In the United States, Native peoples must be able to demonstrably look and act like the Natives of U.S. national narrations in order to secure their legal rights and standing as Natives. How they choose to navigate these demands and the implications of their choices for Native social formations are the focus of this powerful critique. Joanne Barker contends that the concepts and assumptions of cultural authenticity within Native communities potentially reproduce the very social inequalities and injustices of racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia, and fundamentalism that define U.S. nationalism and, by extension, Native oppression. She argues that until the hold of these ideologies is genuinely disrupted by Native peoples, the important projects for decolonization and self-determination defining Native movements and cultural revitalization efforts are impossible. These projects fail precisely by reinscribing notions of authenticity that are defined in U.S. nationalism to uphold relations of domination between the United States and Native peoples, as well as within Native social and interpersonal relations. Native Acts is a passionate call for Native peoples to decolonize their own concepts and projects of self-determination.
“Native Acts is a significant work with broad appeal across many fields of study with its interdisciplinary approach to legal issues of the politics of recognition, membership, and tradition. The focus on contested histories, notions of cultural authenticity, and battles over legal legitimacy is accomplished with incisive critical analysis and sophisticated theorization. Joanne Barker provides a much needed investigation into race, gender, and sexual politics as they intersect and inflect indigeneity and governance with regard to questions of belonging and exclusion.”—J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity
“Native Acts is a brave, engaging, and important book. Joanne Barker gracefully and confidently tackles some of the thorniest issues in Indian Country, from the political and moral consequences of claiming Native authenticity to same-sex marriage, disenrollment, Christian conservatism, and conflicts within and between tribal nations. This is one of the most sensitive, lively, and theoretically sophisticated treatments of the critical questions of authenticity, law, and social formation in all of Native American studies.”—Jessica R. Cattelino, author of High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty