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Navigating indigenous identity

Dwanna Lynn Robertson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Using Indigenous epistemology blended with qualitative methodology, I spoke with forty-five Indigenous people about navigating the problematic processes for multiple American Indian identities within different contexts. I examined Indigenous identity as the product of out-group processes (being invisible in spite of the prevalence of overt racism), institutional constraints (being in the unique position where legal identification validates Indian race), and intra-ethnic othering (internalizing overt and institutionalized racism which results in authenticity policing). I find that overt racism becomes invisible when racist social discourse becomes legitimized. Discourse structures society within the interactions between institutions, individuals, and groups. Racist social discourse becomes legitimized through its normalization created within social institutions--like education, media, legislation, and family. Institutions shape social norms to make it seem right to enact racial violence against, and between, Indigenous Peoples, using stereotypes, racist labels, and laws that define "Indian" race by blood quanta. Ultimately, Indigenous Peoples can reproduce or contest the legitimized racism of Western social norms. Therefore, this work explores the dialectical and reciprocal relationship between notions of structure and agency as represented in negotiations of Indigenous identity.^

Subject Area

Social research|Sociology|Native American studies

Recommended Citation

Robertson, Dwanna Lynn, "Navigating indigenous identity" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3603144.