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Nationalisms and Identities among Indigenous Peoples

Case Studies from North America


Edited By Martina Neuburger and H. Peter Dörrenbächer

This book investigates nationalisms and the emergence of national identities among the Indigenous peoples across North America. It examines the many difficulties which the Native communities have had to face in order to assert themselves as nations, as well as looking at the ambiguity of the term 'nation' within First Nations-government relations. The volume gives a broad perspective on the historical development of Native American nationalism and also explores a variety of political, educational, sociological, cultural and even literary viewpoints. The experiences of the Indigenous peoples are compared with the experiences of other Aboriginal groups across the globe, in order to enrich our understanding of global indigenous nationalisms.
The contributors to this volume represent the perspectives of a variety of different First Nations and a wide range of disciplinary fields, from history, anthropology and political science to communications, law, linguistics and literary studies.
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To Be or Not To Be Native: Residential School, Official Status and Métis Women in Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed and Beatrice Culleton’s In Search of April Raintree


For any discussion of the Native literatures of the US and Canada, it is vital to first take a glance at who the ‘Natives’ are, where they come from and what defines them and how. According to N. Scott Momaday, ‘An Indian is an idea which a given man has of himself’ (Simard 1992: 244; emphasis added). However, with the onset of the postcolonial world order, the Native peoples as well as their communities have witnessed many changes in the last century. Hence, no wonder that Drew Hayden Taylor argues, ‘[a]s clichéd as it may sound, I think everybody has his or her own unique definition of what being Native means. Very few of us exist in the world our grandparents lived in, where their definition was no doubt far from ours’ (Taylor 2000: 59; emphasis added). Taylor’s argument about the changing definition of the Natives is a pointer to the obvious transformations that have recently taken place. This involves the conscious efforts by the Native communities to replace the distorted myths created by the colonizing forces with authentic Indigenous myths; thus putting back on track the derailed history of the communities and resisting further damage to their cultural matrix. Donna Bennet observes in this context, ‘[t]o describe a country as postcolonial in this sense could simply be to imply a coming of age, or a coming into identity’ (Bennet 1993–4: 169; emphasis added). Postcolonial writing has thus often emphasized a national identity.

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