Date of this Version
Quarterly Journal of Speech 102:4 (2016), pp. 418–429.
With the recent inflection in rhetorical scholarship on theorizing citizenship, Jason Edward Black’s American Indians and the Rhetoric of Removal and Allotment is a timely reminder that the early formation of U.S. civic identity was predicated on the erasure of indigenous sovereignty, culture, and identity. Black’s project also disabuses readers of the historical misconception that this erasure was a unidirectional process wherein indigenous peoples ultimately succumbed to the onslaught of Western colonization. Instead, Black begins with the assumption that U.S. public culture is, in part, the outcome of a dialectical struggle between Euro-Americans and American Indians over the meaning of land, sovereignty, and national identity. By critically analyzing the voices of American Indian resistance to colonization throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Black illustrates how American Indian nations indicted the master narratives of U.S. nationalism by pointing to the fissures and contradictions in the concept of national belonging. Evincing the rhetorical agency of American Indians throughout the uneven and haphazard process of colonization, Removal and Allotment demonstrates that American public culture is invariably shaped, and sometimes thwarted, by those it subjugated. This project illustrates the kind of insights garnered from decolonial methodologies, where the rhetorical critic operates with skepticism toward official discourse and Western knowledge production, presuming that there is an epistemic advantage to be gained by heeding the voices of those who are subjugated by colonialism. The result is a project that shows the complexities of indigenous agency and identity throughout resistance to Euro-American colonization.