- American Indians and the Rhetoric of Removal and Allotment by Jason Edward Black
In American Indians and the Rhetoric of Removal and Allotment, communications scholar Jason Edward Black uses analysis of both government and indigenous rhetoric during the removal and allotment periods to show how these discourses shaped one another and American Indian policy during both periods. After an introduction and a chapter explaining how United States Indian policy evolved from recognizing indigenous sovereignty to removal, Black alternates between chapters outlining the government’s colonizing ideology and Native decolonizing responses during removal and allotment. Using speeches from various government officials, the study covers familiar ground when discussing federal paternalism, the relationship between land and United States citizenship, and the tension between policies focused on assimilation and efforts to separate Native peoples from the general population, which the author identifies as contributing to “identity duality” (p. 83). The true value of Black’s work lies in the chapters on Native resistance through oratory. These chapters, combined with the conclusion, convincingly demonstrate that despite an obvious power differential, Native orators shaped government discourse and United States Indian policy.
Black uses postcolonial and decolonization theories to frame his analysis and provides context from secondary literature written by scholars from various fields, including history. Recorded and published speeches provide the primary texts for evaluation. Although the early chapters provide ample contextualization for federal policies, the author introduces several ancillary ideas without sufficient consideration for historical precedents. For example, Black emphasizes the pan-Indian nature of opposition to allotment, insightfully using the Ghost Dance movement as an example of a multi-tribal movement. But he fails to outline earlier examples of pan-Indian resistance, never mentioning important religious movements led by Tenskwatawa and Neolin. Some of Black’s analysis also lacks sufficient ethnological insight. To illustrate, the analysis of what the author terms “the republican father” does not address how the role of fathers differed between Euro-Americans and indigenous communities, and the work does little to explore the role of women in Native societies before discussing Native women as authors during the allotment era (p. 82). Although historians may view some of Black’s work as insufficiently contextualized, these omissions will not detract from the value of his ideas among readers with a solid knowledge of American Indian history. [End Page 675]
The organization of the book also lends itself to the interested scholar. Students of the American South can focus on chapters 2 and 3 to benefit from Black’s analysis of the rhetoric surrounding removal and read the introduction and conclusion to better understand the main concepts driving his analysis. The text includes frequent repetition of key concepts such as identity duality and détournement, indigenous people’s use of the government’s rhetoric against it. These repetitions ensure that the reader understands these ideas and help link Black’s evidence and analysis to his main points, but they are unnecessarily frequent for careful readers and detract from the author’s prose. Regardless of these criticisms, Black clearly makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Native agency in the face of a powerful federal government through his analysis of indigenous rhetoric.