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Native Signatures of Assent

Scott Richard Lyons

Publication Year: 2010

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, North American Indian leaders commonly signed treaties with the European powers and the American and Canadian governments with an X, signifying their presence and assent to the terms. These x-marks indicated coercion (because the treaties were made under unfair conditions), resistance (because they were often met with protest), and acquiescence (to both a European modernity and the end of a particular moment of Indian history and identity).
In X-Marks, Scott Richard Lyons explores the complexity of contemporary Indian identity and current debates among Indians about traditionalism, nationalism, and tribalism. Employing the x-mark as a metaphor for what he calls the “Indian assent to the new,” Lyons offers a valuable alternative to both imperialist concepts of assimilation and nativist notions of resistance, calling into question the binary oppositions produced during the age of imperialism and maintaining that indigeneity is something that people do, not what they are. Drawing on his personal experiences and family history on the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota, discourses embedded in Ojibwemowin (the Ojibwe language), and disagreements about Indian identity within Native American studies, Lyons contends that Indians should be able to choose nontraditional ways of living, thinking, and being without fear of being condemned as inauthentic.
Arguing for a greater recognition of the diversity of Native America, X-Marks analyzes ongoing controversies about Indian identity, addresses the issue of culture and its use and misuse by essentialists, and considers the implications of the idea of an Indian nation. At once intellectually rigorous and deeply personal, X-Marks holds that indigenous peoples can operate in modern times while simultaneously honoring and defending their communities, practices, and values.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Indigenous Americas


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xiv

I grew up on the border—literally and figuratively—of the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota and, as everyone already knows, life on an Indian reservation can be a hard thing to endure. The difficulties of Indian life are complicated by the shade and color of your skin, which in my case is fairly light. ...

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Introduction: Migrations/Removals

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pp. 1-34

An x-mark is a treaty signature. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was a common practice for treaty commissioners to have their Indian interlocutors make x-marks as signifiers of presence and agreement. Many an Indian’s signature was recorded by the phrase “his x-mark,” and what the x-mark meant was consent. ...

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1 Identity Crisis

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pp. 35-71

It was the last night of the powwow, and my twelve-year-old daughter was walking around with her girlfriends, or, more precisely, walking back and forth in front of a group of boys their age. This was during that awkward but sweet time of life when formerly distinct groups of girls and boys start to merge, and my daughter and her friends were justifiably ...

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2 Culture and Its Cops

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pp. 73-109

In 1961, 420 Indians representing sixty-seven nations held a small but historic conference at the University of Chicago. The American Indian Chicago Conference discussed numerous aspects of Indian life, formed policy resolutions, established work committees, set agendas, and catalyzed the creation of the National Indian Youth Council, an early Red Power group. ...

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3 Nations and Nationalism since 1492

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pp. 111-164

This was the voice of decolonization at the dawn of the postcolonial era, and it was uncompromising and pragmatic. Césaire’s “new society” wouldn’t be exotic, nostalgic, or utopian; rather, it would blend the best of old and new—yesterday’s “fraternity” with today’s “productive power”—and with no contradiction therein. This vision entailed a rejection of racism and illegitimate rule, the destruction of empires, and the making of ...

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4 Resignations

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pp. 165-189

Long before the new traditionalism appeared on the scene, the cantankerous Ojibwe polemicist Wub-e-ke-niew (Francis Blake Jr.) did something remarkable: he disenrolled himself from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. I repeat: he disenrolled himself. Wub-e-ke-niew was a fluent speaker of Ojibwemowin, a member of the Midewiwin (Grand Medicine Lodge), a regular columnist ...


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pp. 191-209


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pp. 211-220

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About the Author

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pp. 236-236

Scott Richard Lyons (Ojibwe/Dakota) is assistant professor of English at Syracuse University, where he teaches indigenous and American literatures. He has also taught at Leech Lake Tribal College, the University of North Dakota, and Concordia College, Moorhead. The author of numerous critical and scholarly essays (including “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673735
E-ISBN-10: 081667373X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816666775

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Indigenous Americas
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OCLC Number: 646816207
MUSE Marc Record: Download for X-Marks