Mapping the Americas

Mapping the Americas: The Transnational Politics of Contemporary Native Culture

Shari M. Huhndorf
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Mapping the Americas
    Book Description:

    In Mapping the Americas, Shari M. Huhndorf tracks changing conceptions of Native culture as it increasingly transcends national boundaries and takes up vital concerns such as patriarchy, labor and environmental exploitation, the emergence of pan-Native urban communities, global imperialism, and the commodification of indigenous cultures.

    While nationalism remains a dominant anticolonial strategy in indigenous contexts, Huhndorf examines the ways in which transnational indigenous politics have reshaped Native culture (especially novels, films, photography, and performance) in the United States and Canada since the 1980s. Mapping the Americas thus broadens the political paradigms that have dominated recent critical work in Native studies as well as the geographies that provide its focus, particularly through its engagement with the Arctic.

    Among the manifestations of these new tendencies in Native culture that Huhndorf presents are Igloolik Isuma Productions, the Inuit company that has produced nearly forty films, including Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner; indigenous feminist playwrights; Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead; and the multimedia artist Shelley Niro. Huhndorf also addresses the neglect of Native America by champions of "postnationalist" American studies, which shifts attention away from ongoing colonial relationships between the United States and indigenous communities within its borders to U.S. imperial relations overseas.

    This is a dangerous oversight, Huhndorf argues, because this neglect risks repeating the disavowal of imperialism that the new American studies takes to task. Parallel transnational tendencies in American studies and Native American studies have thus worked at cross-purposes: as pan-tribal alliances draw attention to U.S. internal colonialism and its connections to global imperialism, American studies deflects attention from these ongoing processes of conquest. Mapping the Americas addresses this neglect by considering what happens to American studies when you put Native studies at the center.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5880-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Note on Terminology
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Native American Studies and the Limits of Nationalism
    (pp. 1-24)

    “No More Sacrifices” (1980), a mixed-genre work of history, autobiography, poetry, and traditional narratives by the Acoma writer Simon Ortiz, begins with a conflict of place-names. “I was raised in McCartys which is one of the small villages in the Acoma community,” Ortiz writes. “The people say Aacqu. Aacqumeh hanoh, we call ourselves. New Mexico and U.S. maps say Acoma, The Sky City. . . . U.S. and New Mexico maps and tourist bureaus do not know the Aacqumeh hanoh’s name for the local community. It is Deetseyamah—The North Door” (47). These opening lines juxtapose the community’s name for...

  7. 1 Colonizing Alaska: Race, Nation, and the Remaking of Native America
    (pp. 25-70)

    In 1967 researchers at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History discovered in the anthropology archives an unknown collection of drawings by Alaskan Eskimos (see Phebus). Created by Yup’ik and Inupiaq students in government and mission schools in the 1890s, they were displayed at turn-of-the-century world’s fairs to promote Bureau of Education programs and then transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1910, where they were soon forgotten (Collins 8). The drawings illustrate Native perspectives on Alaskan life during a period of sweeping change following the 1867 U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia and the subsequent establishment of a territorial...

  8. 2 “From the Inside and through Inuit Eyes”: Igloolik Isuma Productions and the Cultural Politics of Inuit Media
    (pp. 71-104)

    The 2001 release of Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) marked a watershed in the history of North American popular cinema. Based on a traditional Inuit story, Atanarjuat was the first Inuit-produced feature and wide-release film in an indigenous language (Inuktitut). If the history of popular media is any indication, these qualities should limit its appeal; but on the contrary, Atanarjuat garnered widespread popularity and critical praise.¹ Not only was it the highest-grossing film in Canada that year and an international box office success, but also it won the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Camera d’Or for best first feature and numerous other...

  9. 3 Indigenous Feminism, Performance, and the Gendered Politics of Memory
    (pp. 105-139)

    In her radio play Birdwoman and the Suffragettes: A Story of Sacajawea (1991), Monique Mojica illustrates the complexities of colonial memory in the case of one of the few legendary indigenous women in American culture. Celebrated for her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition, a foundational event in nineteenth-century U.S. expansion, Sacajawea numbers among those Natives lauded for their complicity in the conquest of Indian lands. She was, in the words of one of Mojica’s characters, the “trusty little Indian guide . . . [whose] faithful servitude resulted in the successful completion of the famous expedition of Captains Meriweather...

  10. 4 Picture Revolution: “Tribal Internationalism” and the Future of the Americas in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead
    (pp. 140-171)

    Almanac of the Dead, Leslie Marmon Silko’s monumental novel that rewrites the history of the Americas, opens with a map. The “five hundred–year map” depicts the U.S.-Mexico border region, highlighting the boundary between the two nations, while its legends and inscriptions describe the colonial practices that created this demarcation of space. In this way it recalls the role of cartography in European expansion and initiates the novel’s critique of colonialism. “As much as guns and warships,” J. B. Harley observes, “maps have been the weapons of imperialism”: not only are they essential for claiming, settling, and exploiting the land,...

  11. Coda: Border Crossings
    (pp. 172-178)

    “The Border,” Mohawk artist Shelley Niro’s 1997 mixed-media installation (see figure 8), uses maps, photographs, and sculpture to visualize the national and transnational crossings that increasingly animate indigenous culture and politics.¹ The installation inverts colonial representational (especially visual) traditions and spatial practices to contest the power of nation-states, particularly their ongoing violence, containment of indigenous communities within imposed boundaries, and possession of land. In colonial iconographical traditions, for instance, images of defeated Native men represent the “disappearing” Indian as a relic of the U.S. national past and the triumph of “manifest destiny”; along with portrayals of ill-fated warriors such as...

  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 179-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-202)