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Decolonizing Native American Rhetoric

Communicating Self-Determination


Edited By Casey Ryan Kelly and Jason Edward Black

As survivors of genocide, mnemonicide, colonization, and forced assimilation, American Indians face a unique set of rhetorical exigencies in US public culture. Decolonizing Native American Rhetoric brings together critical essays on the cultural and political rhetoric of American indigenous communities, including essays on the politics of public memory, culture and identity controversies, stereotypes and caricatures, mascotting, cinematic representations, and resistance movements and environmental justice.

This volume brings together recognized scholars and emerging voices in a series of critical projects that question the intersections of civic identity, including how American indigenous rhetoric is complicated by or made more dynamic when refracted through the lens of gender, race, class, and national identity. The authors assembled in this project employ a variety of rhetorical methods, theories, and texts committed to the larger academic movement toward the decolonization of Western scholarship. This project illustrates the invaluable contributions of American Indian voices and perspectives to the study of rhetoric and political communication.

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Chapter Ten: Intersectional Rhetoric and the Perversity of Form: Ada Deer’s Confirmation Statement as Resistive Rhetoric (Margret McCue-Enser)


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Intersectional Rhetoric and the Perversity of Form

Ada Deer’s Confirmation Statement as Resistive Rhetoric


Female American Indian activists such as Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe), Ada Deer (Menominee), Cecelia Fire Thunder (Sioux), among others, represent important voices in American Indian activism and, yet, as rhetors, they remain largely on the margins of rhetorical studies and public address scholarship.1 These oversights notwithstanding, rhetorical scholars have done much to move American Indian peoples and issues from the periphery of public address closer to the center of the academic tradition. This impressive corpus of work focuses on numerous topics, including American Indian protest rhetoric and its role in evidencing the plight of American Indians, the co-optation or colonizing of American Indian rhetoric, and the role of western ideologies in undermining or co-opting the legitimacy of American Indians and their claims to sovereignty.2 Much of this work examines the efforts of American Indians who individually or collectively engage in resistive rhetoric, though all of these works focus on activists who inhabit a position outside of the dominant institutions that they challenge.

This discussion moves Ada Deer out of the margins of late twentieth century American Indian resistive rhetoric and, activating intersectional rhetoric and rhetorical form, explores how Deer, the 1993 U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) head nominee, challenged the BIA and the U.S. Senate from a position constituted by her mutually-conflicting subjectivities of being a former...

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