Literary and Critical Theory Settler Colonialism
by
Alicia Cox
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0029

Introduction

Settler colonialism is an ongoing system of power that perpetuates the genocide and repression of indigenous peoples and cultures. Essentially hegemonic in scope, settler colonialism normalizes the continuous settler occupation, exploiting lands and resources to which indigenous peoples have genealogical relationships. Settler colonialism includes interlocking forms of oppression, including racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism. This is because settler colonizers are Eurocentric and assume that European values with respect to ethnic, and therefore moral, superiority are inevitable and natural. However, these intersecting dimensions of settler colonialism coalesce around the dispossession of indigenous peoples’ lands, resources, and cultures. The evolving field of settler colonialism studies arose from scholarship in Native American and indigenous studies that engages with postcolonial studies and critiques the post- in “postcolonial” as inappropriate for understanding ongoing systems of domination in such places as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, where colonialism is not a thing of the past because the settlers have come to stay, displacing the indigenous peoples and perpetuating systems that continue to erase native lives, cultures, and histories. Foundational theories in settler colonialism studies distinguish settler colonialism from classical colonialism through work that demonstrates that settler colonizers destroy indigenous peoples and cultures in order to replace them and establish themselves as the new rightful inhabitants. In other words, settler colonizers do not merely exploit indigenous peoples and lands for labor and economic interests; they displace them through settlements. In his groundbreaking theory of the “logic of elimination,” Patrick Wolfe shows that settler colonialism is a system, not a historical event, and that as such it perpetuates the erasure of native peoples as a precondition for settler expropriation of lands and resources, providing the necessary conditions for establishing the present-day ideology of multicultural neoliberalism.

General Overviews

Wolfe 1998, Wolfe 2006, and Veracini 2011 distinguish settler colonialism studies as an academic field by defining settler colonialism’s differences from classical colonialism. Veracini 2010 fills a gap in national and imperial historiographies by addressing the global and transnational nature of settler colonialism. Wolfe 2006 articulates the organizing “logic of elimination” that structures settler colonialism as a perpetual system of indigenous erasure rather than a historical event.

  • Veracini, Lorenzo. Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230299191Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that interpretative categories developed in colonial and postcolonial studies are inadequate for appraising settler colonialism. Argues that “settler colonialism should be seen as structurally distinct from both” colonialism and migration because although “the permanent movement and reproduction of communities and the dominance of an exogenous agency over an indigenous one are necessarily involved . . . not all migrations are settler migrations and not all colonialisms are settler colonial” (p. 3).

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  • Veracini, Lorenzo. “Introducing Settler Colonial Studies.” In Special Issue: A Global Phenomenon. Settler Colonial Studies 1.1 (2011): 1–12.

    DOI: 10.1080/2201473X.2011.10648799Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A key text in the formation of settler colonialism studies as a field. Distinguishes settler colonialism from classical colonialism. Asserts that “[c]olonisers and settler colonisers want essentially different things” (p. 1). Whereas colonizers use a logic of commodification to demand that indigenous peoples “work for” them, settler colonizers use a logic of evacuation to demand that indigenous peoples “go away,” clearing the land for agriculture and resource extraction by imported laborers.

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  • Wolfe, Patrick. Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event. Writing Past Colonialism. London: Cassell, 1998.

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    Seminal work of settler colonialism studies.

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  • Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8.4 (2006): 387–409.

    DOI: 10.1080/14623520601056240Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Articulates influential theory of the “logic of elimination,” which constitutes settler colonialism as an ongoing structure of power that systematically erases indigenous peoples from the land (through genocide, assimilation, and other means) and replaces them with settlers from around the world. Distinguishes the nuances of and interrelationships between settler colonialism and genocide.

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Postcolonialism

Cheyfitz 2002 is representative of scholarship in indigenous studies that calls postcolonial studies to task for neglecting issues of colonialism in the United States and points out that the post- in postcolonial does not apply to the political situation of indigenous peoples for whom colonization is certainly not a thing of the past. Hoxie 2008 and Byrd and Rothberg 2011 suggest ways that postcolonial studies and indigenous studies may usefully intersect. Byrd 2011, Lowe 2015, and Vizenor 1999 engage postcolonial scholarship such as Bhabha 1994 to explore articulations of indigeneity and the global implications of settler colonialism.

  • Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge Classics. London: Routledge, 1994.

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    Key work of postcolonial theory, cultural studies, and post-structuralism. Examines identity, nationality, and social agency. Theorizes cultural hybridity through exploring concepts of mimicry, liminality, and interstice.

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  • Byrd, Jodi A. The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. First Peoples. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816676408.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Key work of indigenous studies engaged with postcolonial scholarship. Focuses on concepts of “Indianness” and indigeneity as they function in histories of US imperialism and multicultural liberalism.

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  • Byrd, Jodi A. and Michael Rothberg. “Between Subalternity and Indigeneity: Critical Categories for Postcolonial Studies.” In Special Issue: Between Subalternity and Indigeneity. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 13.1 (2011): 1–12.

    DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2011.545574Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests the significant implications of Gayatri Spivak’s work for indigenous anticolonial struggles in order to stage a conversation at the intersection of postcolonial studies and indigenous / American Indian studies. Argues that “the dialogue between postcolonial studies and indigenous studies [is] simultaneously possible and desirable, as both movements struggle with how to articulate the tensions between overweening colonial power and resilient, resistant actors” (p. 6).

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  • Cheyfitz, Eric. “The (Post)colonial Predicament of Native American Studies.” In Special Issue: J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 4.3 (2002): 405–427.

    DOI: 10.1080/1369801022000013824Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces history of postcolonial studies’ and Native American studies’ avoidance of one another. Argues that federal Indian law provides a context for studying Native American literatures through the lens of postcolonial studies.

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  • Hoxie, Frederick E. “Retrieving the Red Continent: Settler Colonialism and the History of American Indians in the US.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31.6 (2008): 1153–1167.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870701791294Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Supports historians’ and anthropologists’ embracement, since the late 20th century, of the postcolonial critique of traditional scholarship about indigenous peoples. States the value of the settler colonialism studies framework’s offering of “a way to conceive of the Native past in a transnational context as well as to understand indigenous encounters with modernity as an ongoing struggle with colonial rule” (p. 1153).

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  • Lowe, Lisa. The Intimacies of Four Continents. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822375647Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the links among European colonialism, African slavery, Asian imperial trades, and American globalization of Western liberalism.

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  • Vizenor, Gerald. Manifest Manners: Narratives on Postindian Survivance. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

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    Coins the transformational term “survivance,” which infuses the survival of American Indian peoples with their active resistance and endurance despite settler colonialism’s intentions to victimize and eliminate them. Theorizes postmodern natives as “postindian warriors of simulations” who manipulate and self-consciously reappropriate stereotypes of the “indian” as part of the process of maintaining tribal consciousness.

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Indigenous Sovereignty

The legal definition of indigenous sovereignty is based in the history of treaty making between the United States and tribal nations. This history positions US federal Indian policy in the context of international law and establishes the right of tribes to deal with the United States on a nation-to-nation basis. Since the era of treaty making ended in 1871, the US government has repeatedly redefined indigenous sovereignty through official policy changes. As Bruyneel 2007 and Cook-Lynn 1997 show, the definition of indigenous sovereignty remains highly contested in the academy, although it has served as a unifying goal for native nations and native scholarship to resist colonial domination. Alfred 1999, Corntassel and Witmer 2008, and Morgensen 2011 address the ways that native nationalism shores up the US nation-state and its status as an overriding sovereign because US recognition and conferral of indigenous sovereignty often requires native nations to adopt US forms of nationalism (including heteropatriarchy, privatization of lands, corporatism, and racialization). These critics point out that the US model of nationalism is not traditional to indigenous systems of governance and has been shown, moreover, to be oppressive of individuals among native communities, particularly women, sexual minorities, and “mixed-race” Indians. Some native scholars call for theorizing indigenous self-determination beyond “sovereignty.” Others attempt to redefine “sovereignty” to render it useful for native peoples and distinguish indigenous sovereignty as distinct from settler state power. Barker 2005a and Barker 2005b define indigenous sovereignty as always contingent on history and location.

  • Alfred, Taiaiake. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Rejects “sovereignty” as an appropriate name for the goal of indigenous peoples’ liberation. Argues that indigenous struggles framed in terms of “sovereignty”—defined as state power acquired through domination and coercion—actually perpetuate colonial power. Outlines characteristics of native national governance: consensus-based decision making, no central coercive authority, and individual autonomy.

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  • Barker, Joanne. “For Whom Sovereignty Matters.” In Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination. Edited by Joanne Barker, 1–32. Contemporary Indigenous Issues. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005a.

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    Argues that the meaning of “sovereignty” for indigenous peoples around the globe is contingent on their particular histories, locations, identities, political goals, and strategies for justice and decolonization.

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  • Barker, Joanne, ed. Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination. Contemporary Indigenous Issues. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005b.

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    Anthology emphasizes the relatedness of global indigenous peoples’ experiences of settler colonialism and the multiplicity of indigenous perspectives regarding sovereignty.

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  • Bruyneel, Kevin. The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of U.S.-Indigenous Relations. Indigenous Americas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

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    Examines history of the political relationship between Native American nations and the United States to show how native political actors have enacted indigenous sovereignty to contest US restrictions on their self-determination and autonomy.

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  • Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. “Who Stole Native American Studies?” Wicazo Sa Review 12.1 (1997): 9–28.

    DOI: 10.2307/1409161Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Native American studies developed as an academic discipline to defend Native American nationhood, so the field should promote indigenous sovereignty by prioritizing the work of native scholars. Cautions that Native American studies should remain distinct from postcolonial or ethnic studies to avoid the risk of classifying native peoples as merely a racial minority group within the United States.

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  • Corntassel, Jeff, and Richard C. Witmer II. Forced Federalism: Contemporary Challenges to Indigenous Nationhood. American Indian Law and Policy 3. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

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    Critically evaluates the shift in US federal Indian policy from self-determination to the forced-federalism era (1988–present), which coerces native nations to adopt US models of governance. Warns against the deleterious effects of native participation in nonnative politics, especially the influence of capitalism in native politics.

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  • Morgensen, Scott Lauria. “The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now.” In Special Issue: A Global Phenomenon. Settler Colonial Studies 1.1 (2011): 52–76.

    DOI: 10.1080/2201473X.2011.10648801Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws on Giorgio Agamben’s and Michel Foucault’s theories of biopower to extend Patrick Wolfe’s theory of the logic of elimination of the native. Argues that white-supremacist settler-colonial nations are naturalized not only through the genocide and assimilation of indigenous peoples but through specific modes of biopolitics that disseminate Western law around the globe.

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US Federal Indian Policy

US federal Indian policy constitutes the legal conditions of indigenous sovereignty in the United States. Adams 1995, Lomawaima 1994, and Million 2013 explore indigenous peoples’ experiences of and responses to policies designed to forcibly assimilate native peoples into settler culture, including compulsory education in Indian boarding schools in the United States and residential schools for First Nations peoples in Canada. Ramirez 2007 examines the social and cultural positions of urban natives in the wake of the Termination and Relocation era of federal Indian policy. Rifkin 2012 examines queer native authors’ engagement with the legal concept of indigenous sovereignty as “self-determination.” Hixson 2013 uses settler colonialism as a frame of reference for understanding American history and the rise of the United States to global dominance.

  • Adams, David Wallace. Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875–1928. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995.

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    Focuses on American Indian boarding school students’ strategies of resisting or accommodating US federal Indian policies of assimilation.

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  • Hixson, Walter L. American Settler Colonialism: A History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137374264Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a chronology of settler colonialism’s policies throughout American history, from the first colonial encounter through the early 21st century—what he calls, problematically, the “Postcolonial United States.”

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  • Lomawaima, K. Tsianina. They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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    Provides critical context for the oral histories of American Indian people from various native nations who attended Chilocco Indian boarding school in Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s.

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  • Million, Dian. Therapeutic Nations: Healing in an Age of Indigenous Human Rights. Critical Issues in Indigenous Studies. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2013.

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    Explores the influence of trauma theory and neoliberalism on indigenous processes of self-determination. Analyzes the implications of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Project (which is meant to redress the violence in residential schools) for indigenous peoples’ traditions of healing and storytelling.

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  • Ramirez, Renya K. Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

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    Describes “hub-making” activities such as powwows, ceremonies, and political groups that create native spaces in urban centers, including international border towns, which have had the largest population of Native American peoples since the Termination and Relocation era of federal Indian policy. Focuses on struggles of federally unrecognized tribes to maintain community in the absence of a reserve land base.

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  • Rifkin, Mark. The Erotics of Sovereignty: Queer Native Writing in the Era of Self-Determination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677825.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Articulates the connections between US imperialism and heteronormativity in the wake of the federal Indian policy era of self-determination.

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Ideological Sovereignty and Indigenous Epistemology

Scholars of Native American studies have located indigenous sovereignty not only as a legal position but also in indigenous peoples’ art, land, languages, and sexual and gender identities. Deloria 1998, Huhndorf 2001, and Raheja 2011 explore the problems of settler colonizers’ appropriations of indigenous images and cultures and assert the sovereign right of indigenous peoples to represent themselves. Warrior 1994; Weaver, et al. 2006; and Womack 1999 articulate the aims and methods of American Indian literary nationalism, which may be understood as a Native American form of new historicism (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Literary and Critical Theory article “New Historicism” by Neema Parvini). Lyons 2000 and Lyons 2010 address the paradox of writing as a tool both of native peoples’ dispossession and indigenous sovereignty struggles.

  • Deloria, Philip J. Playing Indian. Yale Historical Publications. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

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    Critical examination of settler appropriation of indigenous cultures and identities as fundamental to settler colonialism’s erasure of indigenous sovereignty. For example, examines Thanksgiving mythology and Boston Tea Party activists’ redfacing as illustrations of how settlers “play Indian” to define their national identity as American.

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  • Huhndorf, Shari M. Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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    Examines the phenomenon of “going native” in European American films, organizations, and cultural events that appropriate Native American cultures. Demonstrates how cultural appropriation reinforces settler colonialism’s power relations such as patriarchy, capitalism, and the military-industrial complex.

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  • Lyons, Scott Richard. “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians Want from Writing?” College Composition and Communication 51.3 (2000): 447–468.

    DOI: 10.2307/358744Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces the historically vexed interrelationships among language, writing, and settler colonialism, from treaty making and the US compulsion of native children to attend Indian boarding schools, where they were forced to learn to speak, read, and write in English, to present-day struggles for sovereignty. Defines “rhetorical sovereignty” as indigenous peoples’ right to determine the terms and aims of public discourse in the pursuit of self-determination.

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  • Lyons, Scott Richard. X-marks: Native Signatures of Assent. Indigenous Americas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816666768.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the binary opposition of Indian assimilation and resistance and employs x-marks (native signatures on treaties with the United States) as a metaphor for indigenous peoples’ coerced consent to new ways and practices in the wake of settler colonialism. Launches a critique of identity politics and argues that indigeneity is something that people do, not what they are.

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  • Raheja, Michelle H. Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

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    Examines the work of native film actors, directors, and spectators since the early 20th century and traces the history of representations of Native Americans in film by indigenous and nonindigenous actors. Argues that films with indigenous plots—however negative, misrepresentative, or culturally appropriative they may be—signify native presence in the face of settler colonialism, a system that works to eliminate indigenous peoples.

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  • Warrior, Robert Allen. Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

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    Develops theory of “intellectual sovereignty,” which constituted a critical intervention in recognizing the ideological aspects of settler colonialism and struggles for indigenous sovereignty. Critiques scholarship that pervades homogenizing stereotypes about “Native American” or “American Indian” literature. Argues that Native American literature studies must be founded in the context of specific native communities.

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  • Weaver, Jace, Craig S. Womack, and Robert Warrior. American Indian Literary Nationalism. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

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    Develops method of “communitism” as criticism of native literature that supports its authors’ distinct national identities. Like Cook-Lynn 1997 (cited under Indigenous Sovereignty), argues that native-identified scholars must be the definers and articulators of Native American literary criticism. Clarifies an important distinction that nonnative scholars can do criticism of native literature, but that doesn’t make it Native American literary criticism.

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  • Womack, Craig S. Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

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    Focuses on tribal sovereignty as a legal reality that affects the daily lives of native peoples and nations. Argues that native literatures must be examined in the context of individual tribal traditions and histories. See also Weaver, et al. 2006.

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Race

According to Patrick Wolfe, race is an “organizing grammar” that divides humans into ethnic categories and normalizes white supremacy to justify indigenous genocide and settler colonialism (see Wolfe 2006, cited under General Overviews). Settler colonizers employed contradictory racialization processes to eliminate American Indian peoples and replace them with enslaved Africans whose progeny inherited a black racial identity, regardless of the presence of white or native parentage, to proliferate the population of slaves, exploit their labor, and extract value from lands possessed through the displacement of native peoples. By contrast, settler colonialism’s logic of elimination encourages native miscegenation with white people to “breed white” indigenous peoples over time and enervate their claims to indigenous identity and therefore land. As a key element of settler colonialism, the ideology of white supremacy justifies European settlers’ dispossession of indigenous peoples’ lands and asserts that white settlers are more deserving. Understood as the “manifest destiny” of Protestant Christians to bring salvation to the savages, settler colonialism functions instead as the justificatory narrative for taking possession of native lands.

Racialization

Beginning in 1887 with the implementation of the General Allotment Act, the United States imposed blood quantum requirements for citizens of native nations. The quantification of “Indian blood” defined indigenous peoples’ identities on the basis of colonial categorizations of racial heritage. For instance, a person with two Indian parents was a “full-blood” Indian, while a person with one Indian and one white parent was a “half-blood Indian,” and the child of a half-blood Indian and a white person was a “quarter-blood” Indian, and so on. Jaimes 1992 and Kauanui 2008 examine how this system of racialization assumes that, through miscegenation, indigenous peoples’ legal identity claims (and therefore land claims) will progressively decrease over the generations, leaving all land and resources for settlers. TallBear 2013 examines how DNA is replacing blood as the biological stuff of Indian racial identity, and Banivanua-Mar and Edmonds 2010 explores the development of settler-colonial spaces through processes of racialization that meant to dispossess indigenous peoples’ places throughout the Pacific Rim.

  • Banivanua-Mar, Tracey, and Penelope Edmonds, eds. Making Settler Colonial Space: Perspectives on Race, Place and Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    Collection of essays that use race as a lens for understanding settler colonialism’s rearrangements of space. Examines how legitimate spaces for indigenous peoples receded through colonial policies of land use rights and urban development.

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  • Jaimes, M. Annette. “Federal Indian Identification Policy: A Usurpation of Indigenous Sovereignty in North America.” In The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance. Edited by M. Annette Jaimes, 123–138. Race and Resistance. Boston: South End, 1992.

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    Defines the genocidal procedure of the blood quantum regime as “statistical extermination.”

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  • Kauanui, J. Kēhaulani. Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity. Narrating Native Histories. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822391494Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the legal definition and quantification of native Hawaiian blood. Explains how blood quantum requirements undermine Kanaka Maoli sovereignty and self-determination by barring Kanaka Maoli people who have less than one-half “native Hawaiian blood” from the legal status of “native Hawaiians,” thereby reducing them to a racial minority within the settler state rather than citizens of the sovereign nation/kingdom of Hawaii.

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  • TallBear, Kim. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665853.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Critiques the shift of the quantification of Native American identity from blood to DNA.

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Settlers of Color

Although white supremacy is a key component of settler colonialism as it is constituted by European imperialism throughout the globe, not all settlers are white. After the end of slavery in the United States, for example, black Americans moved to Indian territories and occupied lands from which native peoples had recently been removed; indentured servants from China worked to build the railroads that were used as weapons of Native American removal, frontier homicide, and cultural destruction; and immigrants from countries around the world still appeal to the United States for citizenship, recognizing and therefore perpetuating US power as a settler-colonial nation-state. Discourses on “settlers of color” explore the distinctions among immigrants, imported laborers (whether enslaved or indentured), and refugees in settler-colonial territories, who, consciously or unconsciously, and although they may be minority or oppressed populations within the settler-colonial state, nonetheless participate in the structure of settler colonialism in a way that maintains the settler nation-state and proliferates injustices for indigenous peoples, as noted in Fujikane and Okamura 2008 and Trask 2000. Amadahy and Lawrence 2009 and Miles and Holland 2006 attend to the interrelationship of black Americans and Native Americans.

  • Amadahy, Zainab, and Bonita Lawrence. “Indigenous Peoples and Black People in Canada: Settlers or Allies?” In Breaching the Colonial Contract: Anti-colonialism in the US and Canada. Edited by Arlo Kempf, 105–136. Explorations of Educational Purpose 8. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2009.

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    Begins a conversation between black and native peoples in Canada about their relationships to land, diaspora, and settler colonialism. Aims to open a space for solidarity among black and native Canadians in struggles for anticolonial social justice.

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  • Fujikane, Candace, and Jonathan Y. Okamura, eds. Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Habits of Everyday Life in Hawai‘i. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008.

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    Anthology evolved from 2000 special issue of Amerasia Journal (26.3) titled Whose Vision? Asian Settler Colonialism in Hawai‘i. Argues that Asian immigrants in Hawaii who seek inclusion into the settler state as US citizens position themselves as settlers in opposition to the indigenous Hawaiian movement for self-determination.

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  • Miles, Tiya, and Sharon P. Holland, eds. Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

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    Anthology that explores the intersections of Native American and African American histories and cultures.

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  • Trask, Haunani-Kay. “Settlers of Color and ‘Immigrant’ Hegemony: ‘Locals’ in Hawai‘i.” Amerasia Journal 26.2 (2000): 1–24.

    DOI: 10.17953/amer.26.2.b31642r221215k7kSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Advocates for native Hawaiian sovereignty. Addresses conflicts between native Hawaiians and Asian immigrants in Hawaii who set up settler organizations (e.g., the Japanese American Citizens League) and position themselves in opposition to native Hawaiian struggles for sovereignty.

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Decolonization

Decolonizing theories and narratives reject the notion of Western superiority. Decolonization remains an evolving concept that assumes we may transform current colonial conditions and work to build indigenous peoples’ futurity in the face of ongoing settler-colonial attempts to eliminate native peoples. Haunani-Kay Trask (Trask 1999) and other scholars define decolonization as the theory and practice of working to achieve indigenous peoples’ empowerment and justice. Some scholars contend that the de- in decolonization falsely suggests that we can undo the processes of colonization and return to a pure, authentic precolonial way of being indigenous. This fantasy is a dangerous one not only because it is impossible but because it excludes indigenous people who don’t meet traditional standards of native identity. Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua 2013 addresses the difficulties of putting decolonization theories into practice. Arvin, et al. 2013 and Smith 2012 argue that decolonization involves indigenous peoples’ interventions in scholarship about native peoples and the creation of alliances to transform settler-colonial processes in the academy. Brooks 2008 and Silva 2004 highlight native peoples’ use of writing to provide revisionist histories of settler colonization.

  • Arvin, Maile, Eve Tuck, and Angie Morrill. “Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy.” Feminist Formations 25.1 (2013): 8–34.

    DOI: 10.1353/ff.2013.0006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that settler colonialism is a gendered process. Poses five challenges to gender and women’s studies to attend to links between settler colonialism and heteropatriarchy.

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  • Brooks, Lisa. The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast. Indigenous Americas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

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    Shows how Native American leaders use writing as a tool to resist colonial domination and reclaim rights to land (and, therefore, life; see also Wolfe 2006, cited under General Overviews).

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  • Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Noelani. The Seeds We Planted: Portraits of a Native Hawaiian Charter School. First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816680474.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses the complexities and paradoxes of attempts to reintegrate indigenous knowledge and practices in settler-colonial educational institutions.

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  • Silva, Noenoe K. Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism. American Encounters / Global Interactions. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822386223Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Critiques settler-colonial historiography. Provides critical counternarrative through documentation and analysis of archival materials that demonstrate the wholesale opposition of native Hawaiians to the 1897 annexation of Hawaii to the United States. Examines the centrality of print media to the continuation of native Hawaiian language and culture.

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  • Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2d ed. New York: Zed Books, 2012.

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    Defines decolonizing methodologies of research as “centring our [indigenous peoples’] concerns and world views and then coming to know and understand theory and research from our own perspectives and for our own purposes” (p. 41).

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  • Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai‘i. Rev. ed. Latitude 20 Books. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1999.

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    Defines decolonization as “a collective resistance to colonialism including cultural assertions, efforts toward self-determination, and armed struggle” (p. 251).

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Recognition and Refusal

Coulthard 2007, Coulthard 2014, Simpson 2014, and Simpson 2007 argue that struggles for decolonization require the implementation of indigenous sovereignty beyond settler-colonial state recognition of it because, paradoxically, recognition by the settler state perpetuates settler-colonial domination.

  • Coulthard, Glen S. “Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the ‘Politics of Recognition’ in Canada.” Contemporary Political Theory 6.4 (2007): 437–460.

    DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that indigenous peoples’ appeals for recognition of their sovereign rights by settler-colonial governments ironically reinforce settler-colonial state power. Calls for forms of indigenous governance that work to dismantle the settler state rather than legitimate its continued existence by seeking recognition from it.

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  • Coulthard, Glen S. “From Wards of the State to Subjects of Recognition? Marx, Indigenous Peoples, and the Politics of Dispossession in Denendeh.” In Theorizing Native Studies. Edited by Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith, 56–98. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

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    Explains how settler colonialism relies on recurring processes of native dispossession and settler accumulation of land and natural resources.

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  • Simpson, Audra. “On Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’ and Colonial Citizenship.” Junctures 9 (December 2007): 67–80.

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    Ethnographic project on indigenous politics of refusal that developed into a larger book (Simpson 2014).

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  • Simpson, Audra. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822376781Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ethnographic study of Kahnawà:ke Mohawks’ struggles to maintain self-determination and sovereignty and to refuse American or Canadian citizenship. Examines the relationship of and differences between this politics of refusal and the politics of recognition as struggles for indigenous sovereignty in settler-colonial contexts (see Coulthard 2007).

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Gender and Sexuality

Interventions of gender and sexuality studies in Native American and indigenous studies assert that gendered forms of violence—including the imposition of heteronormativity and patriarchy—are key components of the structure of settler colonialism.

Indigenous Feminist Theories

Settler-colonial processes sought to destroy indigenous matriarchal systems and institute European patriarchy as the law of the land. Indigenous feminist scholarship such as Gabriel 2011 acknowledges the ways that indigenous communities often internalize the settler-colonial ideology of heteropatriarchy. Allen 1986 and Goeman and Denetdale 2009 note the erasure of Indian women as significant figures in scholarship on indigenous history and culture. Smith 2015 demonstrates that gender violence is an inherent quality of settler colonialism, and sexual violence is a prime method of American Indian genocide. Indigenous feminist theories assert that domestic violence against indigenous women is an aspect of settler colonialism, contesting the view that indigenous sovereignty and gender justice are separate political goals. Goeman 2013 characterizes settler colonialism as a system of gendered spatial violence, while Green 2007, Hall 2009, Ramirez 2007, and Smith 2008 argue that gender justice must be part of any strategy or theory of decolonization. Barker 2006 explores a notorious case in which politically powerful native men appealed to indigenous sovereignty to justify legal discrimination against native women.

  • Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston: Beacon, 1986.

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    Demonstrates the fundamental role of women in the continuation of American Indian cultures and storytelling traditions.

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  • Barker, Joanne. “Gender, Sovereignty, and the Discourse of Rights in Native Women’s Activism.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 7.1 (2006): 127–161.

    DOI: 10.2979/MER.2006.7.1.127Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores native nationalists’ perpetuation of gender injustice when the Assembly of First Nations appealed to indigenous sovereignty in an attempt to justify its resistance of native women activists’ attempts to reform gender-discriminatory portions of Canada’s Indian Act (1876).

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  • Gabriel, Ellen. “Aboriginal Women’s Movement: A Quest for Self-Determination.” Aboriginal Policy Studies 1.1 (2011): 183–188.

    DOI: 10.5663/aps.v1i1.10137Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that settler-colonial governments’ imposition of heteropatriarchal political praxis “has created a subconscious colonized mentality of Aboriginal peoples that allows and perpetuates gender discrimination” (p. 185).

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  • Goeman, Mishuana. Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations. First Peoples. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677900.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the gendered spatial violence of settler-colonial policies in the United States and Canada. Demonstrates how the works of 20th-century native women writers remap settler geographies by centering native knowledge and narrating self-determination.

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  • Goeman, Mishuana R., and Jennifer Nez Denetdale, eds. Special Issue: Native Feminism: Legacies, Interventions, and Indigenous Sovereignties. Wicazo Sa Review 24.2 (2009): 9–13.

    DOI: 10.1353/wic.0.0035Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Acknowledges the central place of indigenous women in struggles against colonial domination throughout history. Addresses the effects of settler colonialism on gender relations and the status of women in indigenous communities.

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  • Green, Joyce, ed. Making Space for Indigenous Feminism. Black Point, NS: Fernwood, 2007.

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    Collection of essays that discuss the significance of feminist theories for aboriginal women’s struggles against colonial oppression.

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  • Hall, Lisa Kahaleole. “Navigating Our Own ‘Sea of Islands’: Remapping a Theoretical Space for Hawaiian Women and Indigenous Feminism.” In Special Issue: Native Feminism. Wicazo Sa Review 24.2 (2009): 15–38.

    DOI: 10.1353/wic.0.0038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that feminist theories are integral to processes of decolonization for indigenous women because settler colonialism is inherently patriarchal and heteronormative, and colonial processes are gendered and sexualized in ways that deliberately destroy matriarchal indigenous traditions and instill patriarchy within indigenous communities.

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  • Ramirez, Renya K. “Race, Tribal Nation, and Gender: A Native Feminist Approach to Belonging.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 7.2 (2007): 22–40.

    DOI: 10.2979/MER.2007.7.2.22Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses a problem in Native American scholarship that privileges race and tribal nation over gender issues. Argues that addressing domestic violence and other forms of gender injustice among indigenous communities is a “survival issue” for native people and must be part of any discussion of decolonization (p. 23).

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  • Smith, Andrea. “American Studies without America: Native Feminisms and the Nation-State.” American Quarterly 60.2 (2008): 309–315.

    DOI: 10.1353/aq.0.0014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Calls for native feminist theorists to imagine social structures beyond the existence of the settler-colonial nation-state and “reflect on what might be more just forms of governance, not only for Native peoples, but for the rest of the world” (p. 311). Examines native women activists’ articulations of nation and sovereignty that are based in spirituality, responsibility, and relationality rather than state power.

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  • Smith, Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822374817Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally published in 2005 (Cambridge, MA: South End). Examines how settler-colonial processes entail various forms of sexual violence against indigenous peoples.

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Queer Indigenous Studies

Queer indigenous studies is a burgeoning field that explores the critical intersections of Native American studies and queer theory. Scholarship in queer indigenous studies such as Rifkin 2011 explores how settler colonialism institutionalizes heteronormativity—an ideology that assumes that heterosexuality is normal, males should be masculine, females should be feminine, and alternative sexual orientations or gender identities or expressions are abnormal or pathological—through legislation that liquidates communal land ownership and coerces society into patriarchal, patrilineal, private-property-owning nuclear families. Morgensen 2011 is representative of analyses by scholars in queer indigenous studies who call gay liberation movements to task for appealing to the United States for civil rights, thereby supporting state power that continues to colonize and dispossess indigenous peoples of their land and even to appropriate traditional indigenous nonheteronormative gender and sexual identities. Driskill 2004; Driskill, et al. 2011; Justice, et al. 2010; Miranda 2010; Rifkin 2012; and Tatonetti 2014 explore strategies for decolonizing indigenous peoples’ genders and sexualities.

  • Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Stolen from Our Bodies: First Nations Two-Spirits/Queers and the Journey to a Sovereign Erotic.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 16.2 (2004): 50–64.

    DOI: 10.1353/ail.2004.0020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Defines “a Sovereign Erotic” as “an erotic wholeness healed and/or healing from the historical trauma that First Nations people continue to survive” (p. 51); for example, the sexual abuse that native children endured in Indian boarding schools or residential schools. Inspired by black feminist theorist Audre Lorde, argues that the erotic is not only a matter of personal significance; the erotic is political and “rooted within the histories, traditions, and resistance struggles of our nations,” so indigenous peoples’ “relationships with the erotic impact our larger communities” (pp. 51–52).

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  • Driskill, Qwo-Li, Chris Finley, Brian Joseph Gilley, and Scott Lauria Morgensen, eds. Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2011.

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    Quintessential reader on queer indigenous studies. Published simultaneously with a companion piece of creative works titled Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature, edited by Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda, and Lisa Tatonetti.

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  • Justice, Daniel Heath, Mark Rifkin, and Bethany Schneider, eds. Special Issue: Sexuality, Nationality, Indigeneity. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 16.1–2 (2010).

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    Groundbreaking collection of scholarship in queer indigenous studies. Stages conversations about the settler-colonial institutionalization of heteronormativity in the United States, which has caused many native communities to discontinue traditional sex/gender systems and internalize homophobic and sexist ideologies and practices, while nonindigenous LGBTQ people and political movements have appropriated queer native/two-spirit identities and contributed to the colonization of indigenous peoples in the United States. Includes landmark essays by Driskill, Miranda, Morgensen, and Andrea Smith.

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  • Miranda, Deborah A. “Extermination of the Joyas: Gendercide in Spanish California.” In Special Issue: Sexuality, Nationality, Indigeneity. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 16.1–2 (2010): 253–284.

    DOI: 10.1215/10642684-2009-022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Theorizes “gendercide” as the systematic murder of native third-gender people by European colonizers. Considers the case of the joyas, the Spanish colonizers’ name for third-gender native Californians. Argues that colonization terrorized native communities into discontinuing multiple-gender systems and conforming to the Western sex/gender binary, that homophobia among native communities is internalized gendercide, a legacy of colonial violence, and that “two-spirit” identities position sexual and gender self-determination as a matter of indigenous sovereignty and spirituality, not US civil rights.

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  • Morgensen, Scott Lauria. Spaces between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization. First Peoples. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816656325.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces the development of modern queer politics in the United States within the context of settler colonialism and white supremacy. Examines queer native and two-spirit activism and critical theories that work to decolonize indigenous gender and sexuality.

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  • Rifkin, Mark. When Did Indians Become Straight? Kinship, the History of Sexuality, and Native Sovereignty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755455.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Impeccably researched exploration of the settler-colonial establishment of heteronormativity in the United States through compulsory processes of “straightening” indigenous peoples; for example, by dividing communally held tribal lands and forcing Indians to accept individual allotments privately owned by male heads of household. Traces these processes in literature, legal documents, and anthropological texts.

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  • Rifkin, Mark. The Erotics of Sovereignty: Queer Native Writing in the Era of Self-Determination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677825.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates how queer native writers mobilize the erotic to define their identities beyond settler-colonial state politics of recognition. Provides thorough readings of the works of Driskill (Cherokee), Miranda (Esselen), Greg Sarris (Graton Rancheria), and Chrystos (Menominee).

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  • Tatonetti, Lisa. The Queerness of Native American Literature. Indigenous Americas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816692781.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the decades-long queer and two-spirit presence in Native American literature. Demonstrates the significance of queer native and two-spirit contributions to theories of indigeneity and sexuality.

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Global Indigenous Perspectives

Global perspectives of indigeneity have flourished in the wake of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Allen 2012 studies indigenous cultural works in relation to each other and argues that transindigenous literary study resists the indigenous/settler binary. Barker 2005; Driskill, et al. 2011; Green 2007; Limbrick 2010; Laidlaw and Lester 2015; and Shigematsu and Camacho 2010 apply scholarship in settler-colonial studies to global contexts, consider the issues of indigenous peoples around the globe in relation to each other, or both. Rodinson 1973 and Sharif 2016 examine settler colonialism in the State of Israel.

  • Allen, Chadwick. Trans-indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies. Indigenous Americas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816678181.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares native literatures from various genres and indigenous perspectives across tribes and nations. Proposes methodologies for native literary studies in global indigenous contexts.

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  • Barker, Joanne, ed. Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination. Contemporary Indigenous Issues. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

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    Collection of essays that treat the relevance of sovereignty in discourses on culture, history, spirituality, language, identity, and repatriation efforts in the contexts of self-determination struggles among Chamorro, Taíno, Quechua, Maori, Samoan, Kanaka Maoli, and Makah peoples of present-day Guam, Puerto Rico, South America, New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, and North America, respectively.

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  • Driskill, Qwo-Li, Chris Finley, Brian Joseph Gilley, and Scott Lauria Morgensen, eds. Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2011.

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    Anthology includes essays about queer native and two-spirit theory, activism, and literary criticism by or about Colville, Maori, Samoan, Cherokee, and Cree Métis authors.

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  • Green, Joyce, ed. Making Space for Indigenous Feminism. Black Point, NS: Fernwood, 2007.

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    Anthology of indigenous feminist theories that includes contributors from Canada, the United States, Samiland, and Aotearoa / New Zealand.

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  • Laidlaw, Zoë, and Alan Lester, eds. Indigenous Communities and Settler Colonialism: Land Holding, Loss and Survival in an Interconnected World. Cambridge Imperial and Post-colonial Studies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

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    Anthology focuses on indigenous peoples’ perseverance in the face of settler-colonial dispossession. Chapters examine settler-colonial histories and responses of specific indigenous communities in present-day Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and the United States.

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  • Limbrick, Peter. Making Settler Cinemas: Film and Colonial Encounters in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230107915Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents history of filmmaking practices in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand from 1929 to 1954. Research draws on textual, archival, and ethnographic sources and analyzes the effects of settler-colonial geopolitical relations on film production during this period. See also Raheja 2011, cited under Ideological Sovereignty and Indigenous Epistemology.

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  • Rodinson, Maxime. Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? New York: Monad, 1973.

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    Summarizes arguments for and against an understanding of the State of Israel as a settler-colonial state. Provides a historical examination of Zionism and Israel’s dispossession and displacement of Palestinian people.

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  • Sharif, Lila. “Vanishing Palestine.” Critical Ethnic Studies 2.1 (2016): 17–39.

    DOI: 10.5749/jcritethnstud.2.1.0017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines eco-occupation of Palestine by the Israeli settler state. Argues that “the Europeanization of the landscape continues to be an intrinsic part of ongoing settler-colonialism” (p. 17) in Israel and Palestine as in the United States.

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  • Shigematsu, Setsu, and Keith L. Camacho, eds. Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

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    Explores the role of militarization in colonial territories of the United States and Japan.

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