Settler colonialism is a tribal issue: Christine Brown, Dark legacies: Tracing roots of U.S. settler colonialism in contemporary tribal issues, PhD Dissertation, Washington State University, 2016


Abstract: Drawing on the traditions and perspectives of ethnic studies, history and anthropology, I examine historical roots of U.S. settler colonialism and how they shape contemporary tribal issues in the U.S. Driven by the forces of territoriality and occupation, colonial strategies and derivative mechanisms have fostered misconceptions about the unique socio-political status of tribal nations and, in turn, prompted a range of responses within Indigenous communities. Deconstructive analysis of works by non-Native and Indigenous scholars illuminates settler colonialism’s historical formation and lasting legacies. Tracing Indian responses and resistance reveals an extensive history of Indigenous perseverance that traces back 600 years and continues into the present day.

Two broad issues occupy the analysis: 1) U.S. colonial policy with its racializing legacy of “blood quanta” established during the Allotment Era in the late 1800s extends into present-day controversies surrounding eligibility requirements for tribal membership, and 2) varied colonial assaults on Indigenous cultural landscapes threaten traditional land-use treaty rights for hunting, fishing, and gathering on Indian, federal, and public lands, continuing to facilitate colonial strategies of appropriation, assimilation, and elimination that began as early as the 1600s.

I conclude this project with a contemporary example of strategic Indigenous agency by Colorado Southern Utes against U.S. settler colonial normalization and subjugation followed by valuable insights from Pawnee attorney, activist, tribal judge, and author, Walter Echo-Hawk. Final closing remarks punctuate the imperative of educating the non-Native public to recognize and acknowledge the role of settler colonialism in major contemporary tribal issues in order to clarify misconceptions, promote understanding, facilitate intercommunications, and encourage future collaboration with Indigenous nations in U.S. society.

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