Abstract: By focusing on the representation of violence against Native American women in Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish and the television show Longmire, this article demonstrates how these cultural productions perpetuate settler-colonial power relations. Although Longmire is one of the more progressive shows thanks to its development of Native American characters and storylines, the settler-colonial status quo is affirmed in four main ways. Not only do the novel and TV show redeploy the racist stock characters of the Magical Indian and the White Savior, but the TV show especially also reiterates a version of the stereotypical Vanishing American narrative inherited from the Western genre. Furthermore, both cultural productions heavily pathologize the Cheyenne community, depriving them of agency. Finally, the novel and show both transform pain, suffering, and grief into transferable commodities. This allows them to disinvest the pain and tragedy suffered by the Native American characters in order to reinvest this tragic potential in white characters, which serves to reinforce the white characters’ heroism. The commodification of tragic potential and emphasis on its sentimentalization help obscure the settler-colonial origins and systemic perpetuation of violence against Native American women. In sum, this analysis shows that the deeply ingrained and normalized settler-colonial ideology inherent to representational strategies limit the progressive potential of even the most benevolent and well-meaning white cultural productions.

Abstract: In this dissertation, I challenge the pervasive notion of South Dakota as a settler fantasy space by considering several of its twentieth and twenty-first century literary offerings through the lens of Settler Colonial Studies. Settler colonial ideology has long dominated historical, sociopolitical, and literary narratives in South Dakota, affecting state policy, Lakota and Dakota sovereignty, public school curricula, the state’s economy, and even state and local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notions of Manifest Destiny and a Wild West frontier continue to evolve, shift, and resolidify in South Dakota, playing a key role in the perpetuation of institutionalized disenfranchisement and dispossession of Native peoples. In literature, these troublesome binaries of cowboy / Indian and pioneer / Indian have historically been represented by South Dakota writers such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, O.E. Rӧlvaag, and Charles “Badger” Clark, who collectively constitute the state’s canon. Yet South Dakota boasts a multitude of writers who take up urgent issues of settler colonialism and grapple with them in productive ways. In this dissertation, I consider the novels of Black pioneer Oscar Micheaux, the oeuvre of bison rancher-turned-Lakota ally Dan O’Brien, the collaborative memoirs of American Indian Movement activist Mary Brave Bird, the contradictory and contentious works of Linda Hasselstrom, and the ecocentric poems of Courtney Huse Wika. I argue that these writers expose the tensions and complexities of settler colonialism in South Dakota. Their works challenge the dominant settler paradigm in South Dakota literature and culture, showing that despite its oversimplified, stereotypical, and deeply problematic frontier fantasies, settler colonialism in South Dakota remains complicated and unstable.

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