Recognition Odysseys

Indigeneity, Race, and Federal Tribal Recognition Policy in Three Louisiana Indian Communities

Recognition Odysseys

Narrating Native Histories

More about this series

Book Pages: 404 Illustrations: 15 photos, 2 maps Published: March 2011

Author: Brian Klopotek

American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In Recognition Odysseys, Brian Klopotek explores the complicated relationship between federal tribal recognition policy and American Indian racial and tribal identities. He does so by comparing the experiences of three central Louisiana tribes that have petitioned for federal acknowledgment: the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe (recognized in 1981), the Jena Band of Choctaws (recognized in 1995), and the Clifton-Choctaws (currently seeking recognition). Though recognition has acquired a transformational aura, seemingly able to lift tribes from poverty and cultural decay to wealth and revitalization, these three cases reveal a more complex reality.

Klopotek describes the varied effects of the recognition process on the social and political structures, community cohesion, cultural revitalization projects, identity, and economic health of each tribe. He emphasizes that recognition policy is not the only racial project affecting Louisiana tribes. For the Tunica-Biloxis, the Jena Band of Choctaws, and the Clifton-Choctaws, discourses around blackness and whiteness have shaped the boundaries of Indian identity in ways that have only begun to be explored. Klopotek urges scholars and officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to acknowledge the multiple discourses and viewpoints influencing tribal identities. At the same time, he puts tribal recognition in broader perspective. Indigenous struggles began long before the BIA existed, and they will continue long after it renders any particular recognition decision.


Recognition Odysseys is recommended for those interested in gaining a greater appreciation for the role of race in the contemporary issues of [the Tunica-Biloxis and the Jena Band of Chocotaws] and the implications that their experiences may have for other nonrecognized, but hopeful, petitioning groups.” — Brice Obermeyer, Journal of Southern History

“[A] welcome addition to the growing body of literature concerning federal acknowledgement. This work… provide insights into the federal acknowledgement process, the shifting contexts of Indian identities, and the colonial legacy of the United States Indian law, which continues to hold ultimate authority over legitimizing who is Native and, ultimately, who is not.” — Gregory R. Campbell, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

“Klopotek demonstrates that the very process of attempting to gain recognition magnifies internal and external tensions that can threaten the maintenance of identity and culture. The book is written in such a way that this very personal and the human aspect is brought to light. Recommended. All readership levels.” — J. S. Ashley, Choice

“Klopotek, a self-described ‘non-federal Choctaw' with roots in Sabine Parish, Louisiana (p.16), has produced a remarkably empathetic, frank, to-the-point, and, on places, no-holds barred account of three Louisiana Indian communities going through the federal recognition process, and of the process itself. The three communities differ significantly (one is not yet entered into the official list of tribes), a fact that enables the author to reveal a range of consequences for tribes seeking recognition.... Of several recent books on the topic of recognition, this one is distinguished by the exploration of white supremacy and race in their relationships to indigeneity.” — Bruce Granville Miller, Journal of Anthropological Research

“With the publication of Recognition Odysseys, Brian Klopotek establishes himself as an emerging new star in the field of Native American Studies. Rarely have I encountered a first book that is so meticulously researched, powerfully argued, theoretically original, while also being accessible to a general reader…. With rich archival depth, poignant and carefully chosen interviews, as well as theoretical sophistication, the book is essential reading for scholars of Native North America and U.S. race relations, and anyone concerned with understanding the intersections of colonialism, racism, white supremacy, indigeneity and sovereignty.” — Circe Sturm, International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies

"Brian Klopotek's richly documented historical and ethnographic book makes a major contribution and should appeal to scholars, advanced undergraduates, and graduate students…. Overall, in this impressive book Klopotek has presented careful and compelling case studies while also advancing broader scholarly conversation." — Jessica R. Cattelino, Ethnohistory

"Using a multidisciplinary approach combining history, anthropology, and sociology, Klopotek has written an immensely impressive and supremely complex history of three distinct Indian communities . . . Recognition Odysseys, in short, transforms our understanding of indigenous nation building and sovereignty." — Robbie Ethridge, H-Law, H-Net Reviews

“Carefully researched and impeccably argued, Recognition Odysseys illuminates the struggles, benefits, and pitfalls of federal recognition for American Indian tribes. Brian Klopotek bravely details the unrecognized history of anti-black racism in the agencies with power to confer federal recognition, and within the tribes themselves. Recognition Odysseys is a necessary book for American Indian studies, as well as for critical race scholars, tribes seeking recognition, and other peoples, such as Native Hawaiians, who are subject to similar processes.” — Noenoe K. Silva, author of Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism

Recognition Odysseys could quickly become the gold standard work on how the federal recognition process affects Native Americans. Brian Klopotek deals with the acknowledgment struggles and economic development histories of three tribal groups in Louisiana, a ‘hot’ area in recent recognition battles. Using well-chosen case studies, he highlights the importance of race to the three groups’ trajectories. Recognition Odysseys suggests that Native American studies must be more attentive to race, and that American studies and ethnic studies must engage more actively with indigenous studies.” — Jace Weaver, author of Other Words: American Indian Literature, Law, and Culture

“Engaging, lively, and based on superior scholarship, Recognition Odysseys is an important contribution to scholarship on the federal recognition process and the broader issue of how U.S. American Indians take on modern political and cultural identities. Brian Klopotek is clearly committed not only to the well-being of the communities he writes about, but also to confronting troubling truths about what it means for tribal peoples to participate in the world of recognition and federal Indian policy.” — Robert Warrior, Founding President of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. The Origins of Federal Acknowledgment Policy 19

2. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe's Early Recognition Efforts 41

3. Tunica Activism from the Termination Era to the Self-Determination Era 61

4. Treasures: Tunica-Biloxis in the Federal Recognition Era 83

5. Tribal Enterprise and Tribal Life 97

6. Jena Choctaws under Jim Crow and outside the Federal Purview 127

7. Jena Choctaw Persistence from the Second World War to Recognition 147

8. Jena Choctaw Recognition 165

9. On the Outside, Looking In: Clifton-Choctaws, Race, and Federal Acknowledgment 197

10. Conclusions and Implications 239

Appendix 273

Notes 275

Bibliography 351

Index 375
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4984-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4969-3
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