Citizens of the World: Writing the Citizen in Contemporary Indigenous Life Writing
Pages 511 - 534
This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.
Indigenous citizenship and the status of the Indigenous citizen in both the United States and Canada are multilayered issues marked by inconsistencies and contradictions and by tensions of affiliation between different polities, most prominently the tribal nation and the settler nation-state. Literary texts by Native American and First Nations authors have consistently addressed such tensions and presented complex narratives of Indigenous belonging, rights, and notions of community, both within and against national frameworks. Most of the work on citizenship in Indigenous literatures done by literary scholars tends to focus either on fiction or political non-fiction, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to Indigenous life writing as a way of not only constructing a story of self but also a story of social engagement that can productively negotiate competing stories of belonging and membership within, across, or even outside nation-states. Indigenous life writing, this contribution sets out to argue, draws on a range of genre conventions as well as culturally available models of selfhood to tell such stories. Analyzing the memoirs of three Indigenous political leaders—Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee), Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Inuit), and Wab Kinew (Anishinaabe)—shows how different narrative conventions—historiography, the activist memoir, the filial narrative—are used by the autobiographers to tell complex stories of agency, affiliation, and relationality that are ultimately directed towards the future of their communities.
Keywords: Indigenous citizen / citizenship; life writing; First Nations and Native American; genre conventions; relationality
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