The (Post) Colonial State of Indian Country: Native American Literary Responses to Federal Law

Danica Lynn Miller, Fordham University


When does the literature of Native Americans subvert the federal laws that attempt to control Native American tribes and culture, and when does it ask readers to resist and subvert colonizing influences? My study traces the art and politics of Native American resistance. I analyze how Native American authors respond to the federal laws that have attempted to constrict their sovereignty. Through a law-and-literature approach, I argue that Native American tribes, by invoking their sovereign rights, necessarily destabilize the order that the laws attempt to legitimize. Native American literary works foreground these conflicts and contradictions. Native American sovereignty has always been a complicated issue. During early contact and treaty negotiations, tribes were treated by European governments, and later the United States federal government, as independent nations. Invoking this historical precedent, Native American tribes have often won rights based on their sovereign status. Such moments of resistance are powerfully illuminated in the literature of Native Americans in the last hundred years. The federal government's negotiations with tribal governments over the limits and definitions of sovereignty can be thought of as a space not only where cultural differences are exposed, but also where resistance can happen. Using Native American federal laws with the discourse of postcolonial theory, I analyze how Native American authors (and the characters they portray) use their unique socio-political position to negotiate their sovereign rights. This is the challenge and the promise of twentieth-century Native American literature.

Subject Area

Law|American literature|Native American studies

Recommended Citation

Miller, Danica Lynn, "The (Post) Colonial State of Indian Country: Native American Literary Responses to Federal Law" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3600034.