Chapter

Finding “Our” History

Mark Rifkin

in When Did Indians Become Straight?

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755455
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894888 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755455.003.0006
Finding “Our” History

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Chapter 5 traces how Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (1993) uses native people as a counterpoint to non-natives’ inability to accept the main character’s form of gender expression. While developing a complex, intersectional account of identity and community and explicitly linking movements for gender and sexual justice to working-class struggles, the novel positions native peoples as a tool for raising the consciousness of non-natives about the presence and need to include gender and sexual minorities, but such “solidarity” only occludes native peoples’ existence as autonomous political entities as well as the specific struggles of Iroquoian groups in the vicinity of the very places where the novel is set (Buffalo and New York City). In contrast to Feinberg’s displacement of ongoing challenges to native sovereignty, the stories by Beth Brant in Mohawk Trail (1985) highlight the histories of displacement and multilayered heteronormative pressures that shape native urban experience. Tracing the history of her family, their ongoing connection to Tyendinaga (the Mohawk reserve from which they came), and her own experience of coming-of-age as a lesbian in Detroit, Brant addresses dynamics of dislocation produced by mid-twentieth-century processes of urbanization and termination elided in Feinberg’s narrative while offering an account of native queerness that firmly links it to the project of sustaining Mohawk peoplehood.

Keywords: Leslie Feinberg; Beth Brant; urbanization; termination; Mohawk; Tyendinaga; solidarity; Union; third gender

Chapter.  20018 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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