- Performing Native Rhetorics Of Resistance And Identity
It's been months since I've seen a Native [End Page 731] It's messing with my creative / Approach / It's got me jaded / isolated No one understands me like my people / these white kids don't know my struggleI ain't equal in their eyes and their intolerance brings me troubles / I'm notTheir noble savage / doing damage / to their perception of who I am Self-destruct when I self-construct my own plan / of my identity / from their affinityTo raping culture / they rape the land / shame an NDN just to save the man…I got this AB Original soul / I got this AB Original flowI got this pain that I can't shake / ties to my people I can't breakGot this history in my blood / got my tribe that shows me loveSo when I rise / you rise / come on let's rise1
Better than any summary of mine, Sicangu Lakota artist Frank Waln's lyrics embody the current state of Native life in North America. Waln is among a cohort of young Natives drawing attention to his peoples' colonization, continuing five centuries of decolonial rhetoric and efforts. This brief passage narrates common themes across discourses of (de)colonization: spatial disconnection from land and people(s); being subject to misunderstanding, stereotyping, and racism by whites; challenging white perceptions through enacting Native identity; always already being connected to the pain of past and present colonization; and through it all, the possibilities of Native peoples rising, pursuing promising futures despite genocidal pasts.
Native experiences of (structural) genocide and violence share ontological and epistemological commonalities while remaining individual and tribe specific.2 Thus, while distinct, colonized tribal nations in North America face similar challenges. When the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was ratified in 2007, the United States and Canada were among the four nations who opposed it. Canada signed in November 2010, and a month later the United States became the last nation to ratify the declaration.3 While marking improved government acknowledgment of colonization, ratification does not necessarily indicate on-the-ground improvements in Native lives. In the United States, indigenous populations experience higher rates of poverty, incarceration, suicide, depression, alcoholism, violence, and health problems than non-Native communities.4 The [End Page 732] situation in Canada is not much different, as recognized recently by the Canadian government's 2016 opening of a nationwide initiative investigating disproportionately high levels of violence against First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women, who are five times more likely to die under violent circumstances than their nonaboriginal counterparts.5 These problems are not confined to reservations; rather, they pervade wherever Natives live. Announcing the inquiry, Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould (Kwakwaka'wakw) stated that it "cannot undo the injustices that indigenous peoples have suffered over decades, but we can review what's happened in the past, reflect on our present circumstances, and chart a path moving forward,"6 an effort to which each of the books I review here also contributes.
Crossing time, place, and tribal nation, these four books offer readers historic and contemporary accounts of colonized lives and experiences in North America, as expressed in Native rhetorics, performances, and Native–non-Native intercultural discourses. Each offers richly contextualized examples of decolonial rhetorical resistance in North America, exemplifying negotiations of Native identities as inescapably linked to individual, tribal nation, and pan-Indian experiences of (de)colonization. These collections of textual fragments successfully contribute toward...