
• Land-based solidarities, urban Indigenous communities, and the literary arts
• Literary methods and Indigenous protocols
• The politics of protocols—gender and surveillance
• Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous critical ecologies
• Land, stories, and narrative arts as praxis
• Autonomy and alliance in unceded traditional territories
• Community-based participatory research, pedagogies, and literary studies
• Alliances among Indigenous and diasporic artists
• Mediations of orality and Indigenous material cultures
• Collaborative creation and multi-media
• Artistic expressions of sovereignty and self-determination
• Responsibility, community, and artistic expression
• Community-specific Indigenous knowledge and ethics in scholarship or art
• methodologies and practices in Indigenous literary studies to serve the needs of Indigenous communities
The Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA) was founded in 2014 to promote the scholarship and teaching of Indigenous writing and storytelling in Canada. One way to make our study of Indigenous literatures relevant to the writers who produce the stories we read, teach and study is to meet every other year at national conferences as part of Congress, and meet alternating years in Indigenous communities. In 2015 we met at Six Nations of the Grand River, near Hamilton, Ontario, and in 2016 we met at Congress, hosted that year at the University of Calgary. From June 18-20, 2017 we will be meeting on the unceded, traditional territories of the Stó:lō peoples, in Chilliwack, B.C., about a half hour drive from the Abbotsford airport and about a one and a half hour drive from downtown Vancouver. This time was chosen to coincide with the annual conference of NAISA, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association meeting, at UBC from June 22-24, 2017.
Membership Rates are $40 (faculty) or $20 (students, community members, or underwaged) for one year. Please visit our website at
ILSA 2017 Call for Papers
http://www.indigenousliterarystudies.org/membership-1/ to complete your membership.
The Indigenous Literary Studies Association Council 2016-2017
Edited Volume: Indigenous Interfaces: Spaces, Social Networks & Indigenous Identities in Latin America
Globalization has accelerated the transformation of everything, including culture, as a resource (Yúdice 2003). This situation calls for a complex negotiation of cultural reproduction and identity and, in the case of Latin American indigenous communities, these dynamics are set into motion in a transnational arena. Indigenous Interfaces addresses the many ways that indigenous communities have tapped into global markets through new technologies, especially social media, and have established transnational connections. It further considers how these communities have used multiple resources, including funding from international organizations and international volunteers, to create a niche in cyberspace. The volume will highlight the ways that indigenous peoples have put globalization at their behest, ultimately promoting the visibility of indigenous peoples, the economic viability of their communities and the continuity of our/their traditions. The volume will break new ground in the field of Indigenous cultural studies by bringing identity and technology into dialogue in the context of globalization. Contributions to the volume will examine the many manifestations of these concepts and will cover ground on many issues, including:
- indigenous media/communications theory
- grassroots movements
- cultural sustainability
- cultural & eco-tourism
- youth cultures
- gender & sexuality
- oral histories and literary traditions
- experimental film
- fiber arts & visual arts
- languages in contact and language shift
- indigenous media industry & markets
- indigenous performance on virtual platforms
- leisure & social class
- agro-export & service economies
- indigenous intellectual networks
- indigeneity in video gaming
- GIS, drones and surveillance
Call for Applicants to Indigenous Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at the School for Advanced Research
The School for Advanced Research (SAR), with the generous support of Lannan Foundation, will begin seeking applicants for the Indigenous Writer-in-Residence fellowship on November 15, 2016. The purpose of this fellowship is to advance the work of an indigenous writer pursuing their creative project while enabling them to interact with local scholarly, artist, and Native communities. The fellowship runs from mid-June to early August and is open to writers indigenous to the United States or Canada. The fellow is provided with a $6,000 stipend, on-campus housing, studio space, supplies allowance, library support, and travel reimbursement to and from SAR.
The deadline to apply is Monday, January 9. For more information and to access our online application system, please visit sarweb.org and click on the Programs link or call Maria Spray at 505-954-7237.