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Area and Ethnic Studies > Native American and Indigenous Studies

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Assimilation's Agent Cover

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Assimilation's Agent

My Life as a Superintendent in the Indian Boarding School System

Edwin L. Chalcraft

Assimilation’s Agent reveals the life and opinions of Edwin L. Chalcraft (1855–1943), a superintendent in the federal Indian boarding schools during the critical period of forced assimilation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chalcraft was hired by the Office of Indian Affairs (now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs) in 1883. During his nearly four decades of service, he worked at a number of Indian boarding schools and agencies, including the Chehalis Indian School in Oakville, Washington; Puyallup Indian School in Tacoma, Washington; Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon; Wind River Indian School in Wind River, Wyoming; Jones Male Academy in Hartshorne, Oklahoma; and Siletz Indian Agency in Oregon.

In this memoir Chalcraft discusses the Grant peace policy, the inspection system, allotment, the treatment of tuberculosis, corporal punishment, alcoholism, and patronage. Extensive coverage is also given to the Indian Shaker Church and the government’s response to this perceived threat to assimilation. Assimilation’s Agent illuminates the sometimes treacherous political maneuverings and difficult decisions faced by government officials at Indian boarding schools. It offers a rarely heard and today controversial "top-down" view of government policies to educate and assimilate Indians.

Drawing on a large collection of unpublished letters and documents, Cary C. Collins’s introduction and notes furnish important historical background and context. Assimilation’s Agent illustrates the government's long-term program for dealing with Native peoples and the shortcomings of its approach during one of the most consequential eras in the long and often troubled history of American Indian and white relations.

At the Font of the Marvelous Cover

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At the Font of the Marvelous

Exploring Oral Narrative and Mythic Imagery of the Iroquois and Their Neighbors

Anthony Wonderley

The folktales and myths of the Iroquois and their Algonquian neighbors rank among the most imaginatively rich and narratively coherent traditions in North America. Mostly recorded around 1900, these oral narratives preserve the voice and something of the outlook of autochthonous Americans from a bygone age, when storytelling was an important facet of daily life. Inspired by these wondrous tales, Anthony Wonderley explores their significance to the Iroquois and Algonquian religion and worldview.

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The Awakening Coast

An Anthology of Moravian Writings from Mosquitia and Eastern Nicaragua, 1849-1899

Karl Offen

The indigenous and Creole inhabitants (Mosquitians of African descent) of the Mosquito Reserve in present-day Nicaragua underwent a key transformation when two Moravian missionaries arrived in 1849. Within a few short generations, the new faith became so firmly established there that eastern Nicaragua to this day remains one of world’s strongest Moravian enclaves.
 
The Awakening Coast offers the first comprehensive English-language selection of the writings of the multinational missionaries who established the Moravian faith among the indigenous and Afro-descendant populations through the turbulent years of the Great Awakening of 1881 to 1882, when converts flocked to the church and the mission’s membership more than doubled. The anthology tracks the intersection of religious, political, and economic forces that led to this dynamic religious shift and illustrates how the mission’s first fifty years turned a relatively obscure branch of Protestantism into the most important political and spiritual institution in the region by contextualizing the Great Awakening, Protestant evangelism, and indigenous identity during this time of dramatic social change.
 
 

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Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes

Amy Eisenberg

Aymara Indians are a geographically isolated, indigenous people living in the Andes Mountains near Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the most arid regions of the world. As rapid economic growth in the area has begun to divert scarce water to hydroelectric and agricultural projects, the Aymara struggle to maintain their sustainable and traditional systems of water use, agriculture, and pastoralism.

In Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes, Amy Eisenberg provides a detailed exploration of the ethnoecological dimensions of the tension between the Aymara, whose economic, spiritual, and social life are inextricably tied to land and water, and three major challenges: the paving of Chile Highway 11, the diversion of the Altiplano waters of the Río Lauca for irrigation and power-generation, and Chilean national park policies regarding Aymara communities, their natural resources, and cultural properties within Parque Nacional Lauca, the International Biosphere Reserve. 

Pursuing collaborative research, Eisenberg performed ethnographic interviews with Aymara people in more than sixteen Andean villages, some at altitudes of 4,600 meters. Drawing upon botany, agriculture, natural history, physical and cultural geography, history, archaeology and social and environmental impact assessment, she presents deep, multifaceted insights from the Aymara’s point of view.

Illustrated with maps and dramatic photographs by John Amato, Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development provides an account of indigenous perspectives and concerns related to economic development that will be invaluable to scholars and policy-makers in the fields of natural and cultural resource preservation in and beyond Chile.

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Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree

Alcohol and the Sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation

Izumi Ishii

Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree examines the role of alcohol among the Cherokees through more than two hundred years, from contact with white traders until Oklahoma reached statehood in 1907. While acknowledging the addictive and socially destructive effects of alcohol, Izumi Ishii also examines the ways in which alcohol was culturally integrated into Native society and how it served the overarching economic and political goals of the Cherokee Nation.
 
Europeans introduced alcohol into Cherokee society during the colonial era, trading it for deerskins and using it to cement alliances with chiefs. In turn Cherokee leaders often redistributed alcohol among their people in order to buttress their power and regulate the substance’s consumption. Alcohol was also seen as containing spiritual power and was accordingly consumed in highly ritualized ceremonies. During the early-nineteenth century, Cherokee entrepreneurs learned enough about the business of the alcohol trade to throw off their American partners and begin operating alone within the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokees intensified their internal efforts to regulate alcohol consumption during the 1820s to demonstrate that they were “civilized” and deserved to coexist with American citizens rather than be forcibly relocated westward. After removal from their land, however, the erosion of Cherokee sovereignty undermined the nation’s ongoing attempts to regulate alcohol. Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree provides a new historical framework within which to study the meeting between Natives and Europeans in the New World and the impact of alcohol on Native communities.

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Bartering with the Bones of Their Dead

The Colville Confederated Tribes and Termination

Laurie Arnold

Bawaajimo Cover

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Bawaajimo

A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature

Margaret Noodin

Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature combines literary criticism, sociolinguistics, native studies, and poetics to introduce an Anishinaabe way of reading. Although nationally specific, the book speaks to a broad audience by demonstrating an indigenous literary methodology. Investigating the language itself, its place of origin, its sound and structure, and its current usage provides new critical connections between North American fiction, Native American literatures, and Anishinaabe narrative. The four Anishinaabe authors discussed in the book, Louise Erdrich, Jim Northrup, Basil Johnston, and Gerald Vizenor, share an ethnic heritage but are connected more clearly by a culture of tales, songs, and beliefs. Each of them has heard, studied, and written in Anishinaabemowin, making their heritage language a part of the backdrop and sometimes the medium, of their work. All of them reference the power and influence of the Great Lakes region and the Anishinaabeakiing, and they connect the landscape to the original language. As they reconstruct and deconstruct the aadizookaan, the traditional tales of Nanabozho and other mythic figures, they grapple with the legacy of cultural genocide and write toward a future that places ancient beliefs in the center of the cultural horizon.

Bear Island Cover

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Bear Island

The War at Sugar Point

Gerald Vizenor Vizenor

Drawing on the traditional ways of Anishinaabe storytelling, acclaimed poet Gerald Vizenor illuminates the 1898 battle at Sugar Point in Minnesota in this epic poem. Fought between the Pillagers of the Leech Lake Reservation (one of the original five clans of the Anishinaabe tribe) and U.S. soldiers, the battle marked a turning point in relations between the government and Native Americans. Although out-numbered by more than three to one, the Pillager fighters won convincingly.

Weaving together strands of myth, memory, legend, and history, Bear Island lyrically conveys a historical event that has been forgotten not only by the majority culture but also by some Anishinaabe people—bringing back to light a key moment in Minnesota’s history with clarity of vision and emotional resonance.

Gerald Vizenor is professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico. He is a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation. His previous books include The People Named the Chippewa and Griever, for which he won an American Book Award.

Jace Weaver is professor and director of the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia.

The Bearer of This Letter Cover

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The Bearer of This Letter

Language Ideologies, Literacy Practices, and the F

Mindy J. Morgan

The Bearer of This Letter illuminates the enduring effects of colonialism by examining the decades-long tension between written words and spoken words in a reservation community. Drawing on archival sources and her own extensive work in the community, Mindy J. Morgan investigates how historical understandings of literacy practices challenge current Indigenous language revitalization efforts on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana.
 
Created in 1887, Fort Belknap is home to the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine peoples. The history of these two peoples over the past century is a common one among Indigenous groups, with religious and federal authorities aggressively promoting the use of English at the expense of the local Indigenous languages. Morgan suggests that such efforts at the assimilation of Indigenous peoples had a far-reaching and not fully appreciated consequence. Through a close reading of federal, local, and missionary records at Fort Belknap, Morgan demonstrates how the government used documents as a means of restructuring political and social life as well as regulating access to resources during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a result, the residents of Fort Belknap began to use written English as a means of negotiating with the government and when arguing for structural change during the early reservation period while maintaining distinct arenas for Indigenous language use. These linguistic practices have significantly shaped the community’s perceptions of the utility of writing and continue to play a central role in contemporary language programs that increasingly rely on standardized orthographies for Indigenous language programs.

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Becoming Two-Spirit

Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country

Brian Joseph Gilley

The Two-Spirit man occupies a singular place in Native American culture, balancing the male and the female spirit even as he tries to blend gay and Native identity. The accompanying ambiguities of gender and culture come into vivid relief in the powerful and poignant Becoming Two-Spirit, the first book to take an in-depth look at contemporary American Indian gender diversity. Drawing on a wealth of observations from interviews, oral histories, and meetings and ceremonies, Brian Joseph Gilley provides an intimate view of how Two-Spirit men in Colorado and Oklahoma struggle to redefine themselves and their communities.

The Two-Spirit men who appear in Gilley’s book speak frankly of homophobia within their communities, a persistent prejudice that is largely misunderstood or misrepresented by outsiders. Gilley gives detailed accounts of the ways in which these men modify gay and Native identity as a means of dealing with their alienation from tribal communities and families. With these compromises, he suggests, they construct an identity that challenges their alienation while at the same time situating themselves within contemporary notions of American Indian identity. He also shows how their creativity is reflected in the communities they build with one another, the development of their own social practices, and a national network of individuals linked in their search for self and social acceptance.

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