Allotment Subjectivities and the Administration of “Culture”
Ella Deloria, Pine Ridge, and the Indian Reorganization Act
Abstract and Keywords
Chapter 4 argues that the continuing legacy of allotment shapes the conditions of native political representation under the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), which ostensibly sought to replace the allotment program with a sustained commitment to promoting native “community.” The kinds of native collectivity produced by reorganization implicitly depend on the heteronormative dynamics of allotment—particularly the self-evidence of the nuclear-family form and of a stable distinction between public and private spheres. Looking at significant policy statements about the Indian Reorganization Act before and after its passage, the chapter illustrates how the conjugally centered privatization performed by allotment helps structure and provide an ordering limit for what can count as legitimate native governance, using the Pine Ridge reservation as an example. Counterposing the notion of “domestic relations” institutionalized under reorganization to Ella Deloria’s representation of “kinship” in Speaking of Indians (1944) and Waterlily (completed in the late 1940s, published in 1988), it shows how she locates forms of identification and interdependence that cannot be registered in an allotment imaginary and, therefore, exposes the series of assumptions about home and family that continue to undergird U.S. Indian policy in the 1930s and 1940s.
There was a time when it was the policy of the United States Government to crush Indian life and even to crush the family life of Indians and during that time laws were passed and those laws are still the laws, though it is no longer the policy of the Government to rob you or to crush you, but they are the laws and by them we must work and you must live.
This Bill does not set up any one system of self-government. It does not seek to impose on the Indians a system of self-government of any kind. It sets up permission to the Indians to work out self-government which is appropriate to the traditions, to their history and to their social organization.
—John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Minutes of the Plains Congress (1934)
By kinship all Dakota people were held together in a great relationship that was theoretically all-inclusive and co-extensive with the Dakota domain …
Before going further, I can safely say that the ultimate aim of Dakota life, stripped of accessories, was quite simple: One must obey kinship rules; one must be a good relative.
—Ella Deloria, Speaking of Indians (1944)
If the goal of allotment was the transformation of Indian subjectivity and affect, the aim of the Indian Reorganization Act (1934) was the creation of self-directed tribal political economies.1 Allotment policy repeatedly was characterized as an effort to shift the objects of native feeling—from clans (p. 182 ) and communities to nucleated families, from collective territory to private property, from the tribe to the nation-state—so as to create proper, individuated citizens out of primitive masses. While the imposition of this naturalized vision of kinship, residency, and personhood clearly operated as part of a systemic program of detribalization whose goal was to dismantle native governance and expropriate native lands, in ways discussed in the previous chapter, it was not portrayed as a means to that particular end. In other words, the allotment program tended to be articulated and legitimized in ways that portrayed the brutal and sustained assault on indigenous geopolitical formations, subsistence and trade systems, and knowledges as merely a side-effect of the benevolent effort to modernize Indians, to liberate them from the shackles of tradition. By contrast, U.S. officials presented the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) as a vehicle for native autonomy, displacing the atomizing dynamics that had structured Indian policy for the previous half century and replacing them with a sustained commitment to promoting native “culture” and “community.”2 As indicated in John Collier’s comments quoted above, “it is no longer the policy of the Government to rob you or to crush you”; instead, it “sets up permission to the Indians to work out self-government which is appropriate to the[ir] traditions.”3 The project of producing (hetero)normative patriotic subjects appears to give way to official recognition for forms of indigenous collectivity.
However, if allotment and its associated ideologies were no longer to be the guiding principles of Indian policy, what happened to the subjectivities generated by this regime? How does the continuing legacy of allotment, and the various kinds of identities and practices engendered by it, shape the conditions of native political formations and representations under reorganization?4 How is the “self” of “self-government” in the IRA present haunted by the persistent dynamics of the allotment-saturated past?5 In casting allotment policy primarily as a repressive force, as an effort to “crush” various aspects of “Indian life,” Collier, who was Commissioner of Indian Affairs, overlooks its fashioning of individual and collective forms of subjectivity, production of codes of intelligibility, and enforcement of them against native peoples. Rather than simply negating existing native kinship networks, political structures, and forms of land tenure, allotment reorders the field of possibility for the articulation and experience of native sociality, giving rise to new modes of representation and association that in various ways follow, mediate, and oppose the terms of the law. When measured against Collier’s characterization of the statute as a restoration of what had been lost or buried over the previous half century, the continued operation of allotment-era strategies of administration can be described as a contradiction. In Organizing the Lakota, Thomas Biolosi argues, “The Indian New (p. 183 ) Deal was about Indian self-government, and the technologies of power deployed by the OIA which disempowered the tribal councils clashed glaringly with the official discourse” (150). Yet the relation between the IRA’s expressed intent to consolidate native political economy and the continued support for allotment subjectivities on-reservation is not simply an inconsistency but instead itself is generative, purposively regulating the kinds of native “self”-hood that will be seen as viable by the U.S. government.
In other words, the absence of discussions of subjectivity and affect from the official discourse of reorganization is not happenstance but indicates that the allotment imaginary helps structure and provide an ordering limit for what will count as legitimate native governance—what kinds of “traditions,” “social organization,” and “history” will be federally recognized as suitable bases/vehicles for native political identity. In this way, the representation of native peoples under reorganization is in some sense the inverse of that discussed in chapter 2. Hope Leslie depicts native peoples as teaching whites how the affective ties of adoption and siblinghood can provide a way of reconceptualizing the relation between “private feelings” and “public good,” generating bonds of transhousehold cohesion that frustrate the isolating domesticity and tyrannical patriarchy that shape the nuclear family model, but this lesson in community caring leaves little room for acknowledging native peoples as sovereign entities. By contrast, reorganization foregrounds the existence of tribes as polities but in ways that presume allotment-era ideologies with respect to kinship and residency, resulting in the displacement of existing tribal councils (which tended to retain more of preallotment “traditions” than the “system of self-government” that superseded them).6 The kinds of native collectivity produced by reorganization implicitly depend on the heteronormative subjectivities and domesticating affective economies of allotment as a way of defining the horizon of possibility for native political self-representation, a process I will explore through discussion of several key policy statements about the IRA and analysis of the ways it was implemented among a specific people—the Oglala Sioux on Pine Ridge.7 Under reorganization, the sorts of privatization at play in the previous policy help define the boundaries of federally acknowledged tribal identity, naturalizing conjugal homemaking and using the supposedly self-evident distinction between domesticity and governance to normalize liberal assumptions about citizenship, property, and the work of political institutions that then are cast as the foundation for native politics.
In this vein, Ella Deloria’s insistence on a “kinship” that is “all-inclusive” can be seen as a challenge to the organizing political logics/schematics of reorganization, locating forms of identification and interdependence that cannot be registered in an allotment imaginary and conceptualizing them as central to the very kinds of “social organization” and “history” Collier claims (p. 184 ) to champion. In Speaking of Indians (1944), she offers a subtle yet powerful counterpoint to, and critique of, reorganization, most particularly its operation on the Teton reservations with which she was familiar (including Pine Ridge, where she was residing with her brother during the debate over whether or not to adopt the terms of the IRA). Deloria uses kinship to generate a framework for investigating the complex legacy of allotment, its uneven effects on Dakota people(s), and the ways the new regime draws on while apparently disowning the old one.8 Developing what can be described as a transectional analysis, she illustrates how the practical and normative dimensions of “be[ing] a good relative” necessarily cross the boundaries of the segregated spheres employed by reorganization in its mapping of native sociality on reservation, thereby contesting the reifying categories through which “Dakota life” is divided up under—and thus made more amenable to—U.S. policy.9 Deloria suggests that the very kinds of interpersonal affect and quotidian subjectivity that reorganization seems to overlook in fact provide the infrastructural support for the broader political and economic dynamics it seeks to target, using the prism of kinship to reveal the ongoing paternalistic management of native “self”-hood and the kinds of regulation enacted through the (limited) institutionalization of “culture.”
Official expressions of support for native “culture” and “community” function as a way of legitimizing the new policy regime as more democratic than its predecessor, but these tropes of “tradition” end up dividing up native sociality into units that fit Euramerican categories. Illustrating how social relations conventionally characterized as kinship provided the primary nexus for meaningful individual and collective association, Deloria’s work disorients the assumptions animating reorganization, refusing the segmentation of native life into distinct spheres (i.e., the domestic, religion, governance) and showing how supposedly primitive residential arrangements that distended the nuclear family unit were saturated with the kind of sentimental affect usually reserved for descriptions of the conjugal household. In this way, Deloria employs the concept of kinship to contest the effort under reorganization to sustain allotment’s privatization of “family” and to cast U.S. policy as facilitating the restoration of native forms of “social organization.” Her novel Waterlily, set among the Teton Sioux in the prereservation period, indicates how such networks sustained a range of social statuses for which there is no place in the de facto conjugal imaginary of postallotment policy; the text uses the principles of individual and collective connection it gathers under the rubric of “kinship” as a way of linking the range of practices and associations that had been outlawed as “Indian offenses”—including the Sun Dance, polygamy, redistribution or destruction of the belongings of the deceased, and regular travel to visit relatives (only the first one of which comes to be recognized as a legitimate expression of (p. 185 ) “culture” under Collier).10 In this way, the novel provides a historically located account of Teton sociality that demonstrates the limits of Indian policy’s multicultural fetishization of a particular version of “culture.” Ella Deloria’s work, in both Speaking of Indians and Waterlily, then, helps reveal the kinds of social mappings that implicitly define and constrain “self-government” under reorganization. In doing so, these texts help point toward the ways post-IRA political discourses rely on heteronormative subjectivities in fashioning modes of sovereignty that will be recognized as legitimate by the U.S. government.
Competing Configurations of “Community”
Reorganization does not so much eliminate the administrative apparatus, subjectivities, or effects of the allotment program as selectively deploy them within a framework in which the goal has shifted from detribalization to self-government.11 That change in the aims of federal policy has vast implications for the status of native governance and land tenure, but it does not mark an utter negation of the technologies, discourses, and ideologies of privatization put in play under allotment. Rather, in changing the dominant scale and topoi of policy from the nuclear family home to the reservation “community,” reorganization in one key pushes for forms of political, territorial, and economic integration that appear antithetical to the previous policy while in another key continuing to draw on the imaginary of allotment in formulating what should occur at the level of kinship and residency. In this way, the IRA replaces and extends the prior regime simultaneously, but in different registers. Those patterns are not in fact fully separable, however, in that the logic by which political and familial formations can be divided into distinct domains/spheres is itself reliant on a distinction between public policy and domesticity that is a legacy of allotment. Thus, reorganization remains complexly inflected by allotment even as the one embraces the idea of native collectivity targeted for erasure by the other. The nexus of “private” personhood, intimacy, and propertyholding operative under allotment comes to be treated as an incontestable given under reorganization, providing the kernel around which native “communities” would be formed.12
In an effort to gain native support for the bill while it was still under discussion in the House and Senate committees, Collier arranged a series of what were described as “congresses” in which Indian leaders within a given geographic area were gathered together to discuss the terms of the new legislation at length. The elaboration of the IRA’s provisions and its implications (p. 186 ) in these meetings provides an important index of what “self-government” under reorganization would mean, since the proposed legislation already had been drafted and the audience present at these meetings would lead officials to put the best face on the possibilities for native peoples’ authority over themselves under the new law. The Plains Congress, attended by representatives from the Sioux reservations, among others, was the first of these meetings, and in Collier’s efforts to explain the workings and significance of the bill, one can see the tensions that animate the entire project of reorganization, particularly the ways the choices available to native peoples are conditioned by the mandated retention (and, in some ways, the naturalization) of allotment modes of land tenure and homemaking.
Collier describes the new legislation as an effort to redress the catastrophic effects of existing policy, to alleviate the bureaucratic caprice under which Indians currently are forced to live, and to replace the current assault on native sociality with an acknowledgment of collective native agency. Describing native peoples as “at the mercy of the Indian Bureau,”13 Collier highlights the absence of any meaningful structural constraint on its authority in the management of Indian affairs, further observing that “the guardianship maintained by the United States is carried out under a body of laws which are wicked and stupid” (7–8). Under the new law, however, dictatorial domination will be replaced by consultation and consent: “We intend to act in partnership with the Indians and we are not going to act unless the Indians are willing to go with us” (4–5). That “partnership” includes generating a legally guaranteed “plan according to which Indian tribes or groups may develop the kind of self-government that they want, that is fitted to them, and may take on more power or less power as they prefer” (27).14 Yet “partnership” does not mean eliminating U.S. superintendence. As Collier argues, “The cure for the evils done by the Government is not to abolish but to reform it and make it do good things instead of evil things, and that is true of the guardianship over Indians” (6), and at several points he indicates that under the proposed law “the guardianship of the Government … is made permanent.”15 While the concept of “guardianship” may simply be taken as marking the end of allotment, asserting that the process of fee patenting through which millions of acres had been lost will be discontinued and that native lands will be held in trust in perpetuity,16 it is accompanied by the claim that Indians remain “ward[s] of the government,” thereby legitimizing ongoing U.S. intervention in native affairs; at several points, Collier offers versions of the sentiment that “if the tribe made a mess of its undertaking, then Congress would have the power to take it back and put it in the hands of the Indian Bureau to straighten out” (33). Thus, if the proposed legislation indicates a desire on the part of officials “to build on the old Indian traditions” in ways that make sense with respect to (p. 187 ) the “social organization” of native communities (29), the United States still maintains the authority to adjudicate what “traditions” are suitable for institutionalization as part of resurgent collective native “self”-hood.
More than simply managing the emergence of postallotment modes of native governance, fashioning them to fit an implicit image of what constitutes a proper policy “partner,” reorganization as described by officials necessarily entails the preservation of the subjectivities, spatiality, and scale structure of allotment, making the heterosexual imaginary at the heart of the prior policy into the de facto normative architecture for the new one. In explaining the relationship between the new law and the existing legal status of native persons and land, Collier notes, “allotment has created individual valid property rights in individuals [sic]. That fact is there and has to be dealt with.” He goes on to observe:
The minutes record that this last statement was greeted with applause. Such a response is not surprising in light of the profound anxiety expressed by native allottees who had been able to retain their land that under the new policy it might be seized in whole or in part in order to provide for those who had become landless due to economic hardships in the wake of fee patenting.18 However, just as the implications of “guardianship” extend beyond simply discontinuing fee patenting, the matrix of “property rights” that Collier pledges to defend shapes the contours of native political identity and action under the IRA in ways that far exceed shielding allottees from displacement. The “right” to the land allottees’ “own” appears sacrosanct, as an inviolable set of claims whose “protect”-ion lies at the very heart of U.S. law. This incontrovertible and indissolvable “fact” is taken to mean that any change in Indian policy, including through legislation enacted by Congress, must recognize and retain the matrix of “individual”-ity produced under allotment.
[A]s a result of allotment, thousands of Indians live on or are the holders of parcels of land. They own that land.…It is their right, not only to continue to own what they own but they have the right to transmit what they own to their children, to their heirs. This right is theirs, fundamentally under the Constitution of the United States and could not be taken away from them no matter what Congress did. So that, in addition to stopping the loss of land and getting more land, any change of laws, must protect these individual property rights in living allottees and their heirs. (9–10)17
However, what makes this particular structure of land tenure more legally inviolable than prior indigenous modes of placemaking? Forms of native sociospatiality that preceded the passage of the Dawes Act, whose dimensions and dynamics were acknowledged in treaties (albeit unevenly) for (p. 188 ) more than a century, could be disregarded by the federal government in its initiation of the program of detribalization, and if Congress had the authority to alter the terms of native inhabitance and political status previously, why does it lack such power now? While at points Collier seems to suggest that the retention of the privatizing geographies of allotment is a tactic (“if Legislation is passed which over-rides property rights … the Courts will prevent the Legislation from being put into effect” ),19 he more consistently describes “individual property rights” as beyond the scope of federal adjustment, as constitutionally beyond the scope of congressional control. Why is this type of landholding legally privileged in ways preallotment tribal occupancy rights are not?
More precisely, if the new statute’s purpose is to end the “wicked and stupid” regime of allotment, why are many of its key components to be maintained? The mention of “children”/“heirs” provides an implicit answer. As discussed in the previous chapter, the central unit of allotment was the nuclear family, made paradigmatic in both the assignment of plots of land and the laws governing inheritance. This nexus of kinship and residency provides the context for the generic “individual” cited in allotment-era discourses, and therefore by Collier in his discussion of the need to retain such arrangements under reorganization. More than providing an ordering principle of territoriality, though, the nuclear imaginary helps naturalize a particular kind of household formation, as well as a definitional distinction between the familial and the governmental. Within Anglo-American common-law traditions, the conjugally centered home not only has been cast as the fundamental building block of social life but has been envisioned as itself prior to and outside the sphere of law and policy, appearing as that which government was created to defend as well as that which must be defended from governmental intrusion.20 In short, bourgeois homemaking, with its production of properly civilized individuality and insulation of privatized intimacy, counts as a claim to “property” in ways that collective native processes for determining land use and distributing resources do not.21
Conversely, the rejuvenation of native “traditions” and “social organization” promised by Collier necessarily must conform to the heteronormative imperatives that serve as both the ends and limits of governance. In explaining the kind of jurisdiction that will be available to native peoples under the IRA, Collier notes the impossibility of doing anything to remove landowning whites from reservations; the federal government “does not have power over land that it does not own or control, where white people are living, and we can’t give that power to the Government and the Government can not give it to an Indian community” (82). White homemaking and propertyholding define what constitutes political “power,” serving as that which (p. 189 ) necessarily is protected by law and what lies beyond its “control.” In this way, native sovereignty is narrated here not only as a gift from the federal government but as one whose appeal is the possibility that native communities might be able to approximate the autonomy of the white household despite ongoing federal superintendence.
Treating this domestic formation as a “right” that transcends any given administrative program further normalizes the insertion of native governments into the scale structure of federalism.22 In speaking of “property” as if it were an immutable aspect of contemporary native life, a legacy of allotment from which there is no possibility of retreat, Collier obfuscates the issue of precisely which laws are applicable in outlining the contours of landholding and inheritance and the significance of such importations/impositions for conceptualizing the meaning of “self-government.” For example, invoking “heirs” begs the question of how they will be determined, and although Collier equates this concept with “children” in ways that assume the nuclear family model, the General Allotment Act indicates that “the law of descent and partition in force in the State or Territory where such lands are situate” shall guide inheritance.23 Thus, state laws with respect to the definition of family and transmission of land implicitly provide the social infrastructure for reorganization, suggesting that native governance will mold itself around those statutes.
In this vein, Collier repeatedly refers to the jurisdiction made available to native peoples under the IRA as “local,”24 a designation that positions indigenous governments not just as operating over a smaller geographic expanse than state law but as of a lesser legal stature, as a feature of U.S. law but one lacking a recognized constitutional status of its own. Indicating that governments recognized under the IRA would be “clothed with the authority of the Federal Government,” an image itself redolent with the history of the civilization program, he observes that “the organized bodies of Indians will become Agencies of the Federal Government, instrumentalities or, if you like, branches of the Federal Government” (11). He later adds, “the community [as the prospective unit of governance under the IRA was called] is an instrumentality of the Federal Government and by agreement between the Community and the Secretary of the Interior the Secretary could delegate to the community his own regulative powers over allotments in severalty” (112). The “powers” of government, and attendant assumptions about the character of governance itself, remain constant while they are transferred from one “agency” to another. Political “self”-hood for native peoples, then, inheres in their becoming the “instrument” for maintaining an unchangeable core of allotment-orchestrated relations, and political collectivity as acknowledged under the IRA will take shape around the privatizing structures of the prior policy. No longer seeking to dissipate native communities, (p. 190 ) federal policy will now utilize them as the vehicle for forms of “local” regulation whose dynamics largely depend on state law—not simply retaining the compulsory heterosexuality of allotment but making its terms the neutral register of the fact that Indians are “rights”-bearing members of the United States.
In The Cunning of Recognition, as part of a discussion of the effects of liberal multiculturalism on indigenous policy in Australia, Elizabeth Povinelli explores how “the discourse and affect of shame play” a significant role “in making an expansion of legal discriminatory devises seem the advent of the law of recognition or a rupture of older models of monocultural nationalism and the grounds for national optimism, renewal, and rebirth” (155). The rhetoric of officials during the Plains Congress repeatedly comes back to the assaultive dynamics of prior U.S. Indian policy, its efforts to “crush” native peoples, assuring participants that the new law will mark a break from that program of intervention and dispossession and instead will enable them to have a substantive say over what happens on-reservation. Yet this performance of what in Povinelli’s terms can be called national “shame”—the denunciation of prior administrative perspectives as, in Collier’s words noted earlier, “wicked and stupid”—actually does not undo the forms of interpellation through which native peoples are subjected to U.S. jurisdiction or, more to the point, through which they are made subjects of it. At one point, Collier observes, “This new system will give to the Indians and to the employees of the Indian Bureau a chance to work on a footing of friendly equality. It gives to the Indians a chance to become real citizens in the American community” (31). Characterizing the IRA as enabling full Indian belonging in the “American community” does not displace allotment-era aims, especially insofar as such membership is predicated on embodying a certain kind of individuality. In addressing the Indian Court provisions of the draft bill, Collier notes, “wherever there is a provision which seems as if it might work an injustice on an Indian, that Indian will have the right to come before this court and insist, first, on his constitutional rights as a citizen of the United States, and, second, on his special rights as are given him by the charter of his community” (39). Casting “constitutional rights as a citizen” as foundational in thinking about the status of native peoples under U.S. law, Collier positions citizenship as the underlying basis for all native political claims, implying that the possessive individualism that emerges out of the heterosexual imaginary of allotment will provide the normative ground on which reorganization will build. The trope of citizenship is the form of “recognition” through which native peoples will achieve “equality” and on top of which their “special rights” can be perched. Thus, more than indicating that native governments must preserve the private sphere of propertyholding created by prior policy, Collier’s comments suggest that the regime instituted (p. 191 ) by the IRA will make political “community” contingent on the acceptance of the principles of liberal individualism at play in allotment’s attack on prior native networks of kinship and residency.
If citizenship and individual propertyholding are central in efforts to outline the contours of native governance under the IRA, the questions posed by participants during the Plains Congress point to the persistence of form(ul)ations of native identity that exceed this official mapping of native politics. Inquiries by native attendees allude to the ongoing presence of an alternative normative framework, namely that of treaty-making, and to the complex ways native peoples had accommodated the legal imperatives of allotment while still preserving kinship-based forms of political collectivity. Members of the Sioux delegations in particular keep calling on Collier to clarify the relation between the proposed provisions of the IRA and treaty-based obligations and ongoing controversies over land claims. At one point, George White Bull, one of the delegates from the Standing Rock reservation, observes, “I believe that something is not very clear in our minds and that is this, that the passage of the new Bill would in turn jeopardize our interests in some of the allotment and treaties that are known by the year ’68, ’78, and ’89. Treaties that are known by the years would be jeopardized and that part of those will be relinquished if we accept the new proposed Bill” (67–68). He adds an immensely compelling analysis of the situation, worth quoting in full:
In response to these points, Collier argues that placing the provisions of the IRA and grievances related to treaties and agreements with the federal government in “one bill … that would bring all these claims to judgment” would be “a big mouthful” that “will choke us to death,” citing the sheer expense of (p. 192 ) settling native claims (“It will cost the Government so much that Mr. Douglas, Director of the Budget, would faint”) (70–71). Considered in light of his earlier insistence when addressing the issue of treaty-based annuities that “first, this loss of land by the Indians must be sharply stopped” (52), Collier’s presentation of claims growing out of the history of treaty-making as a secondary matter, as of less immediate importance than forging a “partnership” between native peoples and BIA,25 suggests that he views the identities and principles at stake in such claims to be only marginally relevant to the kind of native political subjectivity envisioned as the aim of reorganization.
I have some claims and suits against the U.S. Government. We are looking forward to the day when a judgment shall be reached in connection with our claims that we may realize some compensation on behalf of the claims. How does it happen there are no monies to settle our claims and reach judgment on our claims or pay the amount of those claims, but when a time comes for the transfer of our allotments into another system then we are told that a large amount of money—millions—would be appropriated for this purpose? I believe that it would be an easy matter for us to reach an early decision in this matter had the Government been anxious to settle our claims and pay up our claims in full than if a new proposition were presented. I believe we would have been just as anxious to answer just as readily and go into it whole heartedly. Also, because by the settlement of our just claims we know our rights and we would have no fear towards any other matter that they may present. (68–69)
The position articulated by White Bull, however, suggests not only the continuing existence of forms of Sioux collectivity that precede allotment but that “self-government” as imagined by the IRA implicitly disavows the persistence of such older modes of governance. White Bull links consent to the new legislation (“an easy matter for us to reach an early decision”) to federal acknowledgment of existing obligations (“settle our claims”), a recognition that would illustrate acceptance of Sioux self-understandings (“our just claims” and “our rights”). In addition, he indicates that the government is making a choice about where to place its resources, deciding not only to ignore the payment of outstanding claims but to create “another system” that bears little relationship to the treaty system and the traditions that had accumulated around it through which Sioux peoples had come to conceptualize their own social organization and their relation with the U.S. government.
Collier’s discussion of reorganization tends to efface the existence of tribal councils among native peoples, even as his efforts to generate native support for the bill to some extent presume them. For this reason, attendees’ attempts to draw attention to treaties and related agreements with the government also can be seen as pointing to the tribal councils to which the treaties gave rise, a framework that predates and persists in modified forms alongside allotment. The growing need in the late nineteenth century to speak in semi-unified ways as supra-band entities in negotiations and ongoing engagements with the United States led many native groups to create governing bodies that could function as intermediaries with federal institutions and agents. While Teton Sioux peoples had signed several earlier agreements with the United States, including the treaties of 1851 and 1868 (which established the “Great Sioux Reserve”) and the agreement of 1877 (by which the Black Hills were ceded, later found by the Supreme Court in 1980 to be an illegal taking), this process of centralization was particularly intense in the lead-up to and wake of the Sioux Act of 1889, which divided Teton territory into six distinct reservations and opened 11 million acres of “surplus” lands to white settlement.26 These emergent forms of governance largely drew on the traditional leaders of the tiospayes, the kinship-based residential units around which Teton sociality was organized (discussed in chapter 3).27
(p. 193 ) In the late 1880s, the people of Pine Ridge created the Oglala Omniciye (or Oglala Council), which “marked a departure from pre-reservation Oglala political organization, in that it met regularly on behalf of all Oglala bands. It sought to integrate those bands, which had been autonomous.”28 Composed of chiefs and headmen from the tiospayes, it advocated around the treaties and agreements with the federal government, including with respect to land rights and guaranteed rations and annuities; the Omniciye also organized popular opposition to the implementation of allotment on Pine Ridge, challenged the terms of government land-leasing programs (which largely gave white ranchers access to reservation lands at well below the market price or at no cost) and served as a means of helping coordinate the activities and decision making of local councils (themselves representing groups of tiospayes but organized around the farm districts instituted by the BIA): “[M]embers of any central council in this model were more on the order of delegates than elected officials or public administrators.”29 In 1916, the Oglalas adopted a constitution that gave each local council ten representatives in the Omniciye, the document noting that the “making of new chiefs and the making of new bands will be managed by the chiefs at their camps at home, and not to be handled within the Council.”30 Over the course of the 1920s, the agent worked to reduce the number of people on the Council and to divorce it, except in the most nominal ways, from the local councils, a move explicitly rejected by the Oglala public in votes taken in 1931. They were in the process of drafting a new constitution that reflected the principles of the Omniciye when the IRA was introduced in Congress.31 In neither version of the IRA, Collier’s original nor the bill eventually passed by Congress, was there any mechanism for simply accepting as legitimate such existing structures of native governance.32
As suggested by this brief history of Pine Ridge politics, references to treaties in the Plains Congress can be understood as recalling a conception of Indian policy quite at odds with the vision of native governments as a semimunicipal stand-in for the current non-native bureaucracy. Invoking the history of the treaty system implicitly displaces the allotment-derived conceptual prism through which U.S. citizenship and individual property rights appear as the inevitable building blocks for native politics. Rather than serving as an instrumentality of federal policy, reproducing its foundational split between the familial and the governmental, pre-IRA Teton tribal councils largely were ordered around tiospaye-based constituencies and their traditional forms of leadership, with kinship serving as a crucial modality of Teton politics. By contrast, to be recognized under the IRA is to be made “real citizens,” naturalizing the features of regular U.S. jurisdiction by presenting their imposition as a renewed commitment to individual and property “rights” in which the distinction between public policy and the (p. 194 ) intimacy of the domestic sphere is taken as obvious. Within this heterosexual imaginary, the tiospaye-centered councils cannot serve as legitimate vehicles of political decision-making. Yet Teton delegates subtly disjoint this logic. They repeatedly assert that they “are here with the sole purpose of listening and we are not here to pass on questions,” “and whatever we learn we will take back with us to our own people” (2). Such insistence defers the legitimizing moment of collective consent Collier seeks while also implicitly alluding to the presence of mechanisms of popular decision-making, a format for “pass[ing] on questions,” not acknowledged by the congress itself—namely, the existing tiospaye-based tribal councils. The comments of native participants in the congress indicate not only hesitancy in becoming a “partner” of the BIA but, despite Collier’s assurances of “equality,” a fundamental unease about the entailments of accepting a position within another U.S.-orchestrated policy framework.33
This tension persists in the wake of the adoption of the IRA and its implementation on Sioux reservations. The critique of reorganization governments often takes shape around the idea that they have left aside the treaty system and its unresolved claims against the government. Appearing before the House Committee on Indian Affairs in 1937, representatives from several of the Teton reservations spoke of their discontent with the governments instituted under the IRA in terms of the failure of the latter to press forward on pursing remedies for past and continuing violations of agreements with the United States. An Oglala named Edward Stover, who was serving as interpreter, observes, “this delegation that I am here with represents quite a majority of the Indians of the Pine Ridge Reservation,” and he explains that they are part of “the treaty organization,” a “voluntary” body that is “different from the tribal council as organized for the reservation.”34 Benjamin American Horse, recognized as a chief among the Oglalas, adds:
If the treaties are presented as the source of political authority and the “tribal council” is cast as illegitimate due to its lack of concern for them, they also serve as a way of figuring a distinction between two different structures of governance, one based on the model of the Omniciye and the (p. 195 ) other on IRA principles. The “treaty council” first appears in official records in 1931 (the same year as the vote to displace the agent-engineered council, discussed earlier); it “referred to the whole pre–New Deal organization … involving district (local) councils in which all people—or at least men—could participate, as well as tribal councils in which representatives from the district councils conveyed the sentiments of the grassroots.”36 Thus, while reference to the treaties marks a federal policy structure seen as at odds with the procedures of reorganization, it also condenses a broader struggle over what will constitute Sioux governance, especially the relationship between reservation-level politics and district-based decision-making which previously had been through councils in which tiospayes played a prominent role.37
One reason for our confusion and hard times on the reservation is because of the Wheeler-Howard Act which was introduced and we are fighting on it amongst ourselves … standing about half and half. One goes under the name of the tribal council and the other goes under the name of the treaty council. This tribal council was not consented to by the treaty council…We realized that those treaties were the supreme laws of the Indians and, therefore, we established the treaty council[.] (11)35
In the Plains Congress, Collier casts reorganization as the Indians’ liberation from the violence of allotment under the continuing benevolent care of their federal “guardian.” The gift of political recognition for native polities, however, is predicated on their interpellation into an allotment-inspired conception of “citizenship” in which native politics can be nothing more than a “local” instantiation of the principles of settler-state liberalism, themselves naturalized within a heterosexual imaginary in which generic individuals emerge into political life out of a properly privatized domestic sphere. The vision of “constitutional rights” and “self-government” offered by Collier presupposes a fusion of personal property, the nuclear family, and bourgeois homemaking that then is treated as the apolitical core around which governance revolves, ignoring the coercive process by which such a geography of social life is imposed on native peoples. Tribal authority comes to be cast as the right to embody the civilizing mandates and regulatory architecture of allotment, an instrumentality through which to administer existing regulations that appear as the obvious precondition for political identity and agency.
Collier not only portrays the kinds of individual and familial subjectivity formed under allotment as axiomatically shielded from the discretionary powers of native governments, but this intrusion on self-determination appears as the gift of inclusion, while displacing alternative frameworks for conceptualizing U.S.-Indian affairs. More than simply ignoring a set of issues clearly of great concern to native attendees, the IRA’s deferral of treaty-related matters makes possible its simultaneous rejection of allotment’s detribalizing aims and reification of allotment’s nuclear imaginary. While the provisions of the IRA do not abrogate or adjust existing treaties, the proposed legislation does seek to replace the forms of native governance that had grown up around treaty-making with a “system” for which allotment serves as the horizon in defining what will constitute public policy, as contradistinguished from privatized homemaking. In this way, reorganization (p. 196 ) disavows the existence of kinship-based councils in ways that facilitate the insertion of native politics into the nested hierarchies of U.S. federalism.
“Domestic”-ating Native Self-hood
In the wake of the passage of the IRA, officials in the Indian service were left with the question of what the statute and its provisions would mean in practice. As part of an effort to clarify the principles and parameters of reorganization, Collier called on Nathan Margold, the chief solicitor of the Department of the Interior, to draft an opinion outlining the nature and premises of the “home rule” promised in the statute. Issued on October 25, 1934, and likely authored by Felix Cohen(Margold’s assistant who worked extremely closely with Collier), the opinion, entitled “Powers of Indian Tribes,” lays out the theory of native governance that would guide the conceptualization and implementation of reorganization.38 Taking up the brief mention in section 16 of the IRA that acknowledges “all powers vested in any Indian tribe or tribal council by existing law,”39 the opinion uses this seemingly throwaway reference as the legal basis for developing a broad notion of native political powers as emanating not from congressional conferral but from an indigenous sovereignty that precedes that of the United States. As Vine Deloria and Clifford Lytle observe, “Delegated powers would have made tribal government a part of the federal government; inherent powers preserved an area of political independence for the tribes across which the United States could not venture,” and due to this distinction, they conclude, “Modern tribal sovereignty thus begins with this opinion” (160). Yet how is native sovereignty made intelligible within U.S. administrative discourses in the wake of the IRA’s passage, particularly in the opinions of the Interior Department and the regulations issued by Collier? What kinds of subjectivity, individual and collective, are recognized as “sovereignty,” and how are they envisioned in relation to allotment-era precedents?
While “Powers of Indian Tribes” is at pains to indicate that the kinds of authority it addresses do not result from a process of federal investiture, instead being derived from the autochthonous status of native peoples, its description of the legibility and character of such autonomy offers a fairly circumscribed portrait of native political identity. The opinion states, “it is the prerogative of any Indian tribe to determine its own form of governance,” placing the burden of proof on the U.S. government to demonstrate that any interference by “administrative officials” in native affairs can be validated by reference to a specific piece of legislation directly authorizing it (445). This presumption in favor of native political license, however, is turned inside out (p. 197 ) in the opinion’s effort to anatomize the areas over which tribal governments can exert control and the methodology used to provide that list: “It is possible, however, on the basis of the reported cases, the written opinions of various executive departments, and those statutes of Congress which are of general import, to define the powers which have heretofore been recognized as lawfully within the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe” (447). In setting out to catalogue “the whole body of tribal powers which courts and Congress alike have recognized as properly wielded by Indian tribes” (447), the text inverts the logic of inherent sovereignty, shifting from searching for negative limits (what has been disallowed by Congress) to identifying positive content (tribal authority already “recognized” by the U.S. government).40 This reversal suggests that forms of native political subjectivity, in order to be acknowledged as legitimate by the United States, need to be constructed around the citation of federal precedent. Thus, sovereignty becomes sovereignty-as-already-narrated within U.S. institutions; reciprocally the term “inherent” does not so much refer to a domain that precedes or is separate from U.S. administration as assert a claim of priorness/exteriority within a regime of regulation. As a topos, “inherent” allows for U.S. officials to manage what constitutes authentically governmental matters while presenting this ongoing process of intrusion in ways that make, in Povinelli’s terms quoted earlier, an “expansion of legal discriminatory devises seem the advent of the law of recognition.”
Such translation conducted under the sign of autonomy can be seen in the opinion’s expansion of the legal norms to which native governments are seen as always-already having committed themselves in order to be understood as governments. While initially presenting “original sovereignty” as only “curtailed by restrictive legislation” (447), the text later notes “that those provisions of the Federal Constitution which are completely general in scope … apply to the members of Indian tribes as well as to all other inhabitants of the nation” (451). Mobilizing the topology of citizenship discussed earlier, this caveat imagines the jurisdiction of native governments as extending over “inhabitants” whose status as political subjects is shaped first and foremost by their belonging to “the nation,” meaning the United States, enfolding native peoples within a somewhat nebulous set of constitutional imperatives taken to be the “general” background against which sovereignty can signify.41 The opinion further observes that “the tribe has all the rights and powers of a property owner with respect to tribal property” and that “the powers of an Indian tribe over tribal property are no less absolute than the powers of any landowner” (467–468). While declaring the authority of native governance over tribal property to be “absolute,” the character of that power is envisioned as like existing Anglo-American principles of landholding, making it into an expression of generic “landowner” rights already (p. 198 ) laid out in U.S. law. Thus, beyond bracketing land covered by the laws of allotment (463), this portrayal of indigenous jurisdiction envisions it as definitionally committed to the kind of political economy in which Indians were to be trained through allotment, and in analogizing native polities to bourgeois property owners, it further emphasizes the “local” nature of their control—a point noted numerous times in the opinion.42 From this perspective, the IRA “afford[s] statutory recognition of these powers of local self-government and administrative assistance in developing adequate mechanisms for such government” (454), again positioning the act as making possible an acknowledgment of what came before while creating a political infrastructure organized around a municipalization of native governments—their rendition as miniaturized models of existing “mechanisms” within U.S. law.
If conceptions of what constitutes “adequate” governance at play in prior Indian policy are redeployed as the basis for new forms of official political recognition, that process takes shape around, and draws on, a naturalized vision of native homemaking. In its opening moments, the opinion states as one of its chief tenets, “The domestic relations of members of an Indian tribe are subject to the customs, laws, and jurisdiction of the tribe” (445), presenting such issues as free from state and federal interference.43 Although immediately qualifying this premise by noting that tribes’ “inheritance laws and customs” do not apply “with respect to allotted lands” (445), the text seems to suggest that questions of landholding and family life not controlled by allotment law will serve as a site at which “customs” previously prohibited by U.S. officials formally may be legalized by native governments. In fact, the opinion notes at several points that the decisions of agents and the BIA, inasmuch as they were not mandated by Congress, cannot be construed as impairing tribal sovereignty, thereby insinuating that administrative efforts to control native marriage, eroticism, and home life no longer have any purchase on the internal dynamics of native polities.
Yet, curiously, this apparent openness to other configurations of residency and kinship is only ever discussed in terms of regulations regarding marriage. In particular, the opinion emphasizes the authority of native governments “in defining and punishing offenses against the marriage relationship” (461). The traditional role of kinship in structuring modes of native governance is overlooked, which seems particularly notable given the presence of versions of such customs among many peoples in the years leading up to the IRA and their potential significance in giving substance to “the prerogative of any Indian tribe to determine its own form of government” (445). Moreover, the notion of “domestic relations” is winnowed down to concern over policing “the marriage relationship.” The possibility of expanding the trope of domesticity to signify various kinds of land tenure, forms of (p. 199 ) sustained affective and material ties, and complex dynamics of household and family formation largely is foreclosed. Instead, “domestic relations” refers only to the marital unit,44 implying the kinds of atomized, privatized homemaking favored in allotment. Further, it positions the “domestic” not as a space in which different patterns of intimacy and interdependence can proliferate and receive legal sanction but as a set configuration from which deviations should be penalized as “offenses,” a term itself resonant with the prior system for disciplining violations of the heteronormative ideals of allotment policy and the civilizing mission—the Courts of Indian Offenses, which I will discuss further later.
In a rather odd rhetorical move, the opinion actually cites the practice of matrimonial management as exemplary of the nature of native jurisdiction: “The powers of an Indian tribe in the administration of justice derive from the substantive powers of self-government which are legally recognized to fall within the domain of tribal sovereignty. If an Indian tribe has power to regulate the marriage relationships of its members, it necessarily has power to adjudicate, through tribunals established by itself controversies involving such relationships. So, too, with other fields of local government” (471). In this way, marriage serves as a metonym for native political identity, imagining not only that there necessarily is a paradigmatic form of it to which each native government is committed but that kinship is not continuous with governance. Marriage is a relationship whose terms officially can be adjudicated rather than only one node within a network out of which politics itself is constituted. This perspective casts as obvious a split between social spheres, which, especially since it is demarcated with respect to marriage, makes the dynamics of native governance appear as consistent with the organizing premises and structures of other intranational forms of jurisdiction—a semidistinct “local” version of a broader U.S. pattern.
More than slotting native “domestic relations” into a familiar Anglo-American framework, the presentation of marriage regulation as the archetypal example of “the administration of justice” among native peoples serves as part of a broader effort to reposition the technologies of social restructuring at play under allotment, especially the Courts of Indian Offenses, as the substance of indigenous political “self”-hood. Created by order of the Secretary of the Interior in 1883, the Courts of Indian Offenses (hereafter referred to as the Courts) were a vehicle for implementing regulations promulgated by him outlawing aspects of native life perceived as promoting continued savagery, such as the following: the performance of the Sun Dance and similar “religious ceremonies”; polygamy; the presence of “medicine men”; the destruction of property, including as part of mourning rituals; and the movement of bands among reservations.45 While Collier publicly critiqued the Courts prior to becoming Commissioner of Indian Affairs, their use as a (p. 200 ) technology of straightness was not discontinued under the IRA.46 Instead, they were renarrated as both a paradigmatic symbol of the inherent sovereignty of native peoples and an invaluable tool in educating them.
Although repeatedly insisting that regulations created by the BIA cannot constrain tribal governments, the opinions of the Interior Department solicitor reaffirm the validity of the regulations issued by the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and their implementation through the Courts, whose cases overwhelmingly were concerned with violations of the conjugal domesticity promoted by the agents.47 The solicitor finds that the Courts “derive their authority from the tribe, rather than from Washington” (476).48 While somewhat of a side comment in the 1934 opinion I have been discussing (“Powers of Indian Tribes”), this contention is reaffirmed as the basis for a later opinion—“Secretary’s Power to Regulate Conduct of Indians” issued on February 28, 1935. It argues that both Congress and the federal courts explicitly and implicitly have acknowledged the existence of the Courts of Indian Offenses and de facto have given their blessing to this administrative contrivance, despite the absence of any statute formally endowing the BIA or agents with such authority. Citing a case on another matter, the opinion observes that “the tacit approval of Congress for a number of years [in this case by providing funding for the Indian police and agent-appointed justices of the Courts] is sufficient to authorize otherwise unauthorized regulations.” Beyond validating the Courts as a legitimate part of the ongoing exercise of BIA oversight over native peoples, the opinion asserts that they are “manifestations of the inherent power of the tribes to govern their own members,” recasting the invasive policing of eroticism, kinship networks, homemaking, and other aspects of native life as merely an expression of the collective will of “the tribes” (535–536).
Through this discursive maneuver, the collective subject of “sovereignty” is envisioned as a macro version of the privatizing subjectivities of allotment, fabricating a communal identity out of the heteronormative ideologies and punitive mechanisms of the prior policy regime. That process becomes more apparent if one examines the parallels between federal officials’ presentation of reorganization and the rhetoric of U.S. v. Clapox (1888), often cited as justifying the authority of the Courts.49 In a phrase quoted in both the Interior Department solicitor opinions noted earlier, the decision describes the Courts of Indian Offenses as “mere educational and disciplinary instrumentalities, by which the government of the United States is endeavoring to improve and elevate the condition of these dependent tribes to whom it sustains the relation of guardian” (577). In other words, administrative regulations with respect to native sexuality, marriage, kinship, and homemaking have the power and validity of law because they are necessary tools of civilization by which Indians can be “improve[d] and elevate[d].” (p. 201 ) Only by breaking them of their savagely perverse habits and training them in proper nuclear domesticity can the U.S. fulfill its moral role as their protector. Note that the terms of subjugation/subjectification utilized here—the need for institutions that serve as “instrumentalities” in the fulfillment of the United States’ responsibilities as “guardian”—mirror the language used by Collier in characterizing reorganization during the Plains Congress, suggesting the extent to which the language of native choice surrounding the IRA always was shaped around a heterosexual imaginary that delimited what could/should constitute governance.
More than merely recycling a blatantly paternalistic and racist perspective in order to justify retaining the Courts, the Interior Department opinions repackage it as an affirmation of native self-representation.50 They describe the initial creation of the Courts as a “necessary” effort by the federal government “to stimulate tribal judicial action,” “to allow for enforcement by the tribal courts of the laws, customs and ethics of the tribe and for the handling of individual problems of the tribes” (536).51 Thus, rather than imposing a repressive system that forbade crucial practices of collectivity, the BIA simply made possible the continuance of native “customs.” This line of argument retools the subjectivities and domesticities of allotment as a mode of recognition under reorganization. Put another way, the persistence of BIA-instituted and enforced codes of conduct is represented as a means of giving formal shape to existing principles that already have been accepted by Indians as perfectly compatible with—in fact, as vital to—their existence as self-governing polities.
One could argue, though, that the Courts merely provide a convenient legal hook on which to hang validation of native judicial systems, but such an interpretation is undercut by the ways official accounts and ongoing policies reiterate the centrality of the civilizing imperative.52 In the regulations issued by Collier in late 1935, he abandons the attacks on the Sun Dance and medicine men in prior regulations but retains the concern for promoting conjugal and domestic order: “[T]he tribal council shall have authority to determine whether Indian Custom Marriage and Indian Custom Divorce … shall be recognized in the future as lawful”; “pending any determination by the Tribal Council” they “shall continue to be recognized as heretofore.”53 Yet “illicit cohabitation” is included as among the “offenses” for which one can be tried, positioning the regulation of kinship and homemaking as a significant feature of reservation governance. While there is no outright ban on polygamy, the code does define “adultery” as “hav[ing] sexual intercourse with another person, either of such person being married to a third person” (16), indicating that marriage is a union of two people and making any erotic relationship beyond that punishable. Additionally, although formal restrictions on interreservation travel are not contained in the 1935 regulations, (p. 202 ) many reservations continued to have local subagents from whom passes were required to take such trips, a practice that further constrained and managed kinship relations by fracturing transreservation networks.54
Taking the Constitution and law-and-order regulations adopted at Pine Ridge as an example of how the IRA was implemented, one can see the ways that the form of sovereignty that emerges under reorganization cleaves rather tightly to the contours outlined in the administrative opinions and codes I have been discussing.55 Prior to the IRA, Pine Ridge had been in the process of drafting a new constitution, three years earlier having repudiated the agent-instituted constitution of 1928 that radically diminished the scope of the tribal council and instead deciding to return to a system much more like the Oglala Omniciye.56 This effort was preempted by reorganization, the terms of which did not reflect the prior struggle for the expansion of the council, greater attention to treaty issues, and a recognition of persistent modes of local governance (including tiospayes and their chiefs).57 As against “the Interior Department’s origin myth of tribal government,” “tribal governing machinery based on the constitutions was designed by the OIA, not Lakota people, who had little input into these instruments”; “even the order of the enumerated powers in both constitutions [for Pine Ridge and Rosebud] largely matches the order of items in the outline” provided by the BIA.58 In laying out the powers of the Council, the constitution makes clear that virtually all of them are “subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior,” giving non-native administrators a huge amount of discretion in managing tribal affairs. Notably, one of the very few areas spared this scrutiny is the power “to regulate the domestic relations of members of the tribe,” although the authority “to promulgate and enforce ordinances … for the maintenance of law and order” is contingent on the Secretary’s approval. Again, “domestic relations” appears as a metonym for sovereignty, standing in for an autonomy belied by the stifling oversight institutionalized in the constitution.
Furthermore, the law-and-order code adopted by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council in February 1937 bears a striking resemblance to the regulations issued by Collier.59 In addition to referring questions “as to the meaning of any law, treaty, or regulations” to “the superintendent” (21751), the code includes a chapter titled “Domestic Relation,” the longest section by far, which spells out in great detail the rules for marriage, divorce, and homemaking. Among its provisions, it disallows “Indian custom marriages and divorce,” regulates the legitimacy of children, and penalizes with imprisonment failures to “comply with any of the foregoing provisions … with reference to domestic relations not otherwise provided” (21753–21759). Furthermore, the code defines nonallotment heirship by reference to “the rules of the State of South Dakota,” outlaws adultery and “illicit cohabitation,” (p. 203 ) and criminalizes “vagrancy” (“wander[ing] about in idleness, living off of others who are able to work”).60 Cumulatively, these measures suggest less an embrace of tradition or a reflection of existing practices than that the code and the judicial apparatus (which itself retains the structure of the Courts of Indian Offenses—three judges appointed by a federal official ) function, in the words of U.S. v. Clapox quoted earlier, as “educational and disciplinary instrumentalities,” constructing and enforcing a normative domestic ideal that serves as the icon of (re)organized collective “self”-hood.61
While the constitution and code ostensibly indigenize governance due to their adoption through the mechanisms of representative governance, the disjunction between federally recognized institutions and popular Oglala understandings is registered by the numerous complaints filed by Pine Ridge residents in the years following the passage of the IRA. These protests include a 1938 petition to Congress signed by 1,061 people to revoke the constitution and testimony before Congress on the failures of the IRA government—particularly the use of the regulations and court system as instruments of oppression. The latter charge seems particularly apt given that of the 9,000 Indians tried in various courts in 1938, 10 percent of them (909) were from Pine Ridge, 90 percent of those cases being heard in reservation courts, with a conviction rate approximating 95 percent.62 In addition, these protests often called for, in the words of Frank Short Horn and Benjamin American Horse in their statement before Congress, a return to a system of governance “by chiefs, headsmen, and their councilmen,” obliquely invoking the tiospayes and the ways that they had been displaced from Oglala governance under reorganization.63
Efforts to specify the scope and meaning of the IRA after its passage proclaim the existence of an “inherent” native sovereignty separate from U.S. legal norms, principles, categories, and modes of mapping. That political identity, however, is described in ways that cast it as axiomatically analogous to U.S. jurisdictional logics: its terms and contours are made present through examination of U.S. statutes and judicial decisions; its powers are qualified by “general” constitutional provisions; and its subjects are envisioned as holding a primary status as U.S. citizens. In that process of “local”-ization, “domestic relations” serves as a key conceptual hinge, distinguishing politics from familial relations and homemaking while installing a proper version of privacy whose defense is cast as the sine qua non of public policy. The official account of the political internality of tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction under reorganization, therefore, turns on the presence of a certain kind of “domestic” formation, but the maintenance of a system of nuclear intimacy/insularity itself depends on the presence of a disciplinary apparatus. If tribal governance is an instrumentality of the federal government, it is predicated on the subjectivities and forms of sociality generated through the instrumentality (p. 204 ) of the Courts of Indian Offenses. Rather than seeing the Courts as an intrusive imposition, though, the post-IRA position described earlier treats them as a bureaucratic prosthetic that enables the preservation of tribal customs. Thus, the rhetoric of support for native “traditions,” at play, for example, in the Plains Congress, functions as an endorsement for the recoding of BIA-imposed institutions and ideologies as tradition and the basis for sovereignty, making the heterosexual imaginary of allotment foundational while foreclosing traditionalist adaptations to U.S. demands such as the tiospaye-based councils that preceded reorganization.
No More Separate Spheres, or Ella Deloria’s Transectional Critique
The official representation of reorganization as a liberatory embrace of autonomous native political “self”-hood depends on the deployment of a series of dichotomies.64 These include the IRA vs. allotment, government vs. family, federal vs. local, delegated vs. inherent, normal vs. criminal, and coercion vs. custom. Rather than functioning as analogies, these binaries work to support each other by cumulatively constructing a vision of sovereignty whose terms coalesce around the self-evidence of modes of privatization that supposedly provide continuity between tribal and U.S. structures of governance—a core around which politics as such can cohere and, simultaneously, from which it can be contradistinguished. As suggested in the previous section, though, this presumption of equivalence is generated by the translation of the enforced discipline of one regime into the supposed facilitation of native desires by the next, effacing competing frameworks to that of allotment such as the treaty system and its legacy of intra- and interreservation councils organized around kinship networks. In Speaking of Indians, Ella Deloria provides an account of Dakota sociality that cuts across these distinctions, offering an analysis that I describe as transectional.65 She refuses to divide up native life in ways that fit U.S. administrative logics while also highlighting how forms of government recognition depend on a reification of particular practices that divorces them from their role within a broader web of shifting collective relationships. In contesting such fragmentation by cutting across the categories used by officials, Deloria exposes the series of assumptions about home and family that continue to undergird U.S. Indian policy in the 1930s and 1940s, thereby offering a de facto critique of the ways the apparent acknowledgment of native sovereignty continues to rely on compulsory heterosexuality as a framework through which to make native peoples into suitable political subjects.
(p. 205 ) While Deloria was present on various reservations (especially Pine Ridge) during the period in which the IRA votes were held and the resulting new governments were put into effect, and thus was witness to the various and complex struggles generated by this policy change, scholars have not read her work in relation to reorganization.66 Born on the Yankton reservation in 1888, she was the daughter of the Reverend Philip Deloria, who served as an Episcopal missionary to residents of the Standing Rock reservation; her mother, Mary, had been married previously and had children living on the Rosebud reservation. Moreover, Deloria’s brother Vine became a minister at Pine Ridge, and she lived with him for extended periods. Thus, she had sustained connections with people at several Teton reservations. She graduated from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1915, where she had studied with Franz Boas, and while teaching at Haskell Indian School in 1927, she was contacted by Boas, beginning a correspondence and complicated process of collaboration that would last until his death in 1942.67 Deloria has been seen by scholars as employing the conceptual tools and professional contacts of anthropology as part of an effort to preserve what she had learned in her time living among Sioux peoples as both a child and an adult, using her books as a pedagogical tool through which to convey Dakota stories, language, philosophies, practices, and ethics to younger generations who may not have had the benefit of the on-reservation education she received on these topics. In addition to the vital work of transmitting tradition, sustaining what had been taught to her by elders and passing that knowledge on to future generations, her work can be understood as contesting the dominant representations of native identity at play in U.S. policy in the period in which she was writing. More than a project of survivance, her work is engaged in a counterhegemonic effort to shift the terms of public discourse, tracking the disruptive effects of reorganization and the entrenched assumptions animating it but doing so through an expansive account of Dakota sociality that draws on while reshaping the official and popular interest in native “culture.”
While addressing a wide array of issues, including native histories, current anthropological approaches, and various aspects of contemporary native life, Speaking of Indians keeps returning to the contention that an awareness of and engagement with the matrix of kinship is central to any substantive effort to understand Dakota people(s). More than indicating a particular set of blood and marital connections, a distinct domain of relatives, kinship refers to an array of active processes of interdependence that provide the shape and substance for collective identity. In an intriguingly layered description, Deloria observes, “By kinship all Dakota people were held together in a great relationship that was theoretically all-inclusive and co-extensive with the Dakota domain” (29). Exceeding Anglo-American (p. 206 ) notions of “family,” kinship appears here as an encompassing, binding force, one that has explicitly geopolitical dimensions—defining the terms of belonging to the “people” and the scope of their “domain.” While subtle, this initial image suggests that the contours and coherence of Dakota peoplehood itself depends on the “inclusive” and “extensive” dynamics of kinship networks. Indicating that “Dakota camp-circles were not haphazard assemblages of heterogeneous individuals” (25), Deloria further asserts that “the father-mother-child unit was not final and isolated”: “it was only one of several others forming the larger family, the tiyospaye…This Dakota word is essential in describing tribal life. It denotes a group of families, bound together by blood and marriage ties, that lived side by side in the camp-circle” (40). The text’s portrayal of kinship runs against the grain of the federal government’s representation of native peoples as aggregations, or assemblages, of citizens whose belonging as subjects of the United States provides the foundation for administratively recognizable forms of native governance.
Camp circles are webs of relations around which Dakota sociality coalesces, as against the fetishization of either atomized personhood or the nuclear family. In fact, the specific terms of the latter have an enlarged field of reference, since “there are any number of men and women whom you also call father and mother”—“all the men whom your own father calls brother or cousin” and “the women whom your mother calls sister or cousin” (26). Deloria further notes the disjunction between that expanded conception of family and U.S. ideologies as instantiated through official record keeping, particularly in the education system. “If a child called ‘Brother’ someone entered on the roster as of an entirely different family, was he lying? It seemed so, because the intricacies of his kinship system had not yet been investigated” (116–117). The logic of conjugal homemaking appears not as an obvious feature of native life around which to develop a notion of tribal jurisdiction but as an imposition that results from a systemic failure to “investigate” the “intricacies” of indigenous peoplehood. There is no being Dakota without enmeshment in the “larger family” of a tiospaye; the tiospaye is a matrix of connections among relatives that follows “the rules imposed by kinship” (25), which cannot be reduced to an equivalency among individuals who all share the same status; and there is no Dakota “domain” over which governance could be exerted apart from the kinship relations that constitute tiospayes and link them to each other (“any strangers thrown together by circumstances are generally able to arrive at consistent terms for each other through some mutual relative” ).
As suggested previously, federal depictions of reorganization recycled the subjectivities of allotment in ways that made native governance appear as merely an instrumentality through which U.S. constitutional principles, federalist hierarchies, and ideologies of liberalism could be extended to native (p. 207 ) peoples in a noncoercive fulfillment of the responsibilities of benevolent guardianship. However, in displacing the series of privatizing presumptions on which that administrative vision of native politics depends, Deloria denaturalizes the process of reorganization, drawing attention to the ways it continues to fail to reflect native self-understandings and to impose a nuclear imaginary that fractures Dakota social formations. In Speaking of Indians, the idea of native governments passing laws for the “domestic relations” of their peoples becomes unintelligible, since there is no administration that operates as a distinct entity over and against the tiospaye. “Kinship held everybody in a fast net of interpersonal responsibility,” and “that was practically all the government there was” (31–32).68 The notion of “domestic relations” as a discrete topic requires the separation of the (normative) family unit from the unit/agent of governance, a split that Deloria refuses to acknowledge. She further observes that “everyone was literally in the public eye” (32), rejecting the idea of an isolated, intimate space or sphere of privacy that categorically is shielded from the awareness, assessment, and judgment of others—who, instead, are simultaneously one’s fellow political subjects and relatives. In this way, the text suggests the irrelevance of public and private as ways of conceptualizing not only Dakota people (their interpersonal dynamics) but also the Dakotas as a people (their functioning as a polity).
Insistently returning to the ways bourgeois homemaking is alien to traditional placemaking and community formation, the text observes that administrative efforts to impose a conjugally centered spatiality have not succeeded in supplanting less isolating geographies of kinship. While “at length there came the time when individual allotments of land were made,” in which Dakotas were separated into “father-mother-child units … often miles from their other relatives,” even by the mid-twentieth century, more than forty years after allotment began on Teton reservations, “many Indians cannot yet feel complete with just their little family, their spouse and children” (92, 146). The process of detonating broader networks of kinship, shattering them into matrimonial-reproductive “units,” has not altered or eradicated residual Dakota affective attachments structured around the model of the tiospaye. Deloria’s use of the phrase “father-mother-child,” conjoined as the terms are by hyphens rather than commas, suggests that the nuclear family functions as a distinct, freestanding entity within administrative and popular U.S. ideologies while also implying the ways it is ordered around a terrifyingly claustrophobic insularity.
Emphasizing the “little”-ness of the liberal “family” foregrounds the fact that the normative imagination of privatized intimacy within U.S. policy appears to many Dakotas, even by the 1940s, as a radical and uncomfortable diminishment of the scope of the emotional attachments established through (p. 208 ) connections with one’s “relatives” in traditional kinship dynamics and formations. Here we can see the ways that Deloria invokes sentimental familial affection as a way of manifesting the ongoing experiential unnaturalness of allotment and its legacy for those subjected to it, registering the persistence of an older, alternative political economy as a structure of feeling. The terms, categories, and strategies of differentiation by which reorganization seeks to recognize native polities as such, then, appear in Speaking of Indians more as fragmentation than acknowledgement, a reordering of kinship-inflected lines of affiliation, forms of residency, and modes of governance in which Dakotas “cannot yet feel complete.” This affective disjunction also implicitly serves as a rejoinder to the claim that the administrative regulations and procedures designed to manage native “domestic relations” under allotment can be understood under reorganization as merely aiding and giving formal shape to existing but diffuse native desires.69
More than cutting across the privatizing distinction between the nuclear “home” and the structures of band politics, Deloria uses the topos of kinship to challenge the municipalization of Dakota politics, instead suggesting how the various boundaries generated by federal policy continually are transected by processes of relation. She observes that “with relatives scattered over the many camp-circles and communities, anyone could go visiting anywhere, and be at home” (38), adding that traditionally “any family for reasons valid to itself could depart at any time to visit relatives or sojourn for longer or shorter periods in some other Dakota camp-circle” (40). Under the regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior in 1883 setting up the Courts of Indian Offenses, such travel between reservations was restricted. Administrators sought to deny ties among bands that crossed reservation lines in order to produce the reservation as a coherent bureaucratic unit for the purposes of managing Indian affairs, and, as noted earlier, farm agents on Teton reservations under Collier still had the authority to regulate people’s movement. By drawing attention to regular patterns of engagement among relatives, the text challenges the legitimacy of “the imaginary lines of demarcation” through which the United States maps Dakota space (86). Kinship, then, marks not merely expansive formations of affection and habitation but a complex and shifting geopolitics of interdependence, alliance, and belonging that is both inter-band and sub-band. In this set of dynamics, bands and reservations do not function as insular or coordinating units, and “home” is determined neither by a particular household nor by jurisdictional locale, further intimating the ways that U.S. discourses draw on heterodomesticity as a way of normalizing its administrative mappings.70
More than critiquing the emergence and maintenance of the reservation system, the text’s depiction of the topology of kinship as fluid can be understood as a response to the way federal authorities used the figure of the tiospaye (p. 209 ) to validate reorganization. As discussed earlier, the IRA was characterized as a repudiation of the violent, foolish, and exploitative policies of the past, a renunciation of federal imposition in favor of an acceptance of native traditions. In this vein, officials seized upon the tiospaye as a means of authenticating non-native political and economic projects, casting them as attempts to restore Sioux customs lost or displaced under allotment. This idea can be traced to H. Scudder Mekeel, who was hired to lead the BIA’s applied anthropology team and who had done his doctoral fieldwork at Pine Ridge in the early 1930s. He suggested that the traditional mode of governance should serve as the basis for representation under the IRA constitutions, and the proposal was taken up by administrators, including Collier himself, who came to characterize such an approach as an acknowledgment of the “natural” dynamics of these peoples, drawing on “ancient Sioux communities, which even the allotment system has not been able to destroy.”71 The call for the use of the tiospaye as the ordering unit of Teton governance presented constitution drafting under the IRA as a process of restoring residual political formations to full visibility and legitimacy, positioning reorganization as a broad-based repudiation of “the allotment system” and as the vehicle through which U.S. policy would come to accept and even promote the preservation of native cultures.72
Adopted on some reservations and rejected on others (including Pine Ridge), this “community plan,” as it was called, was opposed by many members of existing tribal councils as well as district councils for the reason that it displaced existing leaders and modes of leadership, including erasing the distinction between those chosen through electoral politics and those who gained positions due to their status as chiefs. In other words, the notion of using tiospayes as the basis for jurisdictional mapping and legislative representation actually effaced the complex structures that Sioux peoples had developed during the allotment period, their adaptation of older models of kinship-based governance to U.S. administrative frameworks and demands. While contradistinguishing tiospayes from the prior gridding of reservations into “districts,” administrators and anthropologists who supported the community plan offered an account of tiospayes that utilized them as the basis for a kind of political districting basically indistinguishable from that of the United States, simulating tradition but constructing a version of the tiospaye that had little relation either to preallotment patterns of collectivity or to the constitutional councils that had emerged over the previous several decades which had been challenged by agents and which Teton peoples had fought to defend. Thus, even when federal officials include kinship formations as part of their administrative programs, seeking to signal a commitment to native notions of “community,” such incorporations end up freezing a shifting matrix of belonging, subsistence, and care into the form of something like a (p. 210 ) municipality. In this vision of native governance, the tiospaye turns into a kind of geopolitical container at a scale between the allotment unit and the tribal council in ways that belie the dynamism within and among traditional kinship/residency units that Deloria illustrates.
Attempting to institutionalize the tiospaye gives the impression of recognizing tradition while not only evacuating it of its prior internal workings but dislodging it from the complex and shifting inter-band kinship networks that cut across it and in which it was enmeshed. Deloria particularly emphasizes the persistence of kinship geographies of affection, association, and interdependence and their ill-fit with the principles of U.S. liberalism.73 Contrasting the American system of “get, get, get now” with a traditional Dakota ethos of “give, give, give to others,” she observes, “today, the second system seems to be outmoded. In a world committed wholly to the other, it is out of place. It has to go. It goes reluctantly; indeed, it lingers and lingers still. It lingers because it is bound up with the kinship system, and that is still here. Kinship, as I have tried to show, was the whole of life in the past. It was what united the people” (120). The structures of Dakota politics on which the United States seeks to draw in legitimizing its own oversight of Indian affairs, then, are animated by a conception of interpersonal and trans-band relation that does not fit the economic program of reorganization, which relies on greater participation in the market organized around a maximization of wages/profit. Addressing the difficulties faced by younger Dakotas who seek to take part in the U.S. economy, Deloria notes, “It was not till they tried to do business that they were hopelessly blocked by the obligatory duties and kinship interdependence of the past that still persisted, hidden but strong” (131).74 The text often portrays traditional kinship connections as a barrier to economic advancement, given the vast transformation of the Dakotas’ social conditions wrought by U.S. policy, but in doing so, it also emphasizes the discrepancy between traditional ideals or social processes and the functioning of an imperially imposed political economy.75 Inasmuch as the allotment program was predicated on the translation of native social formations into the terms of U.S. liberalism—private propertyholding by individual nuclear family units—the use of the tiospaye as an organizing figure in the “community plan” does not so much undo allotment as repackage it, less contesting its operative assumptions about the nature of residency, family, or governance than simulating traditional structures in ways that neither represent the actual functioning of the Dakota “kinship system” nor speak to the tensions generated by its “lingering” presence. The text, then, suggests that however one might understand the value of reorganization and whatever idiom it might use to express its structuring principles, it has little to do with prior modes of peoplehood and their residual influence on Dakota self-representations and social relations.
(p. 211 ) Rather than preserving or helping rejuvenate social formations that had been assaulted under allotment, officials’ attempts to codify a version of custom as part of the legal apparatus of governance work to manage native tradition so as to make it appear compatible with U.S. policy objectives. These efforts are an extension of “decades of paternalism and protection” that have worked not only to deny the autonomy of native peoples but to hamper their ability to adapt to changed circumstances: “In the old days the Indians had dignity and pride. They still do…I am optimistic enough to think they would respond, especially if they are told to go ahead in their own way—that too is important—and if a chance is given them to do this without a kind of stifling oversight” (152–153). In addition to rejecting the “perpetual guardianship” that the United States exerts over native peoples (158), Deloria suggests that “protection” which seeks to define for native peoples what kinds of traditions should be maintained and how to do so can be nothing but “paternalism.”
Such management of native culture fetishizes it, freezing it into a form that has little relationship to native self-understandings while constructing a framework for native identity that actually embodies U.S. imperatives—legitimizing the structure of “guardianship” by casting it as an embrace of indigenous ideals. The text explores this dynamic in an extended passage worth quoting in full:
For Deloria, the issue is less whether or not a particular practice or formation should be preserved than that the process of cultural retention, invention, and adaptation needs to be left in the hands of native peoples themselves, rather than the United States. Moreover, these moments implicitly condemn reorganization’s wholesale replacement of existing governmental structures (like the constitutional councils discussed earlier), through which peoples sought to adapt “in their own way” to the circumstances created by U.S. intervention.76
The Indian people—or any people—are a living plant. They must develop naturally, and, as they do, they drop off the lowest petals that have become dried up and useless and are hanging by a single fiber thread. Only the plant knows when to drop them in its development of ever better and fuller blood at the top. To insist and make it the laudable thing to keep up Indian customs, even when they are outgrown, or, on the other hand, to want results so fast that the happy use of Indians languages and the vestiges of customs, good or bad, are discouraged, wholesale, is to hurt the Indian plant seriously. (160–161)
In diagnosing the structural unevenness in Indian policy, its insistence on reifying certain (kinds of) customs as signs of authentic cultural difference (p. 212 ) while continuing to insert native peoples into U.S. political economy, Deloria’s text contests the invocation of tradition as a means of validating an ongoing state-orchestrated transformation of native lifeways. Through its elaboration of preallotment Dakota sociality, it intimates the failure of official narratives of recognition to capture the internal workings of the tiospaye and the broader matrices of kinship in which it is embedded. Instead, the supposed autonomy signaled by tribes’ control over their “domestic relations” carries with it a series of assumptions about the nature of governance, including its separation from a distinct sphere that can be named “domestic.” Deloria’s account implies that these inbuilt presuppositions make the “father-mother-child unit” axiomatic even in the absence of a specific insistence on the naturalness of nuclearity, envisioning a “home” that is contradistinguished from political institutions but that can be regulated by them.
This cleaving of family from politics facilitates the bureaucratic isolation of tiospayes from each other, helping depict them as categorically distinct units that can be linked to each other primarily through representative political assemblies. However, as Deloria’s history indicates, such a vision fails to account for the ways the practices and principles of governance in the tiospayes themselves arise out of kinship relations, as well as the ways those bonds between members of different bands frustrate the treatment of the tiospaye as a de facto municipality—a local jurisdictional entity with a stable population over whom centralized authority is exerted. Illustrating the ways traditional Dakota modes of association, identification, and decision-making transect the distinctions animating U.S. liberalism (public/private, policy-making/familial intimacy, citizen/relative), Speaking of Indians intimates that while the imaginary of reorganization may simulate a concern for custom, it fundamentally depends on the ideology of heteroconjugality to provide its ordering mappings and forms of subjectivity.
Kinship against Culture
In Indians of the Americas, Collier argues that native peoples possess “what the world has lost,” and that this “power for living” must be recaptured “lest it die” (7), further suggesting that “Indian societies must and can be discovered in their continuing existence, or regenerated, or set into being de novo and made use of” by serving “as an ethnic laboratory of universal meaning” (155, 159).77 “Societies,” he notes, “create a people’s temperament, the world-view and the color and structure of personality among their members” (12), adding later that “this personality structure and bent of mind” is “holistic—the capacity to entertain complex wholes, and to maintain the complexities (p. 213 ) in a dynamic equilibrium” (163). Alluding to a wholeness broken by prior policy, this vision of native peoples understands indigenous sociality(/ies) in terms of “temperament” and “personality,” threatening to reduce native identity(/ies) to the maintenance of a static ensemble of representative ideas and/or feelings. Joel Pfister has highlighted this tendency of Collier’s to represent native identity in ways that facilitate its positioning as a vehicle for the edification of whites, observing that for Collier “what ‘Indian’ culture holds out to the larger culture … is social therapy” (196): “New Deal Natives would not be modernized so much as they would Indianize the modern” (208). In this way, reorganization involved forms of “government-powered Indianizing” in which a romanticizing fetishization of Indian “group”-ness was imposed on native peoples even while being narrated as having been derived from an effort to preserve their existing traditions (223).
As I have argued, Collier’s ideas on the relation between native tradition and governance are predicated on a denunciation of allotment as repression (its effort “to crush Indian life”),78 and from this perspective, eliminating previous injunctions against the performance of particular customs plays a crucial role in redressing the violence of prior policy. Quite early in his career as Commissioner, Collier repudiated the campaign to convert native peoples to Christianity, including repealing the previous ban on spiritual ceremonies and curtailing missionary activity on reservations. In a circular issued in January 1934, he asserts, “No interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated…The fullest constitutional liberty, in all matters affecting religion, conscience and culture, is insisted on for all Indians.”79 Official acceptance of native peoples’ “liberty” with respect to their “religious life” serves as a refutation of the earlier program of attempting to eradicate native spiritual systems, but the “interference” Collier prohibits is measured against a set of “constitutional” principles that are taken as the a priori framework for Indian policy and native self-representation, disregarding existing native structures of governance (such as the Oglala Omniciye) and taking U.S. liberalism as the (hetero)normative core of what will constitute native politics. In this context, “religion, conscience, and culture” refer to discrete spheres of native activity and belief, the preservation of which indicates official U.S. appreciation of indigenous difference. These aspects of native social formations signify metonymically, signaling a “holistic” concern for “Indian”-ness and an attendant rolling back of the state suppression of tradition, but this supposed recognition circulates a conception of “culture” in which privatized heterodomesticity remains unquestioned.80
That reification of elements of native sociality, positioning them as stand-ins for tradition in toto, is less expressive of a failure to engage with anthropological notions of “culture” than an application of certain extant (p. 214 ) anthropological principles. Collier consulted with anthropologists (including Boas) both before and after the passage of the IRA, as well as creating an applied anthropology team of trained experts within the BIA,81 and his description of the proper aims of Indian policy echoes the kind of formulations at play in the work of Boas and his students. In The Culture Concept, Michael A. Elliott observes that “by treating cultures as integrated wholes, the Boasian model … reinforces the distance among groups by insisting upon their ultimate differences and generating a search for the most authentic markers of these differences[,] … invit[ing] the observer to contemplate each culture as a system of internal connections rather than as a chapter in evolutionary history” (26).82 Not only does the notion of chronicling and rejuvenating native traditions before they are extinct match the goals of what has been called “salvage” anthropology, an orientation present in Boasian conceptions of fieldwork, but the idea that indigenous social formations can be summed up through the citation of particular traits and beliefs—which express the essence of a people and can be extracted for the purpose of rethinking “modern” life—is a hallmark of anthropological scholarship in the 1930s and 1940s.
This trend can be seen in Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture (1934), her popular and influential account of intercultural difference and intracultural coherence.83 In addition to referring to “primitive cultures” as “a laboratory in which we may study the diversity of human institutions” (17), her account presents cultures as differentiated unities in ways that can be seen as resonant with Collier’s equation of social formation with “personality.” She argues that “a culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action” (46). This metaphoric individualization of collectivities can be seen in Collier’s interest in the “kinds of personality-structures” generated by native cultures.84 Benedict’s portrayal of cultures as integrated totalities that can be typified by “ways of arriving at the values of existence” expands the Boasian predilection for emphasizing shared intellectual life (including spirituality and folklore) as the privileged sign of collectivity (78). While Benedict warns against “an [intellectual] operation that mutilates the subject” by reducing a culture to “some catchword characterization” (228), the presentation of a people as like an individual who can be psychologically profiled promotes a process whereby some traits come to stand for the collectivity. This process of typification/substitution produces the impression, in Pfister’s terms, of ethnodepth—“‘expressing’ one’s seemingly essential group identity, one’s group soul” (237). Boasian strategies for representing “group identity,” especially the form they took in the “culture and personality” approach prominent in the 1930s and 1940s, can be seen as providing a conceptual and discursive structure for Collier’s notion of “culture,” in which something like “religious life” appears as an emblematic stand-in for native (p. 215 ) collectivity and self-understanding(s). As Michaela di Leonardo suggests, “this legacy is directly connected to American anthropology’s elision of political economy … [which reduces] human social reality to the narrow-compass notion of individual psychologies, mentalities, writ large” (20), part of a broader “unconcern with the phenomenon of state power” (78).
If Boas has been credited with developing (or at least helping promote and institutionalize) “the culture concept,” Deloria’s work can be read for the ways it deploys what might be termed “the kinship concept.” Foregrounding the complex dynamics of Dakota family formation, and the ways they exceed the boundaries of a privatized household that can be contradistinguished from the field of governance, Deloria’s work highlights dimensions of native experience that implicitly contest the forms of normalization/naturalization at play in reorganization’s de facto vision of conjugal homemaking. Deloria’s employment of the discourse of kinship can be seen as illustrating how the effect of “ethnodepth” comes at the expense of what might be called ethnobreadth—a sense of native collectivities as complex networks whose ordering patterns and operative principles cannot be abstracted from the dynamic relationships through which people engage with each other (which includes the problem of imposing a reified schema of social spheres, like “the domestic”). In this way, her writings, such as Speaking of Indians and her novel Waterlily, can be interpreted as refusing the metonymic narration of native peoplehood latent in Boasian anthropology and institutionalized in the Indian New Deal. Rather than simply transparently referring to specific dynamics of Dakota life or to a generic dimension of human experience, “kinship” has its own complex intellectual genealogy, appearing since the late nineteenth century primarily in (proto)anthropological accounts as a key part of producing a developmental hierarchy with bourgeois homemaking at the apex and serving as an important part of the ideological architecture of allotment (as discussed in the Introduction and chapter 3). In fact, Boasian anthropology largely had left aside kinship for “culture” as an ordering paradigm at least in part due to the former’s extensive and intimate association with a system of evolutionary ranking. By naming the social dynamics she addresses as “kinship,” Deloria draws on the history of ethnology to contest the segmentation of Dakota social formations in Collier’s Boas-inspired conception of culture; his approach divides up native life into discrete areas in which some are taken as more representative than others and in which each area is imagined to have its own “customs” but the definition of the area as such is a priori (i.e., “domestic relations”).85
In particular, Waterlily productively (con)fuses the scholarly idiom of kinship with familial feeling, playing on the non-native fetishization of family to help make visible and to validate modes of social organization that are not shaped around a nuclear imaginary, highlighting their richness by (p. 216 ) showing them as saturated with sentiment and, therefore, in a sense embracing while also displacing allotment’s structure of feeling. Scholarly readings of the novel, though, have tended to speak of “kinship” in denotative ways, treating it as neutrally referential rather than itself a concept with a long and difficult intellectual genealogy, of which Deloria likely would have been well aware given her anthropological training.86 Deloria’s use of the kinship concept in Waterlily emphasizes the presence of deep emotional bonds among members of the tiospaye as well as between members of different tiospayes, invoking a sentimental conception of family in order to make flexible Dakota social formations intelligible to non-native readers as more than the perverse/savage absence of bourgeois sensibilities. We also can see this strategy as taking up and refuting the longstanding representation of Indians as lacking proper sentimental affect, addressed in chapter 1, while linking such affect to native geopolitics—as opposed to making it a pedagogical tool for non-native publics (as discussed in chapters 2 and 5). Conversely, though, the text’s employment of the discourse of kinship draws on that term’s enmeshment in the history of ethnology, jettisoning the latter’s evolutionary hierarchy while mobilizing its attention to social structure—as against the metonymic representation of tradition as religion or personality that seems to animate Collier’s policy.87 The vision of Dakota sociality that emerges, then, is both more affecting and extensive than in official accounts, portraying areas of Dakota life that primarily would be characterized as “domestic” by a non-native readership in ways that contest the insular logic of “domestic”-ity at play in reorganization’s narration of native collectivity and politics.
The plot of the novel is organized around the quotidian experiences of a woman named Blue Bird and her daughter Waterlily, and the central events of their lives revolve around what largely could be characterized from an Anglo-American perspective as conventional familial dynamics—marriage, birth, and their complex relationships with their relatives, by both blood and matrimony. Early in the text, though, the narrator makes clear that this story cannot be apprehended through the categories of experience that accompany conjugal privacy. “Any family could maintain itself adequately as long as the father was a good hunter and the mother an industrious woman. But socially that was not enough; ideally it must be part of a larger family, constituted of related households, called a tiyospaye”; “all adults were responsible for the safety and happiness of their collective children” which produced in them “a feeling of security and self-assurance” (20). Even as Deloria disorients readers by indicating that the traditional social geography of Dakota life is not that of twentieth-century white America, she assures them that there are parallel kinds of emotions, such as a deep parental concern for children. At one point the narrator observes, “some people were marrying (p. 217 ) and some were dying and some were being born—all the natural and expectable things that happen wherever humans live together” (49). Circulating around a presumably natural cycle in which marriage and birth are signal moments, these shared feelings are not circumscribed as they are in bourgeois homemaking, instead expanding to encompass the entire tiospaye, which comes to resemble a nuclear unit in the intensity and intimacy of its affect.
At several points, the text illustrates that people living in tiospayes experience their own feelings of isolation and loss. At the beginning of the novel, Blue Bird and her grandmother are residing in the camp circle of a group who had found and adopted them after Blue Bird’s parents had been killed in an attack and they could not find their way back to their relatives (although they later are reunited with their tiospaye after Blue Bird is abandoned by her first husband). Although she had married a man from this adoptive group, “Blue Bird had never been entirely happy either in her marriage or in her life in a camp circle that was not her own. It was not that the people were unkind … but she could not feel satisfied there. She never ceased to yearn for her own people” (8). Similarly, when Waterlily decides to marry a man who has offered horses to allow her family to complete the mourning ritual for her grandmother (Gloku, who is the mother of Rainbow—Blue Bird’s second husband and Waterlily’s adoptive father), she moves with him to his camp circle, and she comes to understand the situation of her uncle (married to Rainbow’s sister Dream Woman), who “was like a perpetual visitor” and “could never quite relax as he might have at home” (163): “Life in the tiyospaye of Sacred Horse [Waterlily’s husband] was, for Waterlily, like wearing ceremonial dress all the time” (176). These moments illustrate that the tiospaye is more than a neighborhood, instead appearing as an emotionally saturated space redolent with the sentimental associations of “home” (notably, in contrast to the kind of “ceremonial” formality that often functions as a metonymic stand-in for native “culture”).
While highlighting the potential affective similarities between the tiospaye—and Dakota lifeways more generally (the cycle of marriage and birth)—and the bourgeois household, the novel portrays the more expansive field of devotion and care in the former as a sign of Dakota distinctiveness, a central feature at the core of tradition and communal identity. In describing Blue Bird’s need to respect the importance of the relationship between Rainbow and his sisters, the text observes, “The intense loyalties between collaterals of opposite sexes were deep-seated, the result of lifelong training. They had been going on long before her time and would continue long after she was gone—as long as Dakotas remained Dakotas and their kinship sanctions endured. Everyone knew and accepted them and aimed to play his or her part within their framework” (60). Drawn from the (p. 218 ) anthropological idiom of kinship studies, the term “collaterals” (siblings and first cousins) positions the Dakotas as alien, occupying a social structure whose dynamics are presumably foreign to non-native readers, while the novel’s emphasis on the emotional richness of familial interactions aims to incite reader empathy. Additionally, here “kinship” names the “framework” in which Dakotas live, an ensemble of shared practices and roles that serves as the basis for what it means to be Dakota and that is not abstractable as a worldview or a personality type. The novel orchestrates a complex play of reflection and refraction in which resemblance to Anglo-American ideals in some features does not imply symmetry and in which divergence does not mean the absence of the sentimental idiom privileged in dominant narratives of “home” and “family.” In this way, kinship serves as a kind of translational matrix, articulating native tradition to non-native assumptions about the character of domesticity while distending the nuclear imaginary.
Although ultimately working to disjoint the equation of family with conjugality, the novel often is at pains to depict Dakota homemaking as a deeply heterogendered affair. The text seems to present marriage as if it were a necessary part of personal development (with regard to Waterlily’s decision to wed, the narrator remarks, “after all, she must marry sometime” ),88 and the arc of the story can be described in primarily matrimonial terms—Blue Bird’s movement from her abusive first husband (Star Elk) to her model relationship with Rainbow and the difficulties of Waterlily’s initial marriage as contrasted with her eventual union with her teenage crush (Lowanla, who turns out to be a cousin of Sacred Horse). In fact, inasmuch as the text can be described as a bildungsroman chronicling Waterlily’s maturation, marriage is positioned as a vital, if sometimes fraught, part of that process. Moreover, Deloria consistently offers images of binarized gender, insisting that training in such forms of identification is a crucial aspect of Dakota child rearing. Blue Bird and then Waterlily continually receive advice on how to behave with feminine propriety, including not risking your “honor” by eloping with a man who just wants sex (13); sitting demurely rather than “cross[ing] your legs like men” (53); not flirting with boys, which is “contrary to all the rules of maidenly behavior” (112); letting men do the courting (“That is a man’s part; a woman’s is to be pursued”) (136); and remaining a virgin until marriage (“your purity is without price”) (136). Girls and women who fail to uphold these values are derided, such as Night Walker, whose extramarital sexuality is the topic of “snide” comments by others (137).89 At one point, the narrator asserts:
Not only do the dynamics of Dakota gender in the novel appear to resemble dominant American conceptions of femininity in this period, especially in terms of sexual restraint and the effort to contain eroticism within marriage, but the preceding passage, with its fear of feminized boys, resonates quite powerfully with growing public concern among non-natives about the threat to the institution of the family and the safety of the nation posed by homosexual men, often conceptualized in terms of gender inversion.90 As discussed in the previous chapter, and as will be addressed further later, the existence of the traditionally accepted social role of the winkte challenges Deloria’s often rigidly dichotomous depiction of Dakota conceptions of sex/gender, but in seeming to efface this possibility in constructing a model of gendered maturation leading toward marriage, the novel brings the polymorphous affects of the tiospaye more in line with (hetero)normative assumptions about the nature of personhood, emphasizing the paradigmatic relation between sexual expression and procreation as well as the centrality of heteroconjugality to familial cohesion and social order.
The tribe’s concern was that its girls should become women and its boys men through normal and progressive steps without complications. And in the case of boys, this was a peculiarly delicate matter because of the belief that a (p. 219 ) boy who was allowed to play girls’ games and wear female dress was liable to come under a spell that would make him behave in a feminine manner all his life. (61)
While some of these dynamics in the text may be expressive of Deloria’s own anxieties about never having married, attempting to forestall personal charges against her (especially in light of the fact that much of her work was sponsored by Christian organizations),91 it also signals the workings of the bribe of straightness, which I began to address in my discussion of Zitkala-Ŝa. In utilizing the discourse of kinship partially as a way to draw on the feelings and forms of subjectivity associated with family for a white readership, the text also bears the burden of indicating the normality of the tiospaye. In this way, the novel’s repeated invocation of notions of binarized gender and the centrality of marriage defer the charge of perversity/savagery. At the same time, though, that strategy dislocates native kinship systems from their prior anthropological placement within an evolutionary hierarchy culminating in bourgeois homemaking, gesturing toward newer ethnological approaches in which “kinship” (as descent) is foregrounded. The moves Waterlily makes to straighten Dakota sociality, then, work to facilitate non-native identification, but they also can be seen as taking part in a rehabilitation of kinship as an indispensable framework for analyzing native peoples, a perspective that markedly differs from the Collierian positioning of religion and ritual as emblematic of native “culture.” Even while seeking to portray traditional social formations as normal/natural through appeal to the heterosexual imaginary, the novel highlights the matrix of familial relations as an indispensable feature of Dakota identity; in this way, it implicitly draws on extant (p. 220 ) anthropological models that eschew a Boasian emphasis on patterns of thought (largely adopted by Collier), recentering the aspects of social life usually collected under the rubric of “kinship.”
In focusing on marriage, homemaking, child rearing, and interpersonal affect and intimacy, the text locates the family at the core of its account of prereservation life. Or rather, by emphasizing sentimental feeling, dimorphic gender difference, and matrimony, the novel evokes the idea of the family for Anglo-American readers, but while alluding to the heteronorm, Deloria insistently complicates her portrait of Dakota social dynamics, repeatedly returning to forms of association and alliance that do not fit into nuclear units. While earlier intimating that the destiny of all Dakota women is to marry, the novel at one point declares, “If her married life was obnoxious to her, she simply walked out of it without a word as to why…There was no economic need for her to endure in silence. She knew that her brothers and male cousins were ready to provide for her, and her own relatives to take her back into their midst. She did not have to hang on just to be supported by a husband” (179). Divorce appears as quite a simple and routine matter, one whose ease is due to the fact that conjugal pairs are not the basis of Dakota economy. Rather, the tiospaye with its extended web of relatives provides the structure for subsistence, a woman’s sustained connection to male kin of her generation allowing her to leave her husband without risking destitution. Indicating that marriage is neither the paradigm for resource distribution nor a relationship that marks adult individuation from one’s group of origin, this fleeting statement seems to qualify the novel’s pervasive investment in romantic coupling, suggesting a discrepancy between that interest (as evidenced by the plot) and the structuring principles of the social milieu in which the story is set.
Additionally, the text features various forms of adoption which make clear that being a “relative” is not restricted to those with whom one has a blood connection or even to those within one’s tiospaye.92 As noted earlier, Blue Bird and her grandmother are incorporated into a camp circle not their own after their separation from their tiospaye (“the members of the camp circle adopted the newcomers as relatives” ). While readers are told that they never felt quite comfortable in this group, once they and Waterlily are reunited with their blood relatives, Waterlily develops a close relationship with Little Chief, Rainbow’s son from his first marriage. After Rainbow and Blue Bird are married, the novel notes, “Waterlily was suddenly surrounded with so many new relatives…From the day when Little Chief [first] came to visit her, the two children had been as devoted as though they were brother and sister, and now they were really that and it was no different” (33). To be “really” “brother and sister” does not involve being related by blood (they are not presented as something like “step”-siblings), and Deloria further (p. 221 ) notes that their interaction “was no different” after than before the marriage that made them “really” siblings. Further, while not explicitly commenting on this dynamic, Rainbow’s parents and sisters appear to be accepted as members of the tiospaye, and to see themselves as such, without qualification, which is notable given that they as a group are not connected by blood to the other members of the tiospaye.93
While indicating a certain elasticity to kinship, these adoptions could be characterized as in some ways similar to Euramerican “in-law” relationships and those that emerge from divorce and remarriage. Yet the novel also includes a kind of adoption/affiliation that cannot be assimilated to a conjugally based conception of family:
Kola relationships create kinship connections that are based neither on blood nor on marriage, instead emanating only from mutual affection. However, once pledged, fellowship functions as a familial bond, binding together not simply those who have taken a “solemn friendship pact” but their relatives as well (99). As the novel makes clear, this merger not only affects the fellows themselves, each one becoming a member of the family of the other, but the kin of one become related to that of the other.94 For example, Rainbow’s kola Palani comes to visit and invites Rainbow and his family to join Palani’s tiospaye for the annual Sun Dance: “[W]hen they arrived at Palani’s camp, the welcome accorded Rainbow’s family was no different from that to lifelong relatives … The wives of the two brothers addressed each other as sisters, and all Palani’s relatives also became appropriately related to Rainbow’s family” (105). Additionally, when Waterlily leaves her tiospaye to live with Sacred Horse’s family, as noted earlier, she feels isolated in the formality of her interactions with them, but she meets the relatives of Red Leaf, with whom her brother Ohiya had entered into fellowship and who treat her as their daughter, giving Waterlily the kind of easy comfort for which she yearns. More than simply illustrating the existence of possibilities for kin-making that exceed conjugality and parenthood, these kola bonds are central aspects of the novel’s narrative: when attending the Sun Dance of Palani’s tiospaye, Waterlily (p. 222 ) meets Lowanla, who will become her second husband; and Red Leaf’s parents are a major component of the novel’s discussion of her time with Sacred Horse. If the text’s project is to offer something like a normative vision of prereservation Dakota life, its depiction of kola affiliations illustrates the importance of forms of care and intimacy that surpass the boundaries not only of romantic/reproductive relationships but of the tiospaye itself, using kinship to map patterns of intense and sustained affect that transect the central units through which reorganization envisions native identity and politics.
A kola was someone special; his wishes and needs could not be ignored… “The best I have is for my fellow” was their code from the time they pledged eternal loyalty….
The demands on fellows were somewhat greater even than those on natural brothers, loyal and devoted as brothers were supposed to be. And automatically, like brothers, each fellow was son to the other’s parents and father to his children. All other relatives were likewise shared … men in fellowhood must respect and venerate the other’s wife like a sister. (98–99)
The dynamics I have been discussing, though, perhaps could be conceived more as description than intervention, an effort to provide a characterization of Dakota traditions that is absent from extant accounts rather than an attempt to respond critically to the structuring principles at play in post-IRA policy. However, in what seems to me impossible to construe as merely a coincidence, the novel addresses all the practices targeted by the code of Indian offenses in the 1880s—the Sun Dance, polygamy, the presence of medicine men, giving away property as part of mourning ritual, and traveling away from one’s reservation—weaving its story in and through these elements of Dakota sociality.95 As just discussed, the novel’s representation of the Sun Dance comes in the context of Rainbow’s relationship with his kola Palani, and while attending, Waterlily meets and develops a crush on Lowanla, her future husband. Additionally, during the ceremony itself, men who have vowed to give their bodies as offerings during the Sun Dance (either being suspended from the central pole until one’s flesh tears or giving slices of flesh, both as a “promise … to the Great Spirit” ) are redeemed by their relatives—in one case a sister “ransom[ing] her brother” and in another two aunts volunteering to have their flesh cut to achieve the number of pieces promised (by Lowanla). In the latter case, others remark that “there was no precedent” for such action, but it is allowed because “it is admirable of sisters to honor a brother by being good to his child” (126–127). These aspects of the text’s portrayal of the Sun Dance stage a connection between kinship and spirituality that Deloria suggests, in Speaking of Indians, is encoded within the Dakota language itself in that the words meaning “to address a relative” and “to pray” are in fact the same (28–29). When interpreted in light of the BIA’s tendency under Collier to treat “religious freedom” as a metonym for native “culture,” the novel’s dramatization of the linkage between being a relative and praying brings the social dynamics denoted by kinship into the foreground as constitutive of Dakota subjectivities, further raising questions about the place of familial formations in the ideology of reorganization, specifically the ways they are segregated from other elements of native life that themselves tend to more regularly appear as signifiers of “tradition.”
(p. 223 ) By embedding the various aspects of Dakota life that had been outlawed in a series of relationships that the text collates as kinship, Deloria suggests that the matrix of family that includes and exceeds romance (the persistent ties of tenderness, devotion, sharing, and responsibility that order tiospayes and create connections among them) serves as the structuring framework in which these diverse elements of Dakota culture operate. Put another way, the novel considers the kinds of relationships it chronicles (of couplehood, extended siblinghood, collective child rearing, adoption, kola fellowship, etc.) as constituting an integrated kinship system that itself provides the social infrastructure and normative parameters of Dakota tradition, and the rituals, practices, and statuses narrated as the substance of “culture” by Boasian anthropology and federal officials are portrayed as inextricably embedded in that system, which itself largely is ignored in those accounts or reduced to a set of “customs” constituted within an axiomatically privatized and maritally defined sphere. As discussed earlier, official commentary and regulations in the wake of the IRA’s passage treat the Courts of Indian Offenses and the authorizing regulations not only as lawful but as expressive of the “customs and ethics of the tribe”;96 in tracing the intersection of the kinship system with the various acts outlawed by the United States, the novel offers a counterpoint against which to measure Collier’s repeal of some of these provisions, highlighting the extent to which the interwoven social dynamics collected under the rubric of “kinship” are both crucial to Dakota collectivity and at odds with the concept of “domestic relations” as utilized in the discourses of reorganization.
In particular, the text’s repeated references to polygamy, and its relative equanimity when doing so, suggest that the practice was a normal (if not necessarily routine) part of prereservation culture, bringing into relief the skewed picture of Dakota tradition institutionalized as the basis for recognition. Unlike the denunciation of plural marriage in official accounts of proper native homemaking both before and after the IRA, the novel offers absolutely no sense of outrage at its presence, or a suggestion that it is somehow morally tainted. Instead, it appears as a perfectly viable option in household formation. The first mention of polygamy in the text appears when her grandmother is considering Blue Bird’s options. She thinks, “perhaps I should simply give the girl away in marriage now, to some kind and able householder, to be a co-wife,” she herself having been a co-wife, but to her older sister rather than a woman to whom she was not related. The problem with this possibility for Blue Bird lies in the fact that she “had no sister in this camp circle,” so any existing wife might come to resent her (12). Sisterhood and matrimony, then, do not appear as parts of distinct life stages, the intense bonds of one’s childhood giving way to the intimacies of adulthood, instead potentially coexisting in the same relationship in ways that contest the (p. 224 ) privileging of romance over other emotional connections as the basis for delimiting “home.” Furthermore, when Waterlily is being pursued by Sacred Horse, two of his father’s three wives come to her village to present gifts to her, and the narrator observes that Sacred Horse’s father “was able not only to take care of his three wives and their families, but also to maintain a large retinue of kinsmen besides” (149), later noting that “all the women were equally responsible for all the children … until an outsider was well acquainted, he could not tell which woman was the real mother of any child, except the nursing baby” (166). Emphasizing that these relationships produce a stable and loving environment in which everyone’s material and emotional needs are met and parenting responsibilities are shared, Deloria refuses to pathologize them as perverse and/or barbaric, stretching the normative characteristics of allotment subjectivities to cover these plural unions. Allotment-era discourses present native sociality as lacking the affective fullness that supposedly only can be realized through bourgeois homemaking, and reorganization takes such assumptions as axiomatic in its narration of how native jurisdiction and political autonomy will be configured around a privatized marital domesticity. However, Waterlily’s account of prereservation Dakota life suggests that polygamous households are as able to sustain proper familial feeling as any other, expanding the reference of family by situating it within broader matrices of kinship marked by the tiospaye and by sentimentally saturated relationships that transect the boundaries of the tiospaye. In this way, the text subtly draws attention to the ways federal policy divides up traditional geographies of affiliation and affect, implying that the selective circulation of figures of “custom” and “culture” under reorganization edits out the ongoing U.S. regulation of Dakota social formations.
In the previous chapter, I discussed the ways Zitkala-Ŝa embraced paganism but seemed to disavow polygamy in her stories, resituating the conjugal unit within broader kinship configurations but insisting on heteroromance as a frame to the exclusion of social roles and forms of eroticism that might signify as perverse to a non-native readership. By contrast, Waterlily not only presents polygamy as an uncontroversial element of Dakota tradition but in its mapping of kinship demonstrates how traditional formations made possible support for nonreproductive subjectivities, rendered aberrant within heteroconjugality. Thus, even as the text often deploys heteronormative assumptions (especially the repeated insistence on binarized gender roles and the unavoidability of marriage), it refuses to present them as the basis or limit of the kinship system it depicts. More than simply connecting “domestic” units, the tiospaye appears in the novel as an encompassing entity that has an existence greater than the sum of its households. The existence of this broader nexus of affection, interdependence, and support is (p. 225 ) what makes possible divorce, as noted earlier—a woman having the option of returning to her tiospaye of origin due to the fact that the matrix of relatives (by blood and otherwise) that comprises it are bound to support her. Similarly, the novel suggests that this kind of communal safety net made possible by kinship networks allows for members to make choices that do not lead toward marriage and reproduction. One of these options is becoming a “perpetual virgin.” The novel observes that they “were a rarity, since it was the normal and accepted thing for women to marry” (139), but in having Leaping Fawn (Waterlily’s cousin and Black Eagle’s daughter) make the decision to become one, the text highlights the existence of this possibility, not just as an individual predilection but as a recognized kind of status. Although observing that “there was no set procedure” for how to declare one’s desire to be a perpetual virgin, the text also notes that the “Virgin’s Fire” is an available ceremony through which women of all ages can declare their chastity (139). If the event can serve as a way of dispelling rumors impugning a young woman’s purity (which, Deloria suggests, would undercut her marriageability), it also can provide a means of publicly acknowledging and honoring a woman’s intent never to marry. The ceremony is conducted by White Dawn, and “in her family group, which was large and influential, she was actually its central figure …, looked to for her wise judgments in all knotty family problems” (137). Discussing her importance within her family group in one sense works to portray White Dawn as normal, in the sense that she has not been cast out by her relatives and is seen by them as neither eccentric nor marginal, but in another sense, this description illustrates the ways that the composition of the family group makes possible White Dawn’s status, creating a flexible configuration in which belonging is not measured against a nuclear standard that would position her as a spinster aunt rather than a “central figure.”97 After having declared her intent to remain a perpetual virgin, Leaping Fawn likewise assumes a place of honor in her family, serving as the ghostkeeper in the wake of the death of her grandmother Gloku (143).
In light of the fact that Deloria remained unmarried her entire life, one could read the inclusion of the status of perpetual virgin as a means of acknowledging the existence of a role for her within Dakota tradition. Scholars have noted the ways that Deloria sustained the kind of matrix of familial affections and responsibilities she addresses in her published work,98 suggesting the continuing importance of the kinship system in structuring Dakota sociality and self-representation despite the privatizing imperatives of allotment and their repackaging under reorganization as a prerequisite for conceptualizing native political identity and autonomy. However, Woyaka is another potential analogue for Deloria in the novel, one who seems to push a bit further against ideologies of straightness. A “master” of (p. 226 ) “tribal lore,” a keeper of the winter count, and a traveling educator, he bears the burden of preserving the people’s past. As his grandfather tells him, “If you fail them, there might be nobody else to remind them of their tribal history” (51). His mission to preserve Dakota collectivity through remembrance and storytelling echoes the work of the novel itself, casting him as a figure for Deloria. This implicit identification would be notable in itself for its cross-sex nature and the potential opening up of gender identity it suggests, particularly in light of the novel’s repeated emphasis on the presence among the Dakota of a binarized sex/gender system, but the connection at which the novel hints is even more intriguing when Woyaka is read in relation to the recognized presence of winktes in prereservation life.99
While never describing Woyaka as a winkte or depicting him in ways that fully conform to the social dynamics of that status, the novel does gesture in that direction. More than simply telling stories like any other elder, he seems to occupy a special role, as suggested both by his lifelong training for it and the fact that he is given an honored place in the camp circle when he arrives to visit. We do not hear of him engaging in traditional masculine pursuits like hunting or warfare, as we do with virtually all the other male characters, and in noting that he “was a strange man in certain respects,” the text indicates that “he walked alone” and that “ordinary human comaraderie was not for him” (51), suggesting that he does not have a wife or children. Also, in a somewhat curious twist, the mention of “marrying” and “dying” as “the natural and expectable things that happen wherever humans live together” (49), which I discussed earlier, appears just before Woyaka is introduced, almost as if such an assurance of the ubiquity of marriage and the similarity of the Dakotas to non-natives in this respect were necessary as a kind of prophylactic against the potential taint of queerness that might cling to him for a non-native readership. In a letter to Ruth Benedict in July 1947 in which Deloria discusses the need for cuts in the manuscript of Waterlily, she expresses her intention to leave out “Waterlily’s observing a berdache—in fact, all that winkte element.”100 Might Woyaka be the trace of those sections that were removed?
Rather than interpreting Woyaka as a closet winkte, or taking the resemblance between his role and the work of the novel as queering Deloria, the appearance of this suggestive figure and his implicit association with Deloria’s act of authorship can be understood as an extension of the novel’s exploration of both the ways the kinship system exceeds bourgeois nuclearity and the impossibility of separating something called “culture” from the networks of care and resource sharing that are signified under the sign of “kinship.” In the previous chapter, I argued that Zitkala-Ŝa’s “Soft-Hearted Sioux” suggests a disavowal of winkte identity in the story’s alignment of heterogendered masculinity with the survival of Dakota traditions and community as (p. 227 ) against a feminizing missionary intrusion, but in contrast to that straightening of tradition, Waterlily’s flirtation with the figure of the winkte can be seen as avoiding outright charges of savage perversity while indicating the presence of accepted options other than marital manliness. Woyaka’s knowledge comes from his grandfather’s insistence on his learning the stories and the history, his travels are enabled by the willingness of various camp circles to help support him, and he refers to his listeners as “grandchildren” (50–51). In these ways, the “tribal lore” that he communicates—which from a Boasian-inspired perspective, such as Collier’s, would be the essence of “culture”—appears inextricable from complex sets of familial relations that provide the infrastructure in which Dakota intellectual life is generated and circulated. Through the figure of Woyaka, Deloria further develops the novel’s portrait of nonreproductive possibilities as readily available in Dakota tradition, suggesting the presence of social room for the winkte while not outright naming the role as such and perhaps signaling that Deloria can be understood as fulfilling a traditional role in the novel’s act of ethnographic remembrance—rather than as adopting the anthropological perspective of outsiders or as nonnormative due to her professional work, as she likely would be seen within Euramerican ideologies of gender in the 1940s.101
In hinting at the winkte and explicitly addressing the recognition of perpetual virginity and the relative ease of divorce, Waterlily illustrates how the intra- and trans-tiospaye dynamics of kinship make possible choices and forms of subjectivity that cannot be captured within a conjugally centered framework. The matrix of affection and interdependence that provides the material context in which these options become accessible exceeds the boundaries of bourgeois homemaking, and it also cannot be captured within a metonymic notion of “culture” focused on “personality” and religious ritual. The novel presents the complex configurations characterized as “kinship” as the flexible yet binding force around which Dakota sociality coheres, indicating their centrality to any sense of Teton collective identity (political or otherwise). In doing so, the text is at pains to distinguish the system of kinship from a Euramerican vision of family, repudiating the insularity of the nuclear unit in favor of a series of overlapping and interpenetrating patterns of intimacy, responsibility, residency, and resource distribution that extend beyond marital couplehood and reproductive relations. Yet in highlighting the wider spheres and scope of feeling in Dakota tradition, Deloria also seeks to bridge the distance between Euramerican and native norms. Or, more precisely, she challenges institutionalized ideals of what is normative while presenting Dakota customs as normal, as sharing many of the features taken to be characteristic of civilized homemaking. Rather than simply working within the heterosexual imaginary, Deloria draws on some of its most prominent features, including the intensity of sentiment envisioned (p. 228 ) as typifying the “private” sphere and the self-evidence of heterogendered difference, in order to translate between Euramerican expectations and Dakota practices in ways that distend the idealized domesticity naturalized under both allotment and reorganization. Using these features of straightness to defer charges of sexual deviance and/or of barbaric brutality, the novel depicts native social cohesion as predicated on familial formations that cannot be reduced to isolated units based on marriage or blood, cannot be divided neatly into jurisdictional or municipal blocks, and in which processes of collective identification are not readily separable from networks of relatives (which themselves are not easily integrated into a liberal logic of political representation).
In Patterns of Culture, Ruth Benedict observes that psychological drives and types of behavior deemed pathological in one culture may be seen as benign or even honored in another. As evidence of this fact, and as proof of the methodological value of relativity in understanding concrete instances of cultural difference, she points to varying attitudes toward “homosexuality,” suggesting that while “Western civilization tends to regard even a mild homosexual as an abnormal,” many American Indian peoples have “the institution of the berdache” in which men “married other [non-berdache] men and lived with them” (262–263). Through this example, Benedict suggests that options for individual self-expression, for personality structures, may vary greatly across cultures, and while Collier’s representation of native culture avoids what might be termed “sexuality” as a sign of Indian divergence from dominant Euramerican beliefs, instead opting for patterns and practices that can be characterized as spiritual/religious, he institutionalizes a version of Boasian relativity as a central feature of reorganization’s project of recognition.102 Contrasting itself with allotment’s violent efforts to disaggregate peoples into propertied households, to detribalize, the Indian New Deal positioned its policy program as one of regeneration, as once again making possible the flourishing of indigenous forms of collectivity. To this end, official accounts of the IRA, before and after its passage, repeatedly cast it as a means of preserving Indian “customs,” and in this vein, the political autonomy that the law ostensibly enables is imagined as expressive of suppressed native desires, providing institutional space to realize communal impulses long repressed by authoritarian federal mandates. The “self”-hood given vent in the federal promotion of Indian self-government, then, is depicted as being consistent with the kinds of “temperament” and worldview enshrined in/by tradition.
However, the kinds of collective identity articulated within official narratives of reorganization seem less to renounce many of the structuring principles of allotment than to reframe them as the predicates for governance itself, presenting bourgeois homemaking as at the core not simply of U.S. (p. 229 ) initiatives but of native self-understandings. From one angle, the apparent differences between the discourses of allotment and of reorganization can be seen as “a multiplicitous push-pull movement within one overarching yet ever-developing hegemonic formation” whose ultimate aims was an “ever-inventive reproduction of workers and classes.”103 Yet the official depiction of native peoples under reorganization works not only to insert Indians into ever-expanding networks of capitalist production but to recast U.S. formulations and regulations as expressive of the self-evident structure of native governance. In particular, the notion of “domestic relations” serves as a way of demonstrating an acknowledgment of native authority over internal matters while simultaneously generating a structuring dialectic through which political subjectivity is contradistinguished from privatized familial intimacy. The “hegemonic formation” in which these policies participate, then, is specifically a heteronormative one, suggesting a “push-pull” between detribalization and recognition but one in which a nuclear imaginary helps create a shared framework through which to define the content and delimit the contours of political identity.
The focus in allotment discourses on producing a proper individuality that emerges into public space out of the affective cocoon of nuclearity appears to recede from the horizon of reorganization’s aims, supplanted by a concern for the political and economic dimensions of native “community.” However, when one considers the ways that “community” is mapped in official accounts of the goals of the IRA, it appears as an assemblage of maritally delineated homes over which political institutions will extend their jurisdiction, paralleling rather precisely the conceptual geography of U.S. liberalism that allotment sought to inculcate. While positing an “inherent sovereignty” as the basis for native authority, federal administrators depict native governments as instrumentalities through which the true beneficent principles of U.S. guardianship can be achieved. Rather than merely generating a contradiction, the potential tension between these seemingly antagonistic propositions is resolved by the assumption that the ideologically and institutionally engineered picture of “home” and “family” imposed as part of the United States’ civilizing mission actually is indicative of the existing wishes and tendencies of native peoples themselves. The supposed obviousness of the dimensions of “domestic”-ity, in terms of both its internal composition and its differentiation from “politics,” provides a discursive hinge through which to naturalize the legal structures and statuses through which that formation is sustained and made normative. Thus, the requirements of national citizenship, constitutional provisions, state law, and federalist hierarchy that serve as the grid of intelligibility for native governance under the IRA are not intrusions onto native autonomy but actually represent merely the self-evident preconditions of political life itself. The very disciplinary technologies (p. 230 ) created in the late nineteenth century to ensure compliance with the domesticating aims of federal policy (especially the Courts of Indian Offenses) appear under reorganization not as a vicious vestige of a superseded policy but as the architecture for the exercise of native sovereignty, a continuity that can be seen in the parallels between Collier’s regulations and the law-and-order codes adopted by IRA governments.
Additionally, the framework adopted for acknowledging native peoples as polities through BIA-monitored constitution-making leaves aside the existing constitutions on many reservations, including those of the Teton Sioux. In contrast to reorganization’s narrative of itself as rescuing tradition from institutional erasure, it actually worked to supersede native-driven processes of self-definition—new traditions—that had emerged as a result of participation in the treaty system. Positioning the IRA as if it were completely separate from the legacy of treaties allowed federal officials to disregard the forms of native governance that had developed in relation to the structures and history of treaty-making, as well as to supplant the normative understanding of native peoples as extraconstitutional entities that was part of the treaty system (at least as interpreted by native peoples). Moreover, many of those pre-IRA councils, such as the Oglala Omniciye, retained more of prereservation social dynamics than the reorganization councils—in particular the role of kinship (in the Teton case, the tiospaye) as a structuring force in native politics. Or put another way, interpellating native peoples within a statist conception of politics, ordered around a geopolitics of jurisdiction and nested governmental hierarchies, depended on the privatization of familial relations—displacing the tiospaye-centered councils as merely an artifact of the allotment-era past that was to be transcended in reorganization’s liberation of native peoples from U.S. administrative tyranny.
Ella Deloria’s work draws attention to this continued imposition of a nuclear norm and the attendant dislodging of the tiospaye from a substantive role in the new political economy promised by the IRA. Yet rather than pointing to distinct kinds of Dakota personality foreclosed by Euramerican culture, she instead foregrounds the complex formations of affection, alliance, and affiliation out of which Dakota individual and collective subjectivity emerges. Instead of emphasizing the abjection of “the berdache” as a kind of status lost by the imposition of “Western civilization,” Deloria highlights the structuring dynamics of Dakota sociality, mapping out the ways they exceed the bounded spheres suggested by the ideal of the “father-mother-child unit.” More specifically, the concept of family cannot simply refer to a romantic couple and their offspring but instead must be extended to include the entire tiospaye, given that it is composed of people who consider each other to be relatives and who engage with each other in ways that partake of the kind of emotionally rich and materially interdependent (p. 231 ) association thought to indicate the uniqueness of bourgeois homemaking. Expanding the domain of intimacy and affection associated with the conjugally defined household in this way reveals how the notion of “domestic relations” circulating within the discourse of reorganization depends on a broader liberal logic of social domains, in which there is a privatized place of care from which the possessive individual emerges as a public agent. Deloria’s texts implicitly suggest that this understanding of citizenship predicated on sentimental subjectivity—a sort of personhood fashioned in the nuclear family so as to enable a particular kind of civic participation—simply does not fit traditional conceptions and patterns of collectivity, creating an ongoing tension between federally mandated frameworks and Dakota experience. Kinship in her work appears less as a rigidly delimited set of relationships contained within a specialized social arena than as a series of familial connections that cut across the boundaries of Euramerican categories and mappings, exceeding not only the reproductive unit but the tiospaye and even the reservation. Reciprocally, Deloria suggests that when the United States seeks to use native categories as part of its formulation of Indian affairs (such as making the tiospaye the basis for representation within IRA constitutions), those categories are decontextualized and reified in ways that not only bear little relationship to native social processes but actually undermine native efforts creatively to adapt to changed circumstances (like the existing reservation councils in which tiospayes did not function as municipal or electoral units).
In subtly contesting what can be understood as the heteronormative dimensions of reorganization—its institutionalization of notions of privacy, personhood, and perversity that are continuous with the ordering ideologies of allotment—does Deloria engage in what might be termed queer critique? While Waterlily suggests the limits of marriage, the possibility of polygamy, and the existence of nonreproductive statuses that were not pathologized, it also reaffirms for readers the centrality of heteroromance within tradition, pushing against the nuclear family norm but still in many ways seeking to expand normality to incorporate prereservation Dakota lifeways. Like Zitkala-Ŝa, Deloria to some extent accepts the bribe of straightness as the cost of challenging dominant ideologies of home and family, also coming at a critique of official narratives in the present through a depiction of the past. As in Hope Leslie, the representation of kinship serves as a way of reimagining what constitutes publicity in the creation and implementation of public policy, positioning nonromantic familial bonds as constitutive of collectivity. In Speaking of Indians and Waterlily, however, native peoples neither are a model for non-natives nor are disappearing; instead, her account of the tiospaye—and the dynamics of kinship more broadly—foregrounds the rightful autonomy of the Dakotas and the ways native sociality variably is (p. 232 ) effaced, mistranslated, fractured, and fetishized within institutionalized U.S. conceptions of native “culture” and “community.” The texts examined in this chapter and the previous one, then, can be interpreted as interventions within state-orchestrated processes of subject production organized around, and naturalized through, the heterosexual imaginary, but they do not seek to generate or recover queer forms of subjectivity.
How do the intersections of residency, family formation, land tenure, racial identification, and sovereignty around which my discussion of straightness has turned thusfar continue to shape the contours of (counter)hegemonies at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first? If native peoples have held a prominent place in the emergence, consolidation, and struggle over the ideal of conjugal homemaking as the norm for national identity and belonging, how does the history I have been tracing still animate current discourses of sexuality and native self-representation? The next two chapters will turn to efforts to address sexual and gender identity in the context of the more familiar contemporary framework of hetero/homo difference, considering the role depictions of native peoples and histories play in such projects.
(1.) Minutes of the Plains Congress, 7–8, 29; Deloria, Speaking of Indians, 29.
(2.) For broad overviews of the IRA’s passage and implementation, see Deloria and Lytle; Rusco, Fateful Time; Rusco, “Indian Reorganization Act”; and Taylor, New Deal.
(3.) Held on March 2–5, 1934, the Plains Congress was one of a number of such meetings with native peoples all over the country in order to explain to them the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act, which was making its way through Congress at the time, get feedback on some of its provisions, and generate support for it, since each tribe/reservation eventually would have to vote on whether they would come under its terms. On Collier’s efforts to generate native support for the act before its passage, see Biolosi, Organizing, 68–70; Deloria and Lytle, 101–121; and Rusco, Fateful Time, 212–217, 245–249.
(4.) The term “allotment” often is used to refer less to the General Allotment Act of 1887 than to the entire program surrounding and animated by it; similarly, I will use “reorganization” to refer to the ideological and practical projects surrounding the IRA.
(5.) There were significant differences between the version of the IRA drafted by Collier and the solicitors of the Interior Department (which was what Collier was talking about with native peoples at the Plains Congress) and the law that finally was passed by Congress. The two most important with respect to my argument are the changes in the land provisions and the removal of a provision creating a Court of Indian Affairs. The third section of the original prevented the Secretary of the Interior from issuing any further fee- patents, transferred to the chartered community the control of allotted lands upon the death of the allottee (the heir[s] receiving a certificate of proportional interest in tribal lands), and allowed the chartered community to exert a version of eminent domain over their territory in order to facilitate land consolidation programs for ranching, farming, and leasing. The final version did not end fee patenting (leading to the loss of thousands of more acres in the years following the law’s passage), and it made all transfer of lands by allottees and their heirs voluntary, giving the “community” (as the legal tribal entity recognized by the bill was called) no authority to assert control over allotted land. The original bill also called for the creation of a Court of Indian Affairs, a district court–level judiciary, which would have had appellate jurisdiction over virtually all criminal and civil matters on-reservation (including those involving non-natives), but that section was excised in its entirety in the final draft. On these changes, see Deloria and Lytle; Rusco, Fateful Time; and Taylor, New Deal. The relationship I am suggesting between allotment and the IRA, however, does not depend solely on the version enacted by Congress but also speaks to Collier’s original vision and his priorities in negotiating the shift from the latter to the former.
(6.) In Individuality Incorporated, Joel Pfister argues, “Despite the noncoercive intentions of the Indian Reorganization Act, it attempted to reorganize the tribes into what Collier, the community reformer, thought of as democratic and parliamentary bodies,” but “Collier’s classificatory emphasis on tribes overlooked the real day-to-day existence of working communities, especially the factor of clan autonomy” (203). The idea that (p. 353 ) Collier’s policy “overlooked” the gap between the official schemas for democratic governance and “day-to-day” forms of native sociality replicates the notion of a “clash” or contradiction between the IRA’s aims and effects offered by Biolosi. Instead, I am suggesting that the apparent lack of attention to the everyday dynamics of native life on-reservation functions as a way of preserving, in Pfister’s phrase, existing “machineries of subjectivity management” that determine the acceptable shape of native sociopolitical organization and articulations of sovereignty (230). In this way, I argue that more of the heteronormative structure subtending the allotment discourse of individualism is present in Collier’s modernist celebration of native communalism than Pfister suggests.
(7.) In an article in 1944, Collier himself noted, “The sharpest conflict and the most disturbing conflict has occurred in the Sioux area and particularly at Pine Ridge” (“Collier Replies to Mekeel,” 425).
(8.) Deloria uses the term “Dakota” as an inclusive reference to refer to all seven Sioux peoples, and as she notes, her description of Dakota people(s) is most directly derived from information about the Teton Sioux. Deloria was a Yankton Sioux who lived among various Teton Sioux groups almost her entire life and wrote about them in light of her anthropological training as a student and associate of Franz Boas. On Deloria’s life, see Deloria, “Introduction”; Gardner, “Speaking”; Medicine, Learning to Be, 269–288; and Murray.
(9.) In challenging the universality of a distinction between public and private spheres or the cross-cultural existence of a “domestic” sphere, I am drawing on a large body of work by feminist anthropologists. For examples, see Albers and Medicine; Carsten; Collier and Yanagisako; Strathern; Yanagisako and Delaney.
(10.) For this list of offenses, see Regulations of the Indian Office. The novel was written over the course of the late 1930s and early 1940s but was not published until 1988, seventeen years after Deloria’s death. See DeMallie, “Afterword”; Finn; Gardner, “Though It Broke.”
(11.) While generating a good deal of scholarly attention, reorganization has generated utterly incommensurate understandings of its intent, operation, and long-term effects. Although to some degree simply testifying to the ways intellectual debate works, particularly changes over time in analytical modes and emphases, this variety and the sharp dichotomies that tend to characterize it also in many ways parallel the distribution of native responses to the act at the time of its passage and during the reservation votes that followed (whether to come under the IRA; if so, whether to adopt a constitution under its terms; and if ratifying a constitution, whether to establish a business charter for the purposes of receiving certain federal grants). Not only was there disagreement among various segments of reservation populations over the value and efficacy of the new law, but often members of the same group on a given reservation, who shared ideas about the proper path their people should take, would adopt diametrically opposed positions on the act. An attention to the ways reorganization both ended and incorporated allotment can help explain this apparent paradox. For historical commentary on the IRA, see Daily; Deloria and Lytle; Kelly, Indian Affairs; Pfister; Reinhardt, “Crude Replacement”; (p. 354 ) Robertson; Rusco, Fateful Time; Rusco, “Indian Reorganization Act”; Schwartz; Taylor, New Deal; and Washburn.
(12.) This claim runs against the grain of most of the assessments of John Collier and his vision for reorganization, which emphasize his interest in “community” organization and his disdain for individualist ways of thinking about how to address social issues. For examples, see Daily; Pfister; Rusco, Fateful Time; and Taylor, New Deal. While not denying that Collier most often frames his arguments in collective terms, I seek to indicate the ways the official conceptualization of communal identity surrounding the IRA relies on an ensemble of assumptions about the distinction between public and private spheres and the nature of political process and belonging that reinforces the heterosexualizing project of allotment as addressed in the previous chapter.
Critics of the IRA who sought to repeal it in the late 1930s and 1940s consistently presented it as endorsing a vision of native life at odds with the dominant possessive individualism of the United States. A 1939 report issued by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs declares that “individual rights of inheritance, private ownership of property, and private enterprise are being discouraged and destroyed by reason of some provisions of the act itself,” but this claim largely is a function of the committee’s conclusion that the IRA “attempts to set up a state or a nation within a nation which is contrary to the intents and purposes of the American Republic” (“Repeal of the So-Called Wheeler-Howard Act,” 3–4). In other words, the assessment of the law and Collier’s program as anti-individualist derives from the assumption that any effort to preserve distinct native governments and polities was not simply communalist but communistic (see also Rosier, 1305–1307). The set of interlocking binaries that sustain this logic can be understood as continuing to shape assessments of reorganization.
(13.) Minutes of the Plains Congress, 5. Further citations from this source will be parenthetical.
(14.) This plan later is characterized by another official as a kind of sovereignty buffet: “This Bill, if it were passed just as it is, merely sets the self-government table. It puts out a table and puts all kinds of self-government dishes on from pie and roast beef down to a plate of soup” (110).
(15.) See 27, 33, 130.
(16.) For this understanding of “guardianship” as used by Collier and other officials with respect to the IRA, see Rusco, Fateful Time. At a number of points during the Plains Congress, Collier and others explain the damage wrought by land policies under allotment, particularly fee patenting and heirship fractioning.
(17.) This emphasis on protecting individual property rights could be explained as a response by Collier to the insistence on this point by Burton K. Wheeler, the chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and cosponsor of the IRA, during the Senate hearings that preceded the congresses (Rusco, Fateful Time, 242), but as I will suggest, Collier’s depiction of property here seems consistent with other ideas about the scope of tribal governance and the nature of U.S. citizenship expressed by him in the Plains Congress and elsewhere.
(p. 355 ) (18.) Given the ways administrative judgments about “competency” often relied on assessments of blood quantum, the split between those who still possessed territory and those who did not often was characterized as one between “mixed-bloods” and “full-bloods,” a dynamic and discourse that exacerbated existing conflicts on many reservations, including Pine Ridge. See Biolosi, Organizing; Deloria and Lytle; Macgregor; Robertson; Taylor, New Deal; and Thorne.
(19.) This claim seems particularly problematic in light of the fact that the courts already had recognized the authority of the federal government to maintain administrative authority over native persons and property even after they had fee simple title to their allotments and thus had become citizens (prior to the general extension of citizenship in 1924). See Wilkins, American Indian Sovereignty.
(20.) On the relation between family-making and property relations in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Anglo-American ideologies, see Boydston; Brown, Domestic Individualism; Coontz; Cott, Public Vows; Dillon; D’Emilio and Freedman; Gordon; Grossberg; and Merish.
(21.) On the distinction between “property” and traditional native modes of occupancy, see Cheyfitz, Poetics.
(22.) In “The Birth of the Reservation,” Thomas Biolosi suggests with respect to the process of allotment that “privatization of the means of production/subsistence creates fundamentally new subjects with radically new interests” (33), helping give rise to “the modern individual” among native peoples—in this case, the Lakotas. However, as in the discussion I offered of Joel Pfister in the previous chapter, Biolosi addresses privatization, individualization, and racialization through blood quantum without addressing the ways all these processes are part of a heteronormalization centered on the nuclear family as the axiomatic structure of social life.
(23.) Prucha, Documents, 171.
(24.) See 11, 39, 130. For various officials’ use of this formulation elsewhere, or the synonymous description of native governments as “municipal,” see Collier, “Genesis and Philosophy,” 7; Rusco, Fateful Time, 237; Taylor, New Deal, 30; Wilkins, “Introduction,” xxii.
(25.) At the time of reorganization, the agency actually was called the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) rather than the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), but I have chosen to use the latter because it is the more familiar acronym and the later name change did not indicate a fundamental change in the legal status or bureaucratic structure of the agency.
(26.) The agreement that enabled this act is often called the “Crook Treaty,” since it was negotiated by General George Crook. Objections to the agreement included that it was based on the assent of three-quarters of the adult men belonging to all the relevant Sioux bands (a figure mandated by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie), rather than three-quarters of the adult men in each band, and that the necessary consent was procured by bypassing the chiefs. On Teton history and politics in the middle to late nineteenth century, see Gibbon; Lazarus; Ostler; and Price.
(27.) On the tiospaye, see Albers, “Sioux Kinship”; Deloria, Speaking of Indians; DeMallie, “Kinship and Biology”; Medicine, Learning to Be; Standing Bear; and Walker, Lakota Society.
(29.) Biolosi, Organizing, 45.
(30.) Biolosi, Organizing, 53.
(31.) On Teton politics prior to reorganization, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, see Biolosi, Organizing; Clow, “Indian Reorganization Act”; Lazarus; Ostler; and Roberston. Both in the Plains Congress and elsewhere, those who described themselves as “full-bloods” expressed concern about the degree to which reorganization would mean the transfer of resources and power from them to “mixed-bloods.” This hostility usually was expressed by people at the time, and has been analyzed by scholars, as a fear that land would be taken away from “restricted” Indians to give to those who had become landless after fee patenting, especially given that the criteria for restriction and fee patenting usually were articulated in terms of blood quantum. However, as Paul Robertson notes in his history of Pine Ridge, mixed-bloods were far less likely to be members of tiospayes and thus to be represented in the pre-IRA tiospaye-based councils (83–122), so the rhetoric of full-blood/mixed-blood difference also can be understood as in some ways an expression of tensions over the proper form of reservation governance, particularly the role that the tiospaye should play in it.
(32.) Elmer R. Rusco has argued that Collier, and virtually everyone in the government working in Indian affairs, operated under a “vacuum theory” of native politics, presuming that there were no surviving institutions of native governance on most reservations. See Rusco, Fateful Time.
(33.) Attendees’ questions continually press on the official representation of the IRA as a radical and transformative break from existing policy. Members of the Rosebud delegation ask a question that will be repeated in various forms throughout the congress: “What is the meaning of the word Reservation? Does it include counties which were within the Reservation in 1889 but which are no longer in the Reservation” (44–45)? Querying the concept of the “reservation,” participants seek to assess the degree to which Collier’s claims signal a substantive reformation of the entrenched principles of Indian policy, which they apparently do not (“This bill would not correct a thing that took place in the past … only prevent that kind of thing from happening in the future” ). In a particularly perspicacious analysis of the role of the Plains Congress in the broader scope of federal policy-making, Jacob White Cow Killer of Pine Ridge observes, “Mr. Collier draws us a picture of the Bill…. After, I take back the provisions of the Bill to my people and present the good points to them and we accept it whole-heartedly and the Bill becomes a law in an entirely different form, I see that Mr. Collier will be criticized,” adding, “when the Bill comes out in a law in entirely different form, I know that my people will call me a big liar” (97).
(34.) “Conditions on Sioux Reservations,” 9. Further citations from this source will be parenthetical. The Pine Ridge constitution in place prior to the IRA and supplanted by it did make explicit reference to the Treaty of 1868 as a basis for Oglala self-representation and legal recognition (Cohen, On the Drafting, 7).
(35.) Similar sentiments are offered by speakers from Rosebud (11–12, 17–18).
(37.) On the relation between efforts to organize around treaty claims and challenges to IRA governance, see also Biolosi, Organizing, 151–181; Clow, “Tribal Populations,” 369–371; Lazarus, 163–164; Roberts, 39; Survey of the Conditions of the Indians, 21784–21794; and Taylor, New Deal, 145–146. In his contribution to a volume assessing the twenty-year record of reorganization, Collier presents the IRA as part of an effort to respect the history of treaty-making and its indication of a relationship among sovereigns. See Collier, “Genesis and Philosophy.”
(38.) This opinion as well as the others quoted are collected in Opinions of the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior Relating to Indian Affairs, 1917–1974, vol. 1. Page numbers from this volume will be cited parenthetically. For discussion of these opinions, see Deloria and Lytle, 154–170; Rusco, “Indian Reorganization Act,” 60–62; and Taylor, New Deal, 92–96. On Cohen, see Wilkins, “Introduction.”
(39.) Kappler, Indian Affairs, vol. 5, 382.
(40.) Deloria and Lytle suggest that the opinion “worked steadily in one direction: buttressing the political powers of the tribe that had not been previously acknowledged by any organ, agency, or branch of the federal government” (159). However, the opinion makes explicit that its listing and explication of “inherent” powers comes directly from statutes and decisions; most of the opinion is dedicated to quoting from these sources.
(41.) The opinion offers an equally elliptical description of the conditions for valid intervention in native affairs: “The whole course of Congressional legislation with respect to the Indians has been based upon recognition of tribal autonomy, qualified only where the need for other types of governmental control has become clearly manifest” (454).
(42.) See 446, 454, 471, 475.
(43.) On the emergence of “domestic relations” as a legal concept in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, see Cott, Public Vows; Gordon; and Grossberg.
(44.) The opinion, however, does note that the U.S. government has no legal authority—no congressional authorization—to outlaw polygamy among native peoples on their land (462). This point is qualified by the opinion’s treatment of the regulations guiding the Court of Indian Offenses (which included the explicit outlawing of polygamy) as not only lawful but an expression of native desires, a maneuver I will address more fully later. Furthermore, in his regulations issued in 1935, Collier defines “adultery” as “hav[ing] sexual intercourse with another person, either of such person being married to a third person,” thereby precluding the possibility of polygamy (Law and Order Regulations, 16).
(45.) For a reprint of the 1883 code, see Regulations of the Indian Office. By 1900, approximately two-thirds of the agencies had such courts. Each court was composed of three Indian justices, at first the top three officers of the Indian police force on the reservation but eventually becoming agent-appointed positions guided by concern that those who held them be “progressive” and of upstanding moral character. On the Courts, see Hagan; Regulations of the Indian Office; Opinions of the Solicitor, 532–536. Indian police forces were created in the late 1860s and 1870s (and given congressional recognition through funding in 1878) in order to provide a means for agents to maintain “law and (p. 358 ) order” on reservation, as well as to provide an alternative to employing U.S. soldiers. See Hagan, 25–50. For discussion of coercive efforts by the BIA to document and control marriage and family relationships through departmental directives in the early part of the twentieth century, see Biolosi, “The Birth,” 42–44.
(46.) On Collier’s earlier opposition to the Courts, see Rusco, Fateful Time, 154, 167, 230. The attempt in the original version of the IRA to create a Court of Indian Affairs, which would have provided the possibility of appeal for all legal matters on-reservation, can be understood as an effort to eliminate the Courts. However, as Deloria and Lytle note, Collier offered virtually no resistance to the congressional excision of this section of the original bill during its progress through committee (131–132).
(47.) Biolosi, Organizing, 7–8; Hagan, 104–125.
(48.) The opinion here is quoting from a law review article by W. G. Rice Jr. entitled “The Position of the American Indian in the Law of the United States” (1934).
(49.) The case concerns defendants who were charged with violating a federal law prohibiting aiding in the escape of anyone convicted of a federal crime, or anyone being held in custody for trial on such charges. They were Umatillas who had sought to free a woman (simply referred to as “Minnie”) imprisoned for having committed adultery in violation of BIA regulations; accepting the prosecutor’s statement of facts, they contended that their actions did not fall under the statute since Minnie’s adultery was not a “crime,” in the sense that the prohibitions laid out in the regulations did not have the status or force of law. The federal district judge who tried the case rejected the defendants’ claim, finding that “the United States, by virtue of its power and authority in the premises, has established a rule, which is, in effect, a law” (578–579); their attempt to free Minnie, therefore, fell within the terms of the federal statute.
(50.) This move is not entirely absent from U.S. v. Clapox either; the decision depicts “this Indian court and police” as “their first effort in the administration of justice” (579), marking administrative intervention as mere recognition through the use of the possessive “their.”
(51.) Deloria and Lytle describe this line of argumentation as “mostly a fictional justification for vesting tribal courts with powers they had neither possessed nor exercised” (167), but such a reading seems to me to overlook the ways the argument works less to open room for a range of native formulations and formations than to normalize the “domestic”-ating aims of the Courts of Indian Offenses as an expression of native will.
(52.) At one point, the solicitor’s opinion observes, “the regulation of the conduct of Indians upon the reservations in order to assure order and promote civilization is clearly within the purposes for which supervision over Indian affairs by the Secretary [of the Interior] and the Commissioner [of Indian affairs] was given” (535), and it further notes, “to date the set-up of the court has not been changed” (533).
(53.) Law and Order Regulations, 9. Further page numbers will be cited parenthetically. The regulations also state that “any matters that are not covered by traditional customs and usages of the tribe, or by applicable Federal laws and regulations, shall be decided by (p. 359 ) the Court of Indian Offenses according to the laws of the State in which the matter in dispute may lie” (7), largely replicating the terms of the earlier regulations (see Regulations of the Indian Office, 104).
(54.) The Sioux reservations, for example, were divided into districts, each under its own “farm agent,” a system that continued under reorganization. These administrators had discretion over large swaths of native life, including travel and the disbursement of funds from Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. See Biolosi, Organizing; Macgregor; Reinhardt, Ruling Pine Ridge, 42–76; and Robertson.
(55.) As specified in the law, reservations needed to choose to come under the IRA and then draft a constitution for which there would be a separate vote. Pine Ridge residents accepted the IRA on October 27, 1934, by a vote of 1,169 to 1,095 and ratified a constitution under the law on December 11, 1935, voting 1,348 to 1,041 (Biolosi, Organizing, 78, 98). While scholars have tended to reject the idea that people who objected to the IRA and the IRA constitutions showed their opposition by simply refusing to go to the polls, they have argued that the version of the IRA on which people thought they were voting was the one discussed in the various meetings with native peoples prior to the extensive changes made to the bill during the congressional committee process and that votes for constitutions may have had less to do with support for their particular provisions than with the fact that their adoption was understood as a necessary precursor to gaining access to the funds promised under the act.
(56.) The character of this change was described by the soon-to-be-ousted councilmen in the following terms: “[E]lderly illiterate gentlemen on this reservation are fighting desperately to revive their old … tribunal of chiefs” (Clow, “Indian Reorganization Act,” 128). On the 1931 change in Pine Ridge governance, see Biolosi, Organizing, 53–59; Clow, “Indian Reorganization Act”; and Robertson, 167–171.
(57.) The Pine Ridge constitution of 1935 is reprinted in Survey of the Conditions of the Indians in the United States, pt. 37, 21732–21740.
(58.) Biolosi, Organizing, 85–86, 99. See also Taylor, New Deal, 96–98. Elmer Rusco has argued that the idea of a “model constitution” used by BIA officials when serving as technical advisers is a myth. See Rusco, “Indian Reorganization Act.” His argument is targeted largely at Taylor’s study, but he does not acknowledge Biolosi’s argument on this score with respect to Pine Ridge and Rosebud, for which Biolosi offers persuasive evidence. See Biolosi, Organizing. Moreover, in his introduction to Felix S. Cohen’s On the Drafting of Tribal Constitutions, a memorandum Cohen drafted in late 1934, David E. Wilkins makes reference to internal BIA documents that indicate the use of such a model; the model constitution that Cohen circulated in August 1935 lines up with the Pine Ridge constitution almost article for article, and the language of the former is in many places replicated exactly in the latter. See Cohen, On the Drafting, 173–177; Wilkins “Introduction.”
The preamble of the Pine Ridge constitution notes that the Oglala Sioux Tribe will have “the power to exercise certain rights of home rule not inconsistent with Federal laws and our treaties” (21732), reiterating the premises articulated by officials in the Plains Congress and the Interior Department opinions while also leaving ambiguous the extent (p. 360 ) to which “Federal laws” meant those specifically appertaining to Indians or broader federal and constitutional principles (in light of native peoples’ supposedly primary status as U.S. citizens). The latter is suggested by the provision for “Oaths of Office” that requires officials to promise to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” (21739).
(59.) The code is reprinted in Survey of the Conditions, 21749–21766. On the regulation of marriage and sexual morality on Pine Ridge by the agent and through the Courts of Indian Offenses, see Biolosi, “Birth,” 46 n. 31.
(60.) Survey of the Conditions, 21759, 21762, 21764, 21766.
(61.) According to Biolosi, the legal codes adopted at Pine Ridge and Rosebud were virtually identical (Organizing, 129). Additionally, while the preceding provisions were allowed to stand, laws passed by the Pine Ridge and Rosebud councils that were seen as interfering with residents’ religious freedom were routinely overruled by administrators in the Indian affairs bureaucracy, suggesting that practices seen as “religion” were accorded more protection as signifying the kind of native culture whose rejuvenation the IRA was supposed to make possible. See Biolosi, Organizing, 126–150. This dynamic will be addressed more extensively in the section discussing Deloria’s Waterlily.
(62.) Robertson, 173; Survey of the Conditions of the Indians, 21784–21794; Reinhardt, Ruling Pine Ridge, 61.
(63.) Survey of the Conditions of the Indians, 21788. In this statement, Short Horn and American Horse return insistently to the need to turn Oglala governance back over to full-bloods, as against the reorganization government, which they claim overwhelmingly is dominated by mixed-bloods. As noted earlier, though, the mixed-blood/full-blood split can be thought of less as an acceptance of blood quantum logics than as a way of talking about membership in tiospayes and the ways that U.S. policy created this conflict through reservation and allotment policy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. See Robertson.
(64.) The title of this section is a play on the collection No More Separate Spheres! edited by Cathy N. Davidson and Jessamyn Hatcher.
(65.) In using this term, I am playing on the feminist of color formulation of the concept of “intersectionality,” which seeks to account for the ways multiple forms of identification operate simultaneously in complex and shifting ways. See Cohen, “Punks.” Instead of thinking about how different kinds of identity work in and through each other, though, I am trying to address how the divisions and categories at play in dominant Anglo-American social mappings fail to capture modes of native sociality and self-representation. For a fascinating effort to rethink intersectionality as “assemblage,” focusing less on the co-implication of existing categories of identity (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.) than on the ways a range of disparate characteristics/dynamics are soldered together in forging new kinds of identification, see Puar.
(66.) Deloria not only was present during the period in which Pine Ridge residents were voting on the constitution, but she wrote Franz Boas about the views expressed by Oglala women in a separate council they had before the vote. In addition, Deloria served in 1938 as the translator for those opposing the IRA government in a petition they drafted (p. 361 ) to the U.S. government. See the letters from Ella Deloria to Franz Boas on August 25, 1935, and February 12, 1938, in the Franz Boas Collection (hereafter FBC) at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, PA. See also Gardner, “Speaking,” 466; Hoefel, 191–192; Murray, “Ella Deloria,” 117–118, 129. For a sense of Deloria’s movement on and off Teton reservations in the 1930s, see her letters to Boas (FBC).
In “Walls and Bridges,” Janet L. Finn suggests she will “situate Deloria’s life and work in relation to key moments in federal Indian policy” (159). She notes that Speaking of Indians “talks back to the constricted images of family and household imposed by federal Indian policy” and that Deloria participated somewhat reluctantly in a federally funded assessment of Diné social dynamics, published as The Navajo Indian Problem in 1939 (170, 172). Additionally, Maria Eugenia Cotera notes that the episode in Waterlily where the title character encounters a bedraggled family detached from any particular village or band may be based on her observations about the effects “of assimilationist policies” on Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations, particularly “the disintegration of the tiospaye” (58). These accounts allude to without significantly elaborating connections between the books Deloria authored and contemporaneous policy, and they do not explore the relationship between specific late-nineteenth-century initiatives and mid-twentieth-century programs.
(67.) Deloria also had extended correspondence and a complex professional connection with Ruth Benedict, who became her primary entrée into institutional anthropological and publishing circles after Boas’s death. Their correspondence can be found in folders 28.3 and 28.4 of the Ruth Benedict Papers (hereafter RBP), courtesy of Vassar College (in Poughkeepsie, NY). See also Gardner, “Though It Broke”; Hoefel; and Murray.
(68.) Deloria notes the presence of councils, which she observes lacked coercive authority, and the existence of soldier societies that could use force to carry out leaders’ orders “during migrations and communal buffalo hunts” (39).
(69.) The intervention that Deloria makes into reorganization’s logic of heterohomemaking can be seen more clearly when juxtaposed with that offered by Luther Standing Bear in Land of the Spotted Eagle (1933). While depicting the camp circle in ways that closely resemble Speaking of Indians, he presents a picture of Lakota life that makes it appear far more like the heterogendered nuclear family household, especially in the chapter “Home and Family”: “The home was the center of Lakota society…. Here it was that offspring learned duty to parents, to lodge, to band, to tribe, and to self” (84). In this vision, “family” seems to occupy a separate, privileged space, resembling the topology of “domestic relations”: “The integrity of the home was revered, and a man known as a good husband and a woman known as a good wife were honored members of society” (162). Further, although the text states outright that the bands were themselves composed of collections of relatives, tiospayes are introduced in the chapter “Civil Arrangements” as “the civil or governmental structure of Lakota society”: “Each band was a social unit, under separate chieftainship, yet each band was an integral part of the nation” (120). The apparent shift in topics from one chapter to the next—“Home and Family” to “governmental” matters—simulates a kind of public/private split that can be (p. 362 ) understood as legitimizing Lakota political and residential formations for a white audience by making them fit a familiar framework, even while repeatedly (perhaps tactically) marking the ways life in the tiospaye did not conform to the parameters of conjugal domesticity (such as the accepted presence of winktes [92–93], the existence of polygamy [116, 162], and the absence of pressure for people to marry if they did not wish to do so ).
(70.) On the continuing social role of tiospayes and their crossing of administrative boundaries, see Albers, “Sioux Kinship.”
(71.) Biolosi, Organizing, 105.
(72.) On the appeal to tiospayes in the process of post-IRA constitution-making, see Biolosi, Organizing, 85–108; Collier, “Collier Replies to Mekeel”; Mekeel; Reinhardt, Ruling Pine Ridge, 80–91; and Taylor, New Deal, 89–91.
(73.) Deloria’s familiarity with the community plan suggested by Mekeel may further be suggested by the fact that he served as a recommender for her (just as she was writing Speaking of Indians), suggesting that she was familiar with him and his work. See Deloria’s applications for grants from the American Philosophical Society in 1943 and 1944 in folder 28.3, RBP; Murray, 139.
(74.) Here she may be referring, albeit obliquely, to the Red Shirt Table Cooperative, an initiative on Pine Ridge created by Superintendent William O. Roberts in which a particular “community” was chosen in which to establish a collective enterprise; imagined as a way of rejuvenating a traditional “neighborhood,” in Roberts’s terms, which had fallen into disarray and which supposedly lacked a coherent sense of leadership, the cooperative split into a gardening venture run by mixed-blood families and a livestock association operated by full-blood families, the former eventually being broken into privately held plots and the latter dissolving due to the need to help starving relatives living elsewhere rather than conserving stock for breeding. See Macgregor, 212; Reinhardt, Ruling Pine Ridge, 79–84; Roberts.
(75.) The text consistently presents U.S. intervention in the lives of native peoples as a violent imposition, at one point noting that the United States is pursuing “the liberation of all conquered people, except the one it itself had conquered!” (162), but it also repeatedly insists that even if brought through force and undesired by Dakota people the transformation of Dakota life due to imperialism is the context in which Dakota peoples must now operate, including finding ways of supporting themselves within a capitalist system. See Weaver, 112–113. In a letter on May 12, 1939, Deloria describes the apparatus of Indian policy as “a heartless monster of a machine, a Frankenstein, such an impersonal organ” (FBC).
The representation of tradition as a “block” may also be seen, at least partially, as due to the fact that the book was sponsored by the National Council of Churches, a white missionary organization. See Deloria, “Introduction”; Gardner, “Speaking,” 465; letter of April 7, 1947, folder 28.4, RBP. For a fascinating discussion of her concerns about the pressure being exerted on her brother Vine to become a minister and her resistance to this idea, see the letter to Franz Boas August 21, 1928 (FBC).
(p. 363 ) Her letters to Ruth Benedict often comment on her anxieties about her audience and her capacity to speak about Dakota life intelligently. For example, in the letter of February 28, 1941, she declares, “my book [Speaking of Indians?] is going to be very simple and informal—like a letter…. And I won’t even try to draw any conclusions myself. After all, a patient can’t very well diagnose his own case” (folder 28.3, RBP), and in a letter dated February 13, 1947, she worries “that I am the glorified (?) native mouthpiece” (question mark in original, folder 28.4, RBP). Deloria also expressed concern that the longer, more academically ethnographic work on prereservation society that she was writing at the same time as her novel Waterlily would be seen as irrelevant when viewed against contemporary Dakota life. See the letters of January 1, 1944 (folder 28.3, RBP); April 26, July 6, and July 15, 1947, (folder 28.4, RBP).
(76.) For a similar reading of these moments, see Weaver, 112–114. For a contrasting contemporaneous study of Pine Ridge that fairly unrelentingly casts its residents as in a chaotic fall away from their traditional social structures, see Macgregor.
(77.) While Indians of the Americas was published soon after Collier left the BIA, the views expressed in the text seem consistent with his perspective as articulated in earlier publications both before and during his tenure as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. See Kelly, Assault on Assimilation; Rusco, Fateful Time; and Schwartz.
(78.) Minutes of the Plains Congress, 7.
(79.) Rusco, Fateful Time, 184. See also Biolosi, Organizing, 63–64; Daily, 60–79; and Deloria and Lytle, 62.
(80.) On the ways “religion” came to work as a signifier of Native difference in the early twentieth century, especially in the context of trying to gain legitimacy for Native practices under the first amendment, see Wenger.
(81.) On the role of anthropologists in shaping Collier’s thinking and within the administration of the BIA in the 1930s, see Biolosi, Organizing, 85–108; Collier, “Collier Replies to Mekeel”; Collier, Indians of the Americas, 154–171; Collier, “Genesis and Philosophy”; Marden; Mekeel; Patterson, 71–102; Reinhardt, Ruling Pine Ridge, 77–105; Rusco, Fateful Time, 50–51, 189–190; and Taylor, New Deal.
(82.) On the emergence of what would be characterized as a Boasian notion of culture, its institutionalization through World War II, and the major intellectual features of Boasian anthropology, see Darnell, Invisible Genealogies; Darnell, And Along Came Boas; di Leonardo; Elliott; Evans; Handler; Hegeman; Hoefel; Krupat, 81–100; Kuper, 115–134; Patterson, Social History; Stocking, Ethnographer’s Magic (chaps. 3 and 4); and Stocking, “Franz Boas.”
(83.) This text is a particularly apt one to discuss in this context for several reasons. Not only was it published in the year of the IRA’s passage, but Benedict was one of the supervisors for the joint BIA–University of Chicago research project into Indian personality, which generated five studies including Gordon Macgregor’s account of the Dakotas, Warriors without Weapons. See RBP, folders 94.4 (Notes from the Chicago Seminar) and 94.7 (Field Guide to the Study of the Development of Inter-Personal Relations). Also, Benedict worked extensively with Deloria (especially after Boas’s death in 1942) and (p. 364 ) provided extensive and running commentary on Waterlily while Deloria was writing it. See RBP, folders 28.3 and 28.4. For discussion of the influence of Benedict’s work in reflecting and extending discourses of “culture” in the 1930s, see di Leonardo, 184–190; Hegeman, 93–126.
(84.) Collier, Indians of the Americas, 10.
(85.) Moreover, Collier’s assumptions about the meaning of family and “domestic”-ity may also be traced to developments within British social anthropology. In the first few decades of the twentieth century, the study of kinship, particularly in Great Britain, increasingly was moving toward a vision organized around a nuclear imaginary in which marital and parental imperatives are natural/universal and provide the basis/logic at the heart of other forms of kin-making and kin connection. Collier likely was exposed to this work through his interest in British and French forms of “indirect administration,” in which such anthropological models were employed. On shifts in the study of kinship from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, see Carsten; Collier and Yanagisako; Fortes; Harris, Kinship; Kuper; and Schneider, Critique. On Collier’s praise of British and French colonial models, see Reinhardt, “Crude Replacement”; Rusco, Fateful Time, 160–162; Schwartz. In this vein, Deloria’s representation of Dakota sociality in both Speaking of Indians and Waterlily can be understood as refusing the distinction made within social anthropology between “family” (“domestic” relations that follow from the facts of birth and true parentage) and “descent” (clan and lineage structures).
(86.) Critics largely have focused on the text’s participation in Deloria’s broader efforts to preserve traditional Dakota knowledges and transmit them to future generations, its emphasis on women and the importance of the various kinds of work that they perform (as opposed to the anthropological tendency to fetishize men’s social roles), and its attempt to provide a more popularly accessible account than a conventional ethnography. See Cotera; DeMallie, “Afterword”; Finn; Gambrell; Gardner, “Though It Broke”; and Medicine, Learning to Be, 269–288. On Boasian experiments with fiction writing, see Krupat, 49–80.
(87.) In “All My Relatives Are Noble,” Maria Eugenia Cotera argues that for Deloria, “‘kinship’ was not just an ethnographic concept—a relic of a time long past—it was a mode of tribal consciousness that could, indeed must, be translated into ‘modern’ environments” (57). On the ways responsibilities to relatives materially enabled Deloria’s ethnographic work and took her away from it, see the letters in the FBC; Finn; Gardner, “Speaking”; Medicine, Learning to Be, 269–288; and Murray. Waterlily is a novelized version of an extended ethnography that Deloria worked on for many years. On the relationship between the two texts, see Gardner, “Though It Broke.”
(88.) Given that the novel at this moment is talking about Waterlily’s decision-making process, this particular line could be read as a reflection of Waterlily’s thoughts rather than an authoritative pronouncement by the narrator.
(89.) One cannot help but think that this particular character’s name is meant to connote prostitution, even though no such exchange is indicated in the text.
(p. 365 ) (90.) See Canaday; Chauncey, Why Marriage?. On the historical relation between Euro-American accounts of native gender systems and the emergence of the sexological discourse of inversion, see Roscoe, Changing Ones, 167–187.
(91.) Deloria’s discussion of marriage is also fraught, in that not having been married she is not supposed to have knowledge of the intimate details of marital life. See Gambrell, 132–134; Gardner, “Speaking,” 465. In a May 20, 1941, letter, she expresses the concern that addressing such matters would lead people in “Dakota country” to believe that she was only “posing as a virgin.” She adds, “Here you have a practical demonstration of some of the cross-currents and underneath influences of Dakota thinking and life. It trips even anyone as apparently removed as I am, because I have a place among the people. And I have to keep it” (folder 28.4, RBP).
(92.) In “The American Indian Fiction Writers,” Elizabeth Cook-Lynn has critiqued accounts of Sioux identity that present personal “feeling” as more important to belonging than blood connection, emphasizing blood as the basis for belonging to a tiospaye. While recognizing the danger of denying the role of what can be characterized as kinship to Sioux identity, I also think that, as Deloria suggests, kinship can be understood as having crucial non-blood dimensions without turning belonging into merely a declaration of individual predilection.
(93.) Rainbow is the brother of First Woman, who is the wife of Black Eagle, Blue Bird’s cousin who is the “recognized head of our tiyospaye,” and while Black Eagle initially had lived in First Woman’s tiospaye, her parents and siblings decided to move with him back to his (22). Yet the novel never suggests that they do not feel part of the web of kinship that constitutes the tiospaye. In fact, as mentioned earlier, the husband of Dream Woman (who is Rainbow’s sister) is described as feeling “like a perpetual visitor” (163), but she does not experience that sensation, implying that she, her parents, and her siblings feel at home and, thereby, suggesting that they have in some sense become family with the other people in Black Eagle’s tiospaye despite not having a blood connection to them.
(94.) This account of “friendship” as interfamilial kinship can be contrasted to Last of the Mohicans’ vision of isolated connection between Hawkeye and Chingachgook, discussed in chapter 1.
(95.) The Sun Dance, polygamy, and travel away from one’s reservation have been addressed already or will be discussed later. Medicine people appear in the novel during the Sun Dance as well as during episodes in which Ohiya is encircled by a snake while in his cradle and Waterlily gets ill from eating too much pemmican (her recovery serving as the occasion for Rainbow holding a hunka ceremony in her honor, illustrating his parental devotion and affection for her) (68–73). In terms of giving away the property of the deceased, when Rainbow’s mother, Gloku, dies, a large “redistribution” is held (159), and in order to make up for two horses that have been stolen but promised for the redistribution, Waterlily agrees to marry Sacred Horse, who offers to replace them as a kind of dowry.
(96.) Opinions of the Solicitor, 536.
(p. 366 ) (97.) This description of White Dawn can be contrasted with Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s discussion of her feeling of being “unnatural” living in her brothers’ households, discussed in chapter 2.
(98.) In particular, see the letters in FBC; Gardner, “Speaking”; and Medicine, Learning to Be, 269–288.
(99.) Such acceptance is noted in the accounts of both Benedict (262–264) and Standing Bear (92–93), which were published hovering around a decade before Deloria completed Waterlily.
(100.) See Gardner, “Though It Broke,” 679–680; letter of July 6, 1947, folder 28.4, RBP. She also addresses what she described as “the berdaches” in her longer ethnographic work (letter of April 7, 1947, folder 28.4, RBP).
(101.) See di Leonardo.
(102.) In his discussions of Pueblo religion, Collier, in fact, was at pains to challenge the charges by non-natives that sexual debauchery was a key part of various rituals. See Collier, Indians of the Americas, 150–151; Daily, 36–59; and Kelly, Assault on Assimilation, 302–304. For a broader consideration of that controversy, see Wenger.
(103.) Pfister, 231–232.