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.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Edited collection on settler colonialism
Yu-ting Huang, UCLA
Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, University of North Dakota
We seek submissions for a collection of new examinations of settler colonialism as expressed and developed through literature or other “texts” (including films, historical documents, art, architecture, music, maps, and advertisements, among other types of texts). We are particularly interested in submissions that approach these texts as articulations of transnational connections developed by ways of settler migration and/or colonial displacement.
This collection seeks to further analysis of settler colonial studies, which has in recent years been a burgeoning field that has grown to involve more than the European colonialism of the 15th-20th centuries typically covered by postcolonial studies. Though a more narrowed focus for the collection might emerge based on the submissions received, we hope for a comparative volume including a range of national traditions, geographic locations, and topical foci. We would also welcome essays that in their analysis combine different theoretical approaches with postcolonial studies.
We write to respond to widespread public discussion of well-known scholar-activist Andrea Smith’s history of contradictory claims to Cherokee identity through both enrollment and lineal descent. While concerns about her claims have been known and discussed within various indigenous women’s circles for years, many people are hearing details about them for the first time. The news has provoked a variety of responses from those committed to antiracist, antisexist, and anticolonial analyses and actions, including shock, incredulity, fear, anger, denial, and great sadness. Thus, differing and sometimes conflicting assumptions about the meanings and intentions of this discussion are circulating on social media. A prominent fear is that the discussion is motivated by a desire to undermine, police or ostracize an individual; another is that the work people find important in developing their understandings of colonization and sexual violence might now have to be jettisoned.
We hope to reframe this discussion and to collectively clarify what we believe to be core issues at stake. We are indigenous women scholars from a number of different indigenous nations, communities, academic disciplines, and geographies who are committed to working for gender, sexual, and racial justice in the context of decolonization. We write with the intention to open up discussion. We hope to elicit productive dialogues about deeply fraught and painful issues, and to suggest paths forward for continued and complex analysis of the roles identity plays in the work we do. We do not claim to represent all indigenous women in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) or a monolithic indigenous feminism. There is diverse work within NAIS and Native/Indigenous gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, and also diverse perspectives within Native/Indigenous academic and activist communities about feminism. We respect that diversity. Additionally, we want to acknowledge the kinds of professional vulnerabilities that NAIS scholars are subject to, especially intergenerationally, through the politics of race, gender, and sexuality. Therefore, we did not invite untenured or adjunct faculty to sign this statement.
We call first and foremost for accountability to the communities in which we claim membership. This is not a call for the punitive or the exclusionary. This case evokes people’s fears and vulnerabilities about very real histories of disenfranchisement, expulsion, discrimination, and normative policing in Indian Country and beyond. Thus it bears repeating: our concerns about Andrea Smith do not emerge from statist forms of enrollment or non-enrollment, federal recognition or lack thereof. They are not about blood quantum or other biologically essentialist notions of identity. Nor are they about cultural purity or authenticity, or imposing standards of identification that those who would work for or with indigenous communities must meet.
Rather, our concerns are about the profound need for transparency and responsibility in light of the traumatic histories of colonization, slavery, and genocide that shape the present. Andrea Smith has a decades-long history of self-contradictory stories of identity and affiliation testified to by numerous scholars and activists, including her admission to four separate parties that she has no claim to Cherokee ancestry at all. She purportedly promised to no longer identify as Cherokee, and yet in her subsequent appearances and publications she continues to assert herself as a non-specific “Native woman” or a “woman of color” scholar to antiracist activist communities in ways that we believe have destructive intellectual and political consequences. Presenting herself as generically indigenous, and allowing others to represent her as Cherokee, Andrea Smith allows herself to stand in as the representative of collectivities to which she has demonstrated no accountability, and undermines the integrity and vibrancy of Cherokee cultural and political survival. Her lack of clarity and consistency in her self-presentation adds to the vulnerability of the communities and constituents she purports to represent, including students and activists she mentors and who cite and engage her work. This concerns us as indigenous women committed to opening spaces for scholars and activists with whom we work and who come after us.
Asking for accountability to our communities and collectivities is not limited to Andrea Smith. Asking for transparency, self-reflexivity, and honesty about our complex histories and scholarly investments is motivated by the desire to strengthen ethical indigenous scholarship by both indigenous and non-indigenous scholars. This is one of the core guiding values of indigenous feminisms, and we believe that the long history of indigenous feminisms cannot and should not be reduced to Smith’s work as representative or originary, even as we recognize that her work on sexual violence and colonialism has had a profound impact on a wide range of constituencies.
Though some express fear that the power of indigenous feminist critique might be undermined by raising these concerns, such fear is a reflection of the urgent need for scholars in and beyond indigenous studies to extend their reading and citational practices to include the length and breadth of indigenous women’s writings and activism over the years. Indigenous women have always been at the forefront of their communities in naming and combatting colonization, genocide, and gendered violence. Looking at the US and Canada alone, work by Paula Gunn Allen, Kim Anderson, Beth Brant, Chrystos, Sarah Deer, Ella Deloria, Jennifer Denetdale, Mishuana Goeman, Joy Harjo, Sarah Hunt, E. Pauline Johnson, Winona LaDuke, Emma LaRoque, Lee Maracle, Bea Medicine, Dian Millon, Deborah Miranda, Dory Nason, Melissa K. Nelson, Jessica Bissett-Perea, Kimberly Robertson, Luana Ross, Priscilla Settee, Audra Simpson, Leanne Simpson, Lina Sunseri, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, and Melanie Yazzie to name only some, demonstrates the vitality and richness of indigenous women’s voices that speak against the racial, gendered, and sexualized violences of colonialism.
Given the intellectual and emotional labor that Andrea Smith’s silence and lack of accountability has required us all—supporter or critic—to undertake, we would like to also ask for reflection and care in the stories generated to make sense of her contradictions and her silences. The history of Cherokee removal and dispossession is deeply woven into the same southeastern landscapes shaped by slavery and anti-black racism, and the Cherokee Nation’s disenfranchisement of the Freedmen must continue to be ethically addressed and challenged. So too must efforts to expunge the rolls of entire families in indigenous nations across this continent. At the same time, we recognize that histories of “playing Indian” have gone hand in hand with dispossession of land in Indian Territory during allotment. Playing Indian is enabled by and supports the dominant narrative that indigenous peoples are vanishing or already vanished. The material consequences of that narrative includes ongoing claims by the state, by science, and by non-indigenous individuals to indigenous lands, sacred sites, remains, and both individual and group representations of us. Our concerns are grounded in these histories, and we challenge both individual and structural forms of indigenous erasure.
Smith’s self-acknowledged false claims and lack of clarity on her own identity perpetuate deeply ingrained notions of race—black, white, and Indian—that run counter to indigenous modes of kinship, family, and community connection. When she and others continue to produce her as Cherokee, indigenous, and/or as a woman of color by default, they reinforce a history in which settlers have sought to appropriate every aspect of indigenous life and absolve themselves of their own complicity with continued dispossession of both indigenous territory and existence.
The stories we tell have consequences, and the harm that some stories produce goes beyond their individual context. One of the devastating consequences of Smith having served as the often singular representative of indigeneity in a variety of academic and activist social justice contexts is damage to strategic alliance building, especially between indigenous and non-indigenous women of color. Accountability to communities, kinship networks and multiple histories is part of the difficult work scholars of indigenous and critical race studies must be willing to undertake to ensure that our work combats rather than reinforces or leaves untouched the intricate dynamics of heteropatriarchal racist colonialism.
Our desire here is to help move forward productive conversations surrounding the specific case of Andrea Smith and to also contextualize them within larger discussions long held in NAIS, a crucial field of inquiry. We hope that this current moment can provide scholars and activists involved with NAIS, critical ethnic studies, gender, sexuality and queer studies, and multiple activist communities an opportunity to expand their methodologies, citational practices, pedagogies, curriculum, advising/mentoring, and political organizing. We hope to foster collaboration across our fields and communities that builds our solidarity with LGBTQ, women of color, and all progressive anti-racist and decolonial scholars and activists, and that contributes to our ethical, integral, and accountable relations with one another. We do not ask anyone to step back from dialogue and disagreement, only that all proceed thoughtfully, with awareness of the often conflictual histories of dispossession, oppression and loss that underpin these conversations.
Joanne Barker (Lenape [Delaware Tribe of Indians])
Professor of American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University
Jodi A. Byrd (Citizen of the Chickasaw Nation)
Associate Professor of American Indian Studies, English, and Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jill Doerfler (White Earth Ojibwe)
Associate Professor, American Indian Studies University of Minnesota-Duluth
Lisa Kahaleole Hall (Kanaka Maoli)
Associate Professor of Womenʻs and Gender Studies, Wells College
LeAnne Howe (Enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)
Eidson Distinguished Professor in American Literature, University of Georgia, Athens
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui (Kanaka Maoli)
Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Wesleyan University
Jean OʻBrien (White Earth Ojibwe)
Distinguished McKnight University Professor, History, University of Minnesota
Noenoe K. Silva (Kanaka Hawaiʻi)
Professor, Hawaiian and Indigenous Politics, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Shannon Speed (Citizen of the Chickasaw Nation)
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Native American and Indigenous Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Kim TallBear (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)
Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin
Jacki Thompson Rand (Citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)
Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Iowa
We note tribal and institutional affiliations for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not represent those of our nations, institutions, or departments.
Kanaka Maoli in Hawaiʻi are engaging in direct action to protect our sacred mountain, Mauna Kea, against the construction of what would be the 14th, and largest, telescope complex on its summit. Plans for this telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) are being pushed by the University of Hawaiʻi and a number of other academic institutions who make up the partners of the TMT Corporation. A petition was started in April, urging the partners to divest and is being circulated through the academy to show investors that there is substantial opposition to the construction of the TMT from within the academy. This is to interject on the University partners' official positions of support for the TMT, to interject on the narrative that the opposition is made up of a marginal few radical Hawaiians and to disrupt the narrative being put out by many in the astronomy community that to oppose the TMT is to oppose the pursuit of knowledge. We ask that members of NAISA kindly read our petition and consider standing in solidarity with the Kanaka Maoli who are working to protect our mountain by signing.
We’re looking forward to seeing you all in Washington, DC, for a productive and energizing meeting in just over a week!
Here are a few reminders and updates to consider:
1) Wednesday-Night Registration
We are approaching 900 registrants for this year’s conference! Our registration table is open 5pm-8pm on Wednesday, June 3, but only for those who have preregistered. If you have yet to register for the conference, please do so now at: https://www.eventinterface.com/registration/hkb1s77
If you choose to register onsite, you can do so starting at 7:30am on Thursday, June 4.
2) Opening Reception at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
Be sure to attend our opening reception in the Potomac Atrium at NMAI, 6:30-9:30pm on Thursday, June 4! It’s only a short walk from the Hyatt Regency (and we’ll have maps for you), but limited transportation will be available for those who need it.
You will have time to get food/drink, mingle, and reunite from 6:30-7:00. At 7:00 pm, we will have a short welcome program, including:
An honor song by Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota, Cultural Specialist and Writer at NMAI)
Remarks from Kevin Gover (Pawnee, Director, National Museum of the American Indian), Jacqueline Pata (Tlingit, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians), and Kevin Washburn (Chickasaw, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs-Department of the Interior)
Please give these speakers and singer your respect and attention. You’ll have plenty of time after the short program to enjoy more food, friends, and all of NMAI’s current exhibitions, including “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.
3) Technology in Breakout Rooms
All of the breakout rooms at NAISA 2015 will include laptops, projectors, screens, and speakers. Please prepare by saving your presentation to a USB drive, or if you are a Mac user and plan to use your own machine, please bring the appropriate adapter. We will try to accommodate presenters as much as possible.
The International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies (IJCIS) is a fully refereed international journal published twice a year. The journal offers a virtual intellectual space for the dissemination of international scholarship from scholars across disciplines that include the Humanities, Social Science, Health Sciences, Law and Education in the field of Indigenous Studies. Indigenous scholars from around the world share common experiences of colonisation. Our collective politics have been shaped by our intellectual traditions which in turn inform our work within the academy.