Call for Papers (& Visuals)--Critical Relationality: Indigenous and Queer Belonging Beyond Settler Sex & Nature. Co-editors Kim TallBear (University of Alberta) & Angela Willey (University of Massachusetts)
See the Imaginations Journal website for a direct link to this CFP. And see my co-editor, Angela Wiley's website for more information about her.
Following is a slightly extended version of comments I made as part of a panel, “Courage and Social Justice in Our Time,” which was held at the University of Alberta on March 14, 2016. My fellow panelists included:
I’m going to tell you a story today, in part about my four greats grandfather, Chief Little Crow or Taoyateduta, which should land me back on our topics of focus—courage and justice in telling moments of crisis. I am Dakota, and a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in northeastern South Dakota. I propose that the year of 1862 is our central origin story as Dakota people today. Throughout Dakota country, we refer daily to 1862 whether at family gatherings, community events, anywhere we gather and talk. It is always there even when we are silent. That is not to say that “traditional” creation stories do not continue to be important. They set out values for living, narrate our common history, cohere us as a people with a common moral framework, and tie us to an ancestral land-base. But the tragic events of 1862, and the decade leading up to that are for many of us arguably more crucial today.
A war between Dakota and settlers in Minnesota broke out in August of 1862 after four young Dakota men who were out hunting stopped at a white settler’s house to ask for water. Refusing to help them, the settler threatened them with his gun. The young men—already severely agitated as were Dakota all across the land by the bad dealings of whites—argued among themselves about who was brave enough to stand up to the white man. They then shot the settler and others in the house.
The decade leading up to this day was one of escalating tensions between Dakota and white settlers in what became Minnesota. There was non-payment by the US government of multiple treaty provisions. Looking for title to ever more land, the US kept coming back to negotiate new treaties without having sufficiently fulfilled the promises of previous treaties. They came to negotiations with new promises that the missing funds and goods would be delivered after the signing of the new treaties. At treaty negotiations, white traders were there too, inserting their own ledgers and numbers to be marked by Dakota who rarely understood what they were initialing. Traders colluded with Indian agents and were allowed to elicit these under-informed promises by Dakota to pay debts exaggerated by traders and incurred because the federal government consistently failed to fully pay treaty provisions. There were many complex reasons why the federal government failed to deliver on their promises. Sometimes there were disagreements between treaty negotiators and senators in Washington who had to approve treaty agreements. In 1862, the US was also paying for the Civil War. There were of course more direct forms of racism and dehumanizing of Dakota and other Native people that conditioned the US response to its own agreements. Yet the Americans never failed to seize control of land and moreover, they did not penalize rogue settlers who squatted on Dakota reserved lands. In short, forthcoming treaty payments—if the feds got around to paying them—were quickly eaten up by greedy traders often before the hungry Dakota ever saw them.
This was the situation on the ground when those young Dakota men killed that group of settlers in August 1862. They returned to Little Crow’s village and told him the news. Legend has it that he made a great speech, which is confirmed by informants who were there than night, but the precise words were recounted later from memory by Little Crow’s son, Wowinape. They were memorialized in a poem, which was published widely after Little Crow’s death. Here is what Little Crow is now remembered as saying to the young men:
You are like dogs in the Hot Moon when they run mad and snap at their own shadows. We are only little herds of buffaloes left scattered; the great herds that once covered the prairies are no more. The white men are like the locusts when they fly so thick that the whole sky is a snowstorm. You may kill one -- two -- ten, and ten times ten will come to kill you. Count your fingers all day long and white men with guns in their hands will come faster than you can count.
Do you hear the thunder of their big guns? No; it would take you two moons to run down to where they are fighting, and all the way your path would be among white soldiers.
You are fools. You will die like the rabbits when the hungry wolves hunt them in the hard Moon (January). Taoyateduta is not a coward. He will die with you. 
The young men called him a coward for not righteously embracing war with the whites. But Little Crow had tried everything during the previous ten years. He had cut his hair. He put on white men’s clothing. Indeed he incorporated their fashions in small bits into his mode of dress. There are multiple accounts of his sartorial splendor when he had to appear in council or treaty negotiations, when he traveled to Washington DC to meet with dignitaries there. He was curious about those who were different from him. There are also accounts of missionaries being perplexed that Little Crow would attend church and listen attentively to the sermon with a thoughtful look on his face. Yet he would not put down the pipe. He had no desire to give up his multiple wives, and all of the kinship obligations that came with that. Indeed, Little Crow had grown into an influential and powerful leader—had built negotiation and political skills in large part through the work he did to gain four wives—all sisters from the same father-in-law. He traveled and lived in multiple Dakota communities. He moved from his father’s village at the age of 20 or so and spent his young life making alliances by making kin through marriage, birth, and adoption. By the time he was 40 he was related to a good many people throughout Dakota country.
This too is how Little Crow approached the whites, in both trade and treaty. In trade he and other Dakota viewed the exchange of pelts (and later treaty monies) for traders’ goods as kinship exchange. While the lofty language of government agents and traders might have implied fairness in trade, both viewed these exchanges as market exchanges, always in their favor with inflated prices and made-up costs detailed in their ledgers, which the Dakota mostly could not read.
Government agents and missionaries saw these exchanges of goods for money or pelts as a form of evangelism, the evangelism of the 19th century civilizing project, which is very much still with us today. This included a forced conversion to private property, a market economy, monogamous marriage, nuclear family---all tied up with a rapacious individualism and farming. The whites did not know how to do kinship. This took the Dakota a long time to understand. The Dakota had already been living with French fur traders for decades whom they had been able to inter-marry with, trade with, incorporate into their societies, although this was not always a bed of roses. Kinship never is. But these new settlers, English and German speaking, only knew how to evangelize, appropriate, and suppress. They had no interest in engaging in kinship relations. They had no interest in learning from Dakota people. They would make treaties in order to get what they wanted, and then renege on their obligations. The Indian must either adapt to their partitioning of the world—the partitioning of lands, communities, forms of love and kinship, resources, and knowledges—into categories that would either discipline the Indian into being a Christian citizen, or would result in their death. The settler state has been very poor kin indeed.
That night when the four young Dakota men entered his house, Little Crow knew there was no turning back. Diplomacy and kin-making had failed. You will recognize all that I talk about in Canada as well.
Let’s jump ahead to 2016 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (or TRC). TRC reports and Calls to Action aim to “redress the legacy of residential schools,” those places of evangelism and cruelty in which language died, and children too—their bodies or their spirits. These calls to action are now aimed to “advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” While the language of reconciliation may suggest equal complicity in bad relations between indigenous peoples and whites that would of course be an absurd understanding of history. Nonetheless, the Calls to Action provide guidelines for every sector of society from child welfare to health to the legal system, business, media, church and education. These guidelines broadly call for the shifting of resources across Canadian society to address the legacy of not fulfilling what could be considered kinship obligations. The TRC provides sweeping recommendations for disrupting institutionalized racism despite using terminology that some think is not sufficiently critical.
The moral of my Little Crow story is to be mindful that there may be different ways in which indigenous peoples and settlers view these ongoing tensions and exchanges. It would be a mistake for the settler state today to see colonialism as a thing of the past. If you read the historical details of how things went down in the 19th and earlier centuries you will see resonances with state policy and public rhetoric today. Some of you may think that the state today uses a gentler hand and the project is just to get these dysfunctional Aboriginals (albeit you might admit colonial complicity in their dysfunction) to come around to a healthier 21st century multicultural way of being. This usually means your culture with some small tolerances for say a traditional welcome with the beating of drums and burning of sage in carefully contained moments in public spaces.
But indigenous folks might have something quite different in mind. I hear them talking about your need to take on the obligations of kinship. This isn’t about indigenous peoples being incorporated into your world. It’s about you learning how to live here in relation with this place and with peoples who were long co-constituted in relation to these lands and waters and skies. You clearly did not learn how to do that very well. I want to also emphasize one idea that the TRC calls for action don’t sufficiently address: Kinship obligations to nonhuman kin were also violated by the settler state. The decimation of humans and nonhumans in these continents has gone hand in hand. When one speaks of genocide in the Americas it cannot be understood in relation to the European holocaust, for example, that is seen as having a beginning and an end, and which is focused on humans alone. Our genocide in the Americas included and continues to include our other-than-human relatives.
I end on this word “courage.” That word speaks to individual conviction and fearlessness, or overcoming of fear, in order to do “the right thing.” Having come to consciousness in the long wake of 1862, I have never understood the imperative to speak up as being about individual courage. Rather, I see indigenous peoples’ critiques and ongoing agreement-making as continued calls for non-indigenous people to engage in good relations, which involve exchange, not cruel evangelizing of settler lifeways. Rather than courage, I think in terms of acting out of obligation to the indigenous collective. And this not a moralistic sense of obligation, but it has been crafted through the steady work of kin-making in order to live. We need kin to survive. In turn, indigenous peoples speak out not necessarily from individual courage but rather their irrepressible voices cannot but call attention to injustices, and they continue to call the settler state to account for its failures at kin-making here, with both humans and nonhumans.
Read the TRC documents. They’re easy to read. They have lots of bullet points and clear headers. There is something in there for all of you Canadians to do, including scientists. I hear some of you are having a hard time figuring out if and how supposedly neutral science can respond to the TRC process that documents crimes committed by Canadian churches and the state against indigenous children in residential schools. What does that have to do with science? Various forms of science have benefitted from the exploitation of schoolchildren’s and other indigenous bodies for a start. I will be happy to advise you about the ongoing role of science in the broader colonial project, and can point you to scientists and programs that are trying to help to change that.
1. I thank Robert Alexander Innes, author of Elder Brother and the Law of the People: Contemporary Kinship and Cowessess First Nation. University of Manitoba Press, 2013, for opening up my mind to a new way of reading "nation" to "nation" relations as also or perhaps rather as kinship relations. His book Elder Brother is methodologically innovative for me.
2. There are multiple sources that document Little Crow's speech as recounted by his son Wowinape. There are slight variations between accounts. Among them are Gary Clayton Anderson. Little Crow: Spokesman for the Sioux. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1986 and Scott W. Berg, 38 Nooses, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End, Vintage. 2013.
Re-posted from http://ygsna.sites.yale.edu/event/cold-war-indigeneity-science-and-medicine
During the Cold War, indigenous cultures and their members' bodies were recognized as uniquely relevant to science and biomedical research. In some cases this was because they appeared to be valuable resources to be mined. In others, indigenous people's supposed resistance to modernization projects situated them as impediments to be overcome. In recent years, scholars and activists have begun to complicate these narratives to look at the manifold ways in which different indigenous communities shaped, sometimes undermined, and often transformed science and biomedicine.
This workshop will examined the various ways in which indigenous communities have contributed to Cold War knowledge projects, from vaccine research to genomics, from economic theory to structural linguistics and anthropology, and from pharmaceutical testing and development to communication technology. It was a timely effort to bring historians of science and medicine into conversation with indigenous studies scholars. Historians of science and medicine have only begun to attend to indigenous experience and indigenous studies scholars are increasingly recognizing science and medicine as productive domains for the exploration of issues including activism, identity, and sovereignty. Our goal is to identify new, multi-disciplinary conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of indigeneity, which--as a global political movement--has roots in the Cold War (Niezen 2003).
As Cold War studies have begun to shift their focus away from the East-West axis of American and Soviet struggle to the "global" Cold War, the circumstance of those living in other places have assumed center stage (e.g. Westad 2007). Likewise, following the postcolonial turn, historians of science and medicine have begun to scrutinize knowledge production and transfer in global contexts. Historical perspectives on indigenous involvement in Cold War era science and medicine are also relevant to understanding contemporary social movements, inequality, and concerns about justice.
To assess the intricate relations between scientists, national administrations and indigenous people that resulted from these knowledge projects, it is important to consider the extent to which the geopolitical struggles of the "third world" nations have not been one-in-the-same as those facing indigenous peoples (Clifford 2013). Because the latter were so often regarded as "relics of the past," they were not readily incorporated into the developmentalist schemes of the new nations in which they found themselves living. And while their military relevance might not have been high in many cases, as touchstones of (or challenges to) national history they nevertheless served as resources for political argumentation or became objects of political conflicts.
Contributions to the workshop explored how such indigenous communities were constructed--often in ways that were at odds with local understanding--as epistemic and, at the same time, political entities. They also focused on how members of various communities came to recognize themselves as political actors in ways that diverged from those imagined by science, biomedicine, or the nation-state. Papers addressed specific encounters between scientists and communities as well as transnational and interdisciplinary research projects to address questions including: How were these groups made objects of research? What were the conceptual premises and unquestioned assumptions that guided research? What were the practices of classifying, counting, sampling, addressing, characterizing employed in this research? And which imaginations of the groups' past and present identity guided this research? How were the interventions of scientists resisted or appropriated by those under study?
We plan to publish the proceedings as either an edited volume or in a leading academic journal.
I have just arrived at the University of Michigan today in Ann Arbor for three days (October 2-5) of conversation on future directions of feminist (post)colonial science and technology studies. Laura Foster (Indiana), Sandra Harding (UCLA), Banu Subramaniam (Massachusetts), and Deboleena Roy (Emory), I have co-organized this international meeting on feminism, science and technology. We are hosted by the Institute for Research and Gender (IRWG). IRWG has introduced the Feminist Research Seminar concept as a way to examine quandaries in theoretical or empirical research related to gender, women and sexuality.
This particular seminar brings together a dozen leading scholars from 10 prominent institutions, including Uppsala University in Sweden, to interrogate and further develop work at the intersections of feminisms, post-colonialisms and science studies. We want to use this opportunity to do more theorization related to the intersection of these three fields. Feminist, postcolonial, and settler-colonial studies as well as science and technology studies (STS) are each fields of inquiry with already incisive theoretical and methodological projects. Postcolonial and feminist science studies attempt to bridge these fields. However, the intersections of these fields and their critical insights remain under-theorized. Indeed, in most of my work I bring insights from each of these fields together to understand the problems and potentials of genome and environmental sciences as well as planning and engineering for indigenous de-colonization and institution building in the U.S. Other scholars joining me here in Ann Arbor this weekend also work across these fields and approaches in order to tackle the intellectual and political problems to which they are committed.
What is more, we each share an explicit interest in transforming scientific research and practice in order to make it more just for a wider variety of peoples--especially for those who have been subjected to oppressions in part produced through scientific work. These conversations will be our focus for the next several days. Stay tuned. I’ll post workshop highlights and next steps soon. Visit the University of Michigan IRWG website or more information about the Feminist Research Seminar.
Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) awards 2 prizes for a paper and book on indigenous genomics topics, May 2014, Austin Texas
A bit overdue, I want to express a happy thank you to the membership of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) for recognizing the importance of science and technology related topics in our field that promotes scholarship supportive of indigenous sovereignty and self-governance.
My colleague Jessica Kolopenuk (Nehiyaw, Cree), Ph.D. student in Political Science at University of Victoria, British Columbia won the NAISA Best Student Paper prize at our Sixth Annual meeting in Austin, Texas, May 29-31, 2014. Her paper, "Becoming Native American: Facializing Indigeneity in Canada through Genetic Signification and Subjection," is an important contribution to the growing literature on the implications for indigenous peoples of human genome research. Kolopenuk expands our field's analyses of genomic narratives and research ethics to understand how these play out in a Canadian indigenous governance context. Expect great work from Kolopenuk. She is at the beginning of her career as an indigenous scholar who is committed to doing intellectual work in support of indigenous self-determination. Kolopenuk is usually a very theoretical writer. She takes work to read! However, you can read something a bit more accessible in her recent publication in the journal Aboriginal Policy Studies, where Kolopenuk has a commentary in which she addresses the implications of the Indian Act in Canada, which legislates indigenous identity as "Indian." In My Girl, a letter to her hypothetical future daughter, Kolopenuk addresses the emotional and personal fallout for indigenous families and communities of the Indian Act legislation. It is the potential use of DNA testing for indigenous identity that has lead Kolopenuk to become interested in human genome research and commercial activities involving indigenous communities. Kolopenuk is also a past participant in the Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics (SING). She is now an inspiring mentor to new SING participants.
And I am pleased to say I won the NAISA Best First Book prize for a book published in 2013. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). I am honored.
On Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm at Austin's Vortex Repertory Company, I will appear on the panel, Feminism & Sexuality in Texas, at Forbidden Film Fest. (See Austin Chronicle coverage here.) In order to reach larger audiences and to have more fun despite the seriousness of my intellectual work, I have recently turned to more performance-oriented talks. Our panel also includes three other Austin women--a writer, a community organizer, a sex industry worker--all performers in their own right. For my part, I will bring to the panel indigenous, feminist, and anti-colonial approaches to bear on a discussion of the contemporary politics of sexuality in the U.S., but in ways that bridge conversations about human/nonhuman relations, including our relations with land and water; biological and made kin relations, and relations of desire.
As a former environmental planner, I combine that sensibility and training with my academic training in feminist science and technology studies, anthropology and indigenous studies. All of my work, including my emerging interest in sexuality studies and queer (ecologies) theory is part of a larger project to support indigenous sovereignty, both political and cultural. I work within and beyond the academy on projects that theorize and build towards a social-material world that is more interconnected (as indigenous thought holds it to be), less violent and less exploitative of both humans and nonhumans. I have focused for twenty years on the politics of science and technology and their roles in indigenous lives and governance. Through studying and evaluating the role of technoscience in both indigenous peoples' colonization and in the expansion of their sovereignty, and in conversation with other indigenous and feminist science studies thinkers, and with queer thinkers, I've come to oppose the dominant mind/matter and nature/culture splits that characterize Western thought. When i turn my gaze to "nature," I take an explicitly "co-productionist" approach. Nature and culture are related. They do not "contaminate" one another as the nature/culture adherents on both sides of that divide like to think, but they mutually shape one another. I do not, for example, take a more straightforward social constructionist view of the world and its objects and problems, i.e. race, sex, species, and nature. I view the social, cultural, and material as all mattering and working together to constitute the world. But where does sexuality come into this?
Being a critic of the concept of "nature," I could no longer ignore "sex." Sex has also been defined in the West according to fundamental culture versus nature, civilized versus savage, human versus animal divides. With the rise of scientific authority and management approaches, both sex and nature were rendered as discrete, coherent, troublesome, yet manageable objects. Historically, scientifically trained experts and others who claim to be uniquely rational subjects (often white, Western, heterosexual men) have claimed exclusive rights to name, manage, and set the terms of legitimate encounter with both sex and nature. Dominant societal binaries and their narratives have facilitated the de-animation of some humans below others and consequent domination and persecution of women (sexism, including slut shaming), people of color (racism), the "disabled" (ableism), those with non-normative sexual identities and bodies (rigid sex and gender binaries and heterosexism), sex workers and others. Both "sex" and "nature" and their politics are at the heart of narratives and strategies used to colonize indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples have long been viewed as less advanced--less civilized or modern and therefore as incapable of transforming land and resources into value and property. This justified the theft of indigenous land and resources by colonial states, including the U.S. Indigenous peoples were the subject of civilizing projects too, being forced into monogamy, state sanctioned marriage, and nuclear families, schooled in English and Christian Euro-centric values and understandings of the world that were and are centered around domination of nature, women, and others deemed to be less rational. Because the nature/culture split not only conditions the possibilities for indigenous life, but for many other marginalized people, I have joined in conversation with all kinds of intellectual allies I never would have imagined a decade ago.
Yet however powerful they might be, those who wield cultural, scientific, and regulatory authority have not been able to dictate our environmental and sexual norms without opposition. Social movements addressing racial apartheid in the U.S. and abroad, environmental justice, indigenous rights, disability rights, women's rights, gay rights, intersex activism, and sex worker rights are important forms of opposition. Forbidden Film Fest and the work of my fellow women on this panel are more local forms of opposition. This panel is one of my first public attempts to enter this conversation. I look forward to being intellectually challenged and to (no doubt) much laughter. Please join us Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5 p.m. at the Vortex Repertory Company in Austin, Texas. Panel tickets are free but you must RSVP.
Forbidden Film Fest (FFF) is organized by Forbidden Fruit, an Austin “non-smutty” sex shop that has been at “the forefront of the battle to keep sex legal and positive in Texas. FFF is an independent, local event launched to create space in Austin to showcase and celebrate sex-positive films and artists. Austin's ever-burgeoning film community boasts a diverse array of student, amateur and professional talent. The aim of FFF is to support and celebrate the community with accessible film for everyone. FFF will feature films that navigate diverse forms of sexuality and gender identity. In addition to the film screenings, Forbidden Film Fest will also include educational workshops and demos.
In the 13 February 2014 issue of The New Scientist Linda Geddes published an interview with me:
DNA testing is changing how Native Americans think about tribal membership. Yet anthropologist Kim Tallbear warns that genetic tests are a blunt tool. She tells Linda Geddes why tribal identity is not just a matter of blood ties
You grew up on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. How did Native Americans view tribal membership back then?
Before the second world war, most Native Americans lived on reservations. Biological children would be enrolled as tribal members, but so would adopted children and spouses, if you were legally married.
But as people moved away to urban areas, tribes started to get more rigorous about documentation. That's when they also started to move towards only enrolling biological relatives. They were trying to figure out how to maintain the tribal population when everybody was living so far away.
How did they determine which people were legitimate biological relatives?
They started to focus on what's known as "blood quantum" as a way of counting ancestors who were enrolled as Native American. In most US tribes, you have a specific blood quantum needed for enrolment – often one-quarter. That means you have to be able to show with paper documentation that you have one out of four grandparents who is full blood. Or you might have two grandparents who are half blood – however you can make those fractions work.
Has DNA testing changed things more recently?
I think the root cause of recent changes isn't DNA testing, but gaming. Because Native American reservations don't necessarily have to adhere to all of the laws of the states in which they're located – namely gambling laws – during the 1970s and 80s some tribes started building bingo halls and casinos on their land. In some of the more successful gaming tribes, individual members receive dividends on a monthly basis. [Read the full article here]
University of Waikato Symposium: Transforming Public Engagement on Controversial Science & Technology
I'm headed to the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand later this week (17th & 18th February 2014) to give a keynote address at the International Symposium: Transforming Public Engagement on Controversial Science & Technology. I will speak about Combating colonial technoscience – Lessons from the frontlines. I will join other scholars and science policy experts from New Zealand, Australia, Korea, and the United States in speaking about a variety of topics related to science, technology, and ethics in the areas of genomics, energy, environmental risk, science communication, assisted reproductive technologies, public understanding of science, and science communication. Stay tuned for an update from University of Waikato!
Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics is now accepting applications for our 2014 program to be held at the University of Texas June 1-7, and co-hosted by the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois. This follows on the heels of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) meeting here in Austin. Undergrads, grads, and Native American community members are eligible to apply for this program. SING involves five days of wet lab, dry lab, and biomedical ethics curricula focused on genomics involving indigenous people. This is a program for people interested in both the science and the ethics, and who are coming in at different levels and with different educational backgrounds.
is associate professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. I tweet about science, technology, environment, indigenous cultures, and governance @ http://twitter.com/KimTallBear. Reach me at email@example.com