“Indian Blood”: Reflections on the Reckoning and Refiguring of Native North American Identity

Essay Excerpt

Dismantling the intricate edifice of racism embodied in "Indian blood" is not simply a matter of exposing its essentialism and discarding its associated policies, but a more delicate and complicated task: that is, acknowledging "Indian blood" as a discourse of conquest with manifold and contradictory effects, but without invalidating rights and resistances that have been couched in terms of that very discourse. In considering various effects and refigurings of "Indian blood," we have been led to affirm what Spivak calls "the useful yet semimournful position of the unavoidable usefulness of something that is dangerous" (1993:5). "Indian blood," dangerous and essentialist as it may be, is at present a tragically necessary condition for the continued survival and vitality of many individuals and communities-if only until crossblood earth divers succeed in their efforts to dredge up those "few honest words" upon which to create a new "turtle island."  (Strong & Van Winkle, 565)

About the Author

Van Winkle is a Professor of Anthropology at Pitzer College.

Pauline Strong received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Colorado College and graduate degrees in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Chicago.  She has published on the representation of Native American cultures and identities in North American literature, scholarship, film, art, museums, sports events, legislation, social movements, and youth organizations. Her current research concerns the role that 20th-century youth organizations played in the development of racialized and gendered U.S. citizens.

She is the author of Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narrative (1999)and co-editor (with Sergei Kan) of New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, Representations (2006). Her articles appear in journals and anthologies in the fields of American Studies, cultural studies, history, media studies, Native American Studies, and sports studies as well as anthropology (see CV).

She currently directs the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, which offers a variety of programs  for intellectual engagement across the campus and community. Previously she served as President of the Society for Cultural Anthropology and Councilor of the American Society for Ethnohistory.  Her community service includes serving as President of the Board of the Balcones Council of Camp Fire USA.

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