November 19, 2007

Indigeneity as a Category of Critical Analysis


Elizabeth Cook-Lynn was in Champaign in early November 2007 to speak in the series, “Indigeneity as a Category of Critical Analysis.” She was also promoting her latest book, New Indians Old Wars. She started out reading her tribute to Vine Deloria, Jr., called “November 19, 2005.” Deloria died two years ago tomorrow; Cook Lynn noted how very influential he was in and to American Indian Studies. So, she asked, how do we move on in American Indian Studies?
American Indians are the most colonized people in history, she said, and we are not in a “post-colonial” era. Three hundred to four hundred Indian “colonies” are REAL and current. Thus she posited “post-coloniality” as a “condition of becoming.” “Sometimes,” she declared, “shame is a good moral compass.”
The “model” in the US for treatment of American Indians has included genocide, but not only genocide. There has been legislation, for example: a denial of basic human rights through the development of nationalistic legal and social systems that make it impossible for a collective People to determine their future. Poverty, disease, domestic violence are the result of colonial behavior. There are not two “sides”: one “side”–the US–has a sledgehammer.
She asked: What came before colonial rule? How might we restore the functioning of pre-contact times?
BEFORE RECONCILIATION MUST COME JUSTICE. I put that in caps because she said a number of statements in a capitalized way. Here’s another: YOU CANNOT STEAL PEOPLE’S LAND AND WONDER WHY THEY ARE POOR. And another: CONGRESS MUST DISAVOW PLENARY POWER AND REPUDIATE THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY.
Cook-Lynn noted that American Indians are NOT an ethnic group or a minority, but rather are indigenous. American Indian Studies should not be lumped with ethnic studies, but rather should be nurtured as a distinct field of inquiry. She suggested three reasons for this–defensive; regulatory; and transformative.
AMERICA IS A FRAUD AS A DEMOCRACY, she claimed. IT IS THE FIRST SETTLER-COLONIAL COUNTRY TO ACHIEVE GREAT POWER AND SHE WANTS THIS POWER TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

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