Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies

Published by: University of Arizona Press

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Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies

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Diné Perspectives

Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought

Edited by Lloyd L. Lee; Foreword by Gregory Cajete

What does it mean to be a Navajo (Diné) person today? What does it mean to “respect tradition”? How can a contemporary life be informed by the traditions of the past? These are the kinds of questions addressed by contributors to this unusual and pathbreaking book.
 
All of the contributors are coming to personal terms with a phrase that underpins the matrix of Diné culture: Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhóón. Often referred to simply as SNBH, the phrase can be translated in many ways but is generally understood to mean “one’s journey of striving to live a long, harmonious life.” The book offers a variety of perspectives of Diné men and women on the Diné cultural paradigm that is embedded in SNBH. Their writings represent embodied knowledge grounded in a way of knowing that connects thought, speech, experience, history, tradition, and land. Some of the contributors are scholars. Some are Diné who are fighting for justice and prosperity for the Navajo Nation. Some are poets and artists. They are united in working to preserve both intellectual and cultural sovereignty for Diné peoples. And their contributions exemplify how Indigenous peoples are creatively applying tools of decolonization and critical research to re-create Indigenous thought and culture in a present day that rarely resembles the days of their ancestors.
 
More than 300,000 people self-identify as Diné today. Every one must grapple with how to make a life that acknowledges Sa’ah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózhóón. Diné Perspectives is unique in bringing such personal journeys to the public eye.

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Indian Pilgrims

Indigenous Journeys of Activism and Healing with Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Michelle M. Jacob

In 2012 Kateri Tekakwitha became the first North American Indian to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, an event that American Indian Catholics have awaited for generations. Saint Kateri, known as the patroness of the environment, was born in 1656 near present-day Albany, New York, to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father. Tekakwitha converted at age nineteen to Christianity and took a vow of perpetual virginity. Her devotees have advocated for her sainthood since her death in 1680. Within historical Catholic writings, Tekakwitha is portrayed as a model of pious, submissive femininity. Indian Pilgrims moves beyond mainstream narratives and shows that Saint Kateri is a powerful feminine figure who inspires decolonizing activism in contemporary Indigenous peoples’ lives.

Indian Pilgrims examines Saint Kateri’s influence on and relation to three important themes: caring for the environment, building community, and reclaiming the Native feminine as sacred. In Indian Pilgrims, Michelle M. Jacob brings a Native feminist perspective to the story of Saint Kateri. The book demonstrates the power and potential of Indigenous decolonizing activism, as Saint Kateri’s devotees claim the space of the Catholic Church to revitalize traditional cultural practices, teach and learn Indigenous languages, and address critical issues such as protecting Indigenous homelands from environmental degradation. The book is based on ethnographic research at multiple sites, including Saint Kateri’s 2012 canonization festivities in Vatican City and Italy, the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation (New York and Canada), the Yakama Reservation (Washington), and the National Tekakwitha Conferences in Texas, North Dakota, and Louisiana. Through narratives from these events, Jacob addresses issues of gender justice—such as respecting the autonomy of women while encouraging collectivist thinking and strategizing—and seeks collective remedies that challenge colonial and capitalist filters.

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Multiple InJustices

Indigenous Women, Law, and Political Struggle in Latin America

R. Aída Hernández Castillo

The last two decades have witnessed two political transformations that have deeply affected the lives of the indigenous peoples of Latin America. First, a discourse on indigeneity has emerged that links local struggles across the continent with transnational movements whose core issues are racism and political and cultural rights. Second, recent constitutional reforms in several countries recognize the multicultural character of Latin American countries and the legal pluralism that necessarily follows.

Multiple InJustices synthesizes R. Aída Hernández Castillo’s twenty-four years of activism and research among indigenous women’s organizations in Latin America. As both feminist and critical anthropologist, Hernández Castillo analyzes the context of legal pluralism wherein the indigenous women of Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia struggle for justice. Through ethnographical research in community, state, and international justice, she reflects on the possibilities and limitations of customary, national, and international law for indigenous women.

Colonialism, racism, and patriarchal violence have been fundamental elements for the reproduction of capitalism, Hernández Castillo asserts. Only a social policy that offers economic alternatives based on distribution of wealth and a real recognition of cultural and political rights of indigenous peoples can counter the damage of outside forces such as drug cartels on indigenous lands.

She concludes that the theories of indigenous women on culture, tradition, and gender equity—as expressed in political documents, event reports, public discourse, and their intellectual writings—are key factors in the decolonization of Latin American feminisms and social justice for all.

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Native Studies Keywords

Edited by Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Andrea Smith, and Michelle Raheja

Native Studies Keywords explores selected concepts in Native studies and the words commonly used to describe them, words whose meanings have been insufficiently examined. This edited volume focuses on the following eight concepts: sovereignty, land, indigeneity, nation, blood, tradition, colonialism, and indigenous knowledge. Each section includes three or four essays and provides definitions, meanings, and significance to the concept, lending a historical, social, and political context.
 
Take sovereignty, for example. The word has served as the battle cry for social justice in Indian Country. But what is the meaning of sovereignty? Native peoples with diverse political beliefs all might say they support sovereignty—without understanding fully the meaning and implications packed in the word.  
 
The field of Native studies is filled with many such words whose meanings are presumed, rather than articulated or debated. Consequently, the foundational terms within Native studies always have multiple and conflicting meanings. These terms carry the colonial baggage that has accrued from centuries of contested words.
 
Native Studies Keywords is a genealogical project that looks at the history of words that claim to have no history. It is the first book to examine the foundational concepts of Native American studies, offering multiple perspectives and opening a critical new conversation.

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Navajo Sovereignty

Understandings and Visions of the Diné People

Edited by Lloyd L. Lee; Foreword by Jennifer Nez Denetdale

The last few decades have given rise to an electrifying movement of Native American activism, scholarship, and creative work challenging five hundred years of U.S. colonization of Native lands. Indigenous communities are envisioning and building their nations and are making decolonial strides toward regaining power from colonial forces.



The Navajo Nation is among the many Native nations in the United States pushing back. In this new book, Diné author Lloyd L. Lee asks fellow Navajo scholars, writers, and community members to envision sovereignty for the Navajo Nation. He asks, (1) what is Navajo sovereignty, (2) how do various Navajo institutions exercise sovereignty, (3) what challenges does Navajo sovereignty face in the coming generations, and (4) how did individual Diné envision sovereignty?



Contributors expand from the questions Lee lays before them to touch on how Navajo sovereignty is understood in Western law, how various institutions of the Navajo Nation exercise sovereignty, what challenges it faces in coming generations, and how individual Diné envision power, authority, and autonomy for the people.



A companion to Diné Perspectives: Revitalizing and Reclaiming Navajo Thought, each chapter offers the contributors’ individual perspectives. The book, which is organized into four parts, discusses Western law’s view of Diné sovereignty, research, activism, creativity, and community, and Navajo sovereignty in traditional education. Above all, Lee and the contributing scholars and community members call for the rethinking of Navajo sovereignty in a way more rooted in Navajo beliefs, culture, and values.

Contributors:



Raymond D. Austin



Bidtah N. Becker



Manley A. Begay, Jr.



Avery Denny



Larry W. Emerson



Colleen Gorman



Michelle L. Hale



Michael Lerma



Leola Tsinnajinnie

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Staking Claim

Settler Colonialism and Racialization in Hawai'i

Judy Rohrer

In the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Hawai‘i exists at a global crosscurrent of indigeneity and race, homeland and diaspora, nation and globalization, sovereignty and imperialism. In order to better understand how settler colonialism works and thus move decolonization efforts forward, Staking Claim analyzes competing claims of identity, belonging, and political status in Hawai‘i.  

Author Judy Rohrer brings together an analysis of racial formation and colonization in the islands through a study of legal cases, contemporary public discourse (local media and literature), and Hawai‘i scholarship. Her analysis exposes how racialization works to obscure—with the ultimate goal of eliminating—native Hawaiian indigeneity, homeland, nation, and sovereignty.

Staking Claim argues that the dual settler colonial processes of racializing native Hawaiians (erasing their indigeneity), and indigenizing non-Hawaiians, enable the staking of non-Hawaiian claims to Hawai‘i. It encourages us to think beyond a settler-native binary by analyzing the ways racializations of Hawaiians and various non-Hawaiian settlers and arrivants bolster settler colonial claims, structures, and white supremacist ideologies.

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Therapeutic Nations

Healing in an Age of Indigenous Human Rights

Dian Million

Self-determination is on the agenda of Indigenous peoples all over the world. This analysis by an Indigenous feminist scholar challenges the United Nations–based human rights agendas and colonial theory that until now have shaped Indigenous models of self-determination. Gender inequality and gender violence, Dian Million argues, are critically important elements in the process of self-determination.

Million contends that nation-state relations are influenced by a theory of trauma ascendant with the rise of neoliberalism. Such use of trauma theory regarding human rights corresponds to a therapeutic narrative by Western governments negotiating with Indigenous nations as they seek self-determination.

Focusing on Canada and drawing comparisons with the United States and Australia, Million brings a genealogical understanding of trauma against a historical filter. Illustrating how Indigenous people are positioned differently in Canada, Australia, and the United States in their articulation of trauma, the author particularly addresses the violence against women as a language within a greater politic. The book introduces an Indigenous feminist critique of this violence against the medicalized framework of addressing trauma and looks to the larger goals of decolonization. Noting the influence of humanitarian psychiatry, Million goes on to confront the implications of simply dismissing Indigenous healing and storytelling traditions.

Therapeutic Nations is the first book to demonstrate affect and trauma’s wide-ranging historical origins in an Indigenous setting, offering insights into community healing programs.  The author’s theoretical sophistication and original research make the book relevant across a range of disciplines as it challenges key concepts of American Indian and Indigenous studies.

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