Dr. Chris Finley, Rutgers University
The Center for Race & Gender Thursday Forum Series

Transforming Universal Love into Decolonial Love as an Indigenous Feminist Praxis:
Pocahontas, The New World, and Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love

Dr. Chris Finley, Rutgers University
This paper disrupts narratives of universal love that frame the creation story of the United States as a settler colonial nation-state and capitalism.  The creation story I refer to is the Pocahontas, John Smith, and John Rolfe love triangle that ends with a legally recognized marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe.  Through this relationship, Rolfe marries an Indian princess and more importantly, gains large property rights to Powhatan lands as part of Pocahontas’ dowry. This narrative in Terrance Malick’s film The New World works to legitimate the conquest of Native America through erasing the violence of settler colonialism by making conquest a love story.  In this film, love is constructed as a universal narrative, which works to universalize settler colonialism through narratives of heteronormativity.  My paper will unravel this film and this narrative.  Universalism is not a winning strategy for Indigenous peoples because our creation stories, sovereignty, and relationships with each other challenge the very legitimacy of the United States.  As an alternative to universal love through compulsory heterosexuality, Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love (2013) offers stories, poetry, and songs about relationships between other Indigenous peoples and the land.  I use Simpson’s theorization of decolonial love as a means of decolonizing and queering Native America, which offers new possibilities for Indigenous peoples, Native Nations, and Native studies.
BIO: Chris Finley is a member of the Colville Confederated tribes.  She received her doctorate degree in American Culture at the University of Michigan in 2012.  Dr. Finley is a co-editor and contributor to Queer Indigenous Studies: Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature from the University of Arizona press 2011.  Her current work examines the decolonizing possibilities of a sex positive pedagogy, the legalization of gay marriage in the Colville nation, and the affects of sexualized images of Indigenous peoples in popular culture.  Presently, she is Race and Gender Post-Doctoral Fellow in History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.