- Native Voices: American Indian Identity and Resistance
Very rarely do I read a book that inspires me as an intellectual and scholar and that allows me to reflect on and appreciate my ancestry in ways that strengthen my convictions and life course. Native Voices: American Indian Identity and Resistance,edited by Richard Grounds, George Tinker, and David Wilkins, has done both. This collection of essays by and about Native Americans explores the historical significance and contemporary influences of Native voices throughout the Americas. Vine Deloria Jr., to whom this book is appropriately dedicated, has inspired past generations of scholars and the future of indigenous communities; this book reaffirms his dedication to indigenous studies and peoples, and opens the door to the understanding of the complexity inherent in indigenous struggles throughout the Americas. Broken into four sections that span the four directions, these essays consider the meanings of Native identity, the importance of language and stories (histories) told in indigenous languages, the impact of colonization, and the contradictory policies emerging on a global scale that continue to deny and dismantle indigenous lives.
Several themes emerge and intertwine throughout the entire book. Clara Sue Kidwell, John Mohawk, Henrietta Mann, and Joy Harjo's respective articles place Natives in proper historical perspective from origins to the present day; each claims that Native studies must be grounded in Native origins and worldviews. Inés Hernández-Ávila and Richard Grounds delve into the importance of language in reclaiming that history and in directing Native lives and courses of action. Taking this one step further, Glenn Morris, George Tinker, S.James Anaya, David Wilkins, and Cecil Corbett address the rejection of the colonizers' language in defining Native peoples, philosophies, and spiritual awareness. Ward Churchill, Michelene Pesantubbee, and Inés Talamantez round out the collection by incorporating indigenous thought into the intellectual and academic arenas that have categorically denied access to people of color. Vine Deloria concludes the book by recognizing those who have influenced him and whom he has influenced throughout his illustrious career.
Of all the essays, the most perplexing piece is Ward Churchill's analysis of Vine Deloria's influence on Native American intellectual development, not so much for its content as for the context in which he places it. After reading articles emphasizing the importance of contextualizing [End Page 198] Native histories and intellectualism in and on Native terms (see especially Hernández-Ávila and Grounds), I question why Churchill would draw from the philosophical "canon" of "western thought" to describe and critique Vine Deloria's influence. Clearly Churchill's analysis places Deloria in the canon of traditional Western philosophy, but where are other Native philosophers of centuries past and in contemporary times? Why do non-Native philosophers like Marx, Derrida, and Foucault take precedence over Native thinkers? What audience does Churchill wish to reach?
Every scholar interested in indigenous studies, philosophy, and intellectual thought should read this book thoroughly for a clear perspective of indigenous peoples' histories and struggles. It establishes acontext for the study of indigenous peoples that few other books address or recognize. It certainly inspires hope for future generations.
Rebecca Bales (Choctaw/Cherokee/ Chicana) received her PhD in history from Arizona State University and teaches history at Diablo Valley College. She is the first in her family to receive a doctorate. Her work focuses on Native American history, women’s history, and race relations in the United States.