Native Acts

Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity

Native Acts

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: Published: September 2011

Author: Joanne Barker

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Native and Indigenous Studies

In the United States, Native peoples must be able to demonstrably look and act like the Natives of U.S. national narrations in order to secure their legal rights and standing as Natives. How they choose to navigate these demands and the implications of their choices for Native social formations are the focus of this powerful critique. Joanne Barker contends that the concepts and assumptions of cultural authenticity within Native communities potentially reproduce the very social inequalities and injustices of racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia, and fundamentalism that define U.S. nationalism and, by extension, Native oppression. She argues that until the hold of these ideologies is genuinely disrupted by Native peoples, the important projects for decolonization and self-determination defining Native movements and cultural revitalization efforts are impossible. These projects fail precisely by reinscribing notions of authenticity that are defined in U.S. nationalism to uphold relations of domination between the United States and Native peoples, as well as within Native social and interpersonal relations. Native Acts is a passionate call for Native peoples to decolonize their own concepts and projects of self-determination.


Native Acts is an important and thoughtful challenge to the political position that ‘tradition’ is an acceptable rationale for excluding those whom the politically powerful deem ‘non-traditional.’” — Jo Carrillo, Great Plains Research

“Barker’s book is a provocative examination of the social and historical context in which some Native nations have equated cultural authenticity with legal legitimacy.... This book is a bold statement. Despite its theoretical density, any scholar, native activist, or student who is contemplating the meaning of sovereignty, self-determination, and the processes of decolonization for Native peoples must read this book.” — Kelly M. Branham, PoLAR

“This is an important study that challenges prevailing ideas about native traditions and cultures and what is authentically native. It invokes a timely call to scholars, tribal leaders, and policy makers to rethink and examine critically how we use terminology and notions that may reinforce social injustice and inequalities inherited from the past.” — Mark Edwin Miller, Journal of American History

"Situating her analysis through categories of family history, personal experience, and multiply constituted identifications that include membership within the Lenape Nation, Barker demonstrates that the personal is political in visceral and historical ways." — Cheryl Suzack, Signs

Native Acts is a brave, engaging, and important book. Joanne Barker gracefully and confidently tackles some of the thorniest issues in Indian Country, from the political and moral consequences of claiming Native authenticity to same-sex marriage, disenrollment, Christian conservatism, and conflicts within and between tribal nations. This is one of the most sensitive, lively, and theoretically sophisticated treatments of the critical questions of authenticity, law, and social formation in all of Native American studies.” — Jessica R. Cattelino, author of High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty

Native Acts is a significant work with broad appeal across many fields of study with its interdisciplinary approach to legal issues of the politics of recognition, membership, and tradition. The focus on contested histories, notions of cultural authenticity, and battles over legal legitimacy is accomplished with incisive critical analysis and sophisticated theorization. Joanne Barker provides a much needed investigation into race, gender, and sexual politics as they intersect and inflect indigeneity and governance with regard to questions of belonging and exclusion.” — J. Kehaulani Kauanui, author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Joanne Barker is Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the editor of Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introductions 1

Part I: Recognition

1. Of the “Indian Tribe” 27

2. In Cherokee v. Delaware 41

Part II: Membership

3. Of the “Indian Member” 81

4. In Martinez v. Santa Clara (and Vice Versa) 98

5. In Disenrollment 146

Part III. Tradition

6. Of Marriage and Sexuality 189

7. Origins 217

Notes 229

Bibliography 249

Index 277
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4851-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4838-2
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