Unsettling the State: Native Women Derailing U.S. Indian Policy in Historical and Contemporary Articulations

Thursday, Mar 19, 2015 - Thursday, Mar 19, 2015 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

691 Barrows Hall


Unsettling the State: Native Women Derailing U.S. Indian Policy in Historical and Contemporary Articulations

Sovereignty Struggles: Native Californian Women and the Politics of Federal Recognition
Olivia Chilcote, Ethnic Studies

In the United States, Native American tribes are placed within a contrived hierarchy as either federally recognized or unrecognized tribes. Federally recognized tribes are considered sovereign nations with a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. These federally recognized tribes gained this status not because they are more “legitimate” than other tribes, but because of historical interactions with the federal government. Unrecognized tribes, however, are not considered political entities and the government sees no need to officially interact with these tribes. As a result, unrecognized tribes across the nation are seeking federal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Federal Acknowledgment Process (FAP). California currently has 81 tribes petitioning for federal recognition through the FAP—a number almost four times higher than any other state in the Union. Clearly tribes in California are seeking sovereign status from the government, but how are Native Californian women part of this process? This presentation focuses on the gendered politics of seeking federal recognition and how Native Californian women are leading the way in struggles for sovereignty. By showing how Native Californian women from three unrecognized tribes across the state are actively working through and against federal definitions of tribal nationhood, I contend that Native Californian women are both engaging and destabilizing U.S. federal policy through their activism.

Engaging Domesticity: Native Women Navigating Assimilation in the Bay Area, 1926 – 1946
Caitlin Keliiaa, Ethnic Studies

On the quiet residential streets of Claremont, Rockridge and such affluent Bay Area neighborhoods the landscape holds a deep history. Beneath the surface of well-appointed homes lays a once thriving project of government assimilation through the forced institution of domesticity. The Bay Area Regional Outing Program launched in 1918 and ended just after WWII. Each year, the program placed hundreds of Native women in homes inBerkeley, Oakland and the greater Bay Area. In exchange for room, board, and menial pay, young Native women cooked, cleaned, served as caretakers and lived in the private, unmonitored homes of their employers. Through this program, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) perpetuated its goal of assimilation: to supplant Native values and traditions with western substitutes. This paper positions domesticity as a settler colonial endeavor used to drive Native women out of traditional roles and into domestic work. To do so, I closely examine files from the BIA’s Relocation, Training and Employment Assistance archival records. The lens I employ focuses on the surveillance and monitoring of Native women and the choices and decisions they were obliged to consider. My intervention examines how Native women frustrated the government institution. Though the program functioned under settler mechanics, Native women reworked into these systems, potential and possibility. Faced with the pervasive force of the assimilation doctrine on Native bodies, Native women complied, contested and actively engaged.

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