Analogy and Personal Background of The Author Book Annotation

I need a 1 page annotation for this story

So no this is just an annotation for anthropology, just asking to please no plagiarizing also for citation if using any, please use Chicago

just a brief annotation of all the chapters, so whatever you can get from the chapters into a 1 page

University of Washington Press
Chapter Title: Wung-xowidilik Concerning It—What Has Been Told ANTHROPOLOGY
Book Title: We Are Dancing for You
Book Subtitle: Native Feminisms and the Revitalization of Women’s Coming-of-Age
Published by: University of Washington Press
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Ch a P t er 3
Concerning It—What Has Been Told
AnthroPologY AnD sAlvAge
ethnogr APhY
[The revitalization of the Flower Dance] was a big project
because it hadn’t been done in the actual village for eighty
years—the village we are from, Ta’k’imił-ding. It had been done
previously thirty years before, I believe—I don’t know what
village that was. The last documented one was eighty years
prior. So it was a big project to even understand all the parts
and the pieces that were supposed to be a part of this dance.
There was a lot of research that had to be done. And when I
say research, I mean talking to people who had been a part
of those ceremonies and remembered them or had watched
them when they were little. I think that even though the ceremony hadn’t been done for a long time, parts of it had survived
within people who knew songs or had the sticks or maybe did
demonstrations of this for many years. . . . And then also, of
course, you can look to the anthropological texts. But you have
to extract from them and disregard the biases of the anthropologists and their interpretations. That’s a process as well.
—Kayla Rae Begay (Hupa, Yurok, Karuk)
At t he u n i v e r si t Y oF c A liFor n i A , Be r k e le Y, Dr . A lFr e D k roe Be r
is a much lauded part of campus history. Kroeber Hall, built in 1959, sits very
near the center of campus and houses the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Worth Ryder Art Gallery. The Alfred Kroeber papers are housed
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in Bancroft Library on campus, along with the Kroeber family papers, including correspondence with his daughter, renowned writer Ursula K. Le Guin.1
Kroeber is often spoken about as a legendary, larger-than-life anthropologist,
almost like a more dignified and scholarly Indiana Jones. He seemed to fit the
part well, a tall, bearded, refined, yet adventurous professor of anthropology.
Kroeber is often described as leading the way in anthropological study of
Native people, especially those in California. He taught from 1901 to 1946 at
UC Berkeley, where he founded the Anthropology Department and built the
collections for the anthropology museum, which was primarily supported by
philanthropist Phoebe Hearst.
According to many contemporary scholars, Alfred Kroeber was, and in many
ways still is, the single greatest influence on the study of California Indian peoples.2 Kroeber is a complicated figure in California Indian history and ethnography. Tony Platt writes that Kroeber “looms biblically large” and is thought of
in California Indian communities as both a “redeemer” and a “nemesis.”3 Noted
Hupa scholar Jack Norton writes of Kroeber, “The ignorance and arrogance of
most anthropologists have always dismayed Indian people. ‘They lie about us,’
is a commonly held belief by many California Indian people. And, perhaps, the
worst perceived ‘liar’ is A. L. Kroeber, known as the Dean of California Anthropology. . . . While Kroeber can be recognized for his post-contact gathering of
data on California Indian culture, his interpretations of social, economic, and
religious factors need to be reevaluated as ethnocentric, anthropocentric and
in some cases, in regard to the principle of cultural relativity, racist.”4
Kroeber’s work became world renowned, and he was touted as the foremost
expert on California Indian cultures during his long, prosperous career, but it
would take a number of years before his work was criticized for some of the
erroneous assumptions in his observations and conclusions. Julian Steward,
one of Kroeber’s students, describes Kroeber’s work as “marked by his bent for
natural history” and notes that his preferred methodology “presented certain
difficulties because, like all relativistic approaches, it is essentially subjective
and intuitive. Each scholar can devise his own terms and view culture according to his own interests.”5 Like many of his predecessors, Kroeber believed
that after contact with white European settlers, Native peoples and their cultures had become fragmented, and he hoped to find some way to re-create
“pre-contact” Native American cultures and societies.6
Kroeber was classically trained under Franz Boas. While anthropology had
come into existence as a discipline in the nineteenth century, Boas, a Germanborn scholar and the founder of Columbia’s Anthropology Department,
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significantly influenced the direction of anthropological study through his
belief in “cultural relativism.” Boas believed the challenge for an anthropologist was to “succeed in entering into each culture on its own bases.” 7 Boas’s
influence on anthropology would span the entirety of the twentieth century.
His students included Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Melville Herskovits,
Edward Sapir, Paul Radin, and many others who would go on to develop
anthropology departments at other universities. This is the trajectory that
Alfred Kroeber followed as well. Though Boas attempted to entice Kroeber to
stay at Columbia, Kroeber left for California, where he became the chair of the
Anthropology Department at Berkeley.8
Kroeber’s work, in the public imagination, was impeccable. He was the
consummate anthropologist, adhering to objectivity and positivism, which
often see the Western male perspective as the best informed and most trusted
voice in anthropological discourse. Kroeber demonstrated consistent attempts
to discipline Native peoples and their cultures through his scholarship. Kroeber was (at first) intent on proving his early anthropological theories of culture
areas, tribelets, migration, and primitiveness, which he thought could be codified through observation and analysis of California Indian cultures. Kroeber
was not interested in toiling away as a lonely genius in his stuffy office writing articles that nobody would ever read. He had quickly become a leading
anthropologist and one of the best-known intellectuals at UC Berkeley.9 This
meant he was able to raise large amounts of money for the Anthropology
Department and museum and draw crowds to his classrooms, lectures, and
social appearances.
During the early twentieth century, anthropological studies of so-called
primitive, exotic cultures of Native peoples were widely popular and were
embraced by the larger nonacademic society.10 Anthropologist George R.
Stocking Jr. writes that “the academicization of the discipline . . . was in the
later 1920s reinforced by substantial support from major philanthropic
groups.”11 These groups were investing in what was, at the time, a lucrative
discipline. The general public was hungry for anthropological exhibits and
wanted to hear from anthropologists about their adventures among these socalled primitive cultures.12 In 1911, Kroeber brought a living California Indian
Yahi man called Ishi to become a display in the UC Berkeley museum. Ishi
quickly became an international celebrity: “The Last Wild Indian.” Ishi was
not his real name; in fact he refused to tell Kroeber his real name and instead
became known as Ishi, which meant “man” in the Yahi language. Ishi spent the
last five years of his life working with Kroeber. He lived in the Berkeley museum
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and spoke at length about stories, songs, tools, and culture of his tribe. Many of
his recordings are still housed in the museum collections. Ishi was so widely
popular that the San Francisco Call, one of the highest daily circulating papers
in the city, began publishing weekly articles about him.13
Ishi died of tuberculosis on March 25, 1916. As per Ishi’s express wishes,
Kroeber had requested that no autopsy of Ishi’s body be done after his death.
Though Kroeber had made the request that Ishi’s remains be treated with
respect and dignity, he was informed shortly thereafter an autopsy had been
performed in which Ishi’s brain was removed and preserved for scientific
research. Ishi was cremated (without his brain), and his ashes were sent to a
cemetery. Kroeber sent Ishi’s brain to the National Museum. Eventually it ended
up in Washington, where it is kept at the Smithsonian. It would be returned
and reunited with Ishi only in 1999, after the people of the Redding Rancheria
and Pit River Tribe worked tirelessly to bring Ishi home.14
Kroeber had joined a long line of scholars, entertainers, and philanthropists who would put living Indigenous people on display for curious viewers.
This included his esteemed mentor Franz Boas, who in 1897 brought six living
Inuit people to the American Museum of Natural History. They became instant
celebrities: “During their first two days in town, some 30,000 New Yorkers
paid twenty-five cents each to view them.”15 They stayed for eight months.
During that time three of them died of tuberculosis. The youngest was a boy
named Minik, whose father died and left him orphaned. Minik would stay and
live with the museum curator. He visited his father’s grave often. When he was
fifteen, he found out that Franz Boas had authorized the autopsy and study of
his father’s remains and that the body Minik had buried in the grave was not
his father but instead “an imitation corpse from a man-sized log.”16
The curiosity of the public when it came to Indian people was met not only
by the academic pursuit of information about these “living people of the past”
but also by entertainment and artistic pursuits. By this time Indian people in
the Americas had been participating in reenactment of Wild West battles as
part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and some of the first motion pictures
featured scenes of cowboys fighting Indians.17 Many of those doing work in
salvage ethnography were not only participating in a scholarly pursuit but
also responding to the interests of their benefactors and the curious public.
Attracting public interest was important to generate monetary support from
philanthropists and business magnates. The assumed “objective” viewpoint of
anthropologists and ethnographers erases how these many outside influences
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quite possibly affected findings by anthropologists hoping for popular acceptance from the viewing public and further support by donors. Because of the
presumption of objectivity in these studies, the observations and findings by
these popular ethnographers would go on to become cultural truisms adopted
by scholars, government agencies, and organizations as the final word on
Native culture and history.
In California, scholars like Kroeber, linguists Pliny Earle Goddard and
Edward Sapir, and photographer Edward Curtis, among others, worked with
numerous tribes to build a portrait of California Indian society as it existed in
the early 1800s, ostensibly before the genocide and attempted destruction of
California Indian peoples. The numerous texts available on California Indians
are arguably most influenced by Kroeber, who was instrumental in documenting California Indian cultures and languages in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. Kroeber’s Handbook of the Indians of California is still used
today to build expert opinions, theories, and ideas about California Indians.
This chapter engages in a critical historiography of salvage ethnography
in California to intervene in anthropological discourse and demonstrate how
Native peoples negotiate ethnographic refusal (a term popularized by leading
Mohawk scholar Audra Simpson).18 In enacting this methodology of critical
historiography, I aim to (re)write, (re)right, and (re)rite the historical record
to highlight the presence of undeniable, tenable Native feminisms in ethnographic accounts. I draw from Renya Ramirez’s work, where she insists on “a
sustained critique of classic anthropological approaches” and works to “challenge the naturalizing of the Western, masculine gaze by placing Native
peoples’ narratives and analysis in the foreground.”19 Like Ramirez, this chapter turns “the gaze back onto anthropology itself in order to undo the damage
of its colonial past.”20
I am fascinated by how anthropological records, though written and collected by Western male anthropologists with no investment in documenting
women’s ceremonies, feature specific (and sometimes lengthy) descriptions
of women’s coming-of-age ceremonies. I see this as a continued negotiation of
refusal and as demonstrating self-determination. This negotiation of refusal
is an important acknowledgment of the “mode of sovereign authority over
the presentation of ethnographic data,” which Simpson articulates.21 While
the historical record could have silenced women’s ceremonies and epistemologies, Native peoples demonstrated their deftness at negotiating the politics of refusal through their documented stories. To me, this is particularly
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demonstrative of how important women’s coming-of-age ceremonies are to
Native cultures and (in my mind) an effort to leave a documented trail for
future generations of Native people to one day reclaim our women’s ceremonies. It is not that Native consultants wanted recognition from anthropologists and ethnographers in regard to the importance or centrality of women’s
coming-of-age ceremonies but rather, in my view, that they insisted on documenting these ceremonies because they were leaving a record for future Native
peoples to utilize, reclaim, and (re)write, (re)right, and (re)rite. After having
survived brutal attempts to annihilate their culture and ways of life, Native
people must have been conscious of how women’s ceremonies were continuously threatened by settler colonial policies of genocide, assimilation, and
termination. The ethnographic record became one way for them to build an
informed documentation of these ceremonies.
In regard to Northwest California, the adolescence/puberty ceremony
for girls is included in most Native consultants’ stories, starting in 1871 with
the publication of journalist Stephen Powers’s Tribes of California to later
studies completed by anthropologists Thomas Buckley and Les Field. What
I find most illuminating is that no early ethnographic account in California
escapes mention of women’s coming-of-age ceremonies, even though there
would have been a deep-seated prejudice against these ceremonies on the part
of ethnographers and anthropologists at the time. Even with the insistence by
a number of ethnographers that this ceremony was “no longer practiced” or
had been given up by Native peoples, the continued engagement with the
epistemologies of these ceremonies is ever present in the stories and philosophies shared by Native consultants. In fact, in some cases Native consultants
insisted on documenting songs from the Flower Dance, instructing their
listeners that they hope one day these songs would be sung in a ceremony. This
chapter explores how Native peoples reclaim ethnographic accounts, negotiate
ethnographic refusal, and continue to interrogate ethnographic records to (re)
write, (re)right, and (re)rite the feminist foundations of stories and memories
of women’s coming-of-age for future generations.
s A lvAge e t h no gr A Ph Y A n D t h e
n e g o t i At ion oF e t h no gr A Ph ic r e F us A l
Anthropology has had a tremendous effect on modern Indian nations. SaraLarus Tolley argues that Indians battle for their identities through anthropology.22 In many ways, anthropology has mediated the very existence of Native
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people by being used as a primary source to determine federal recognition of
Native nations. Audra Simpson critiques anthropology as having “dealt almost
exclusively with Indigenous peoples in an ahistorical and depoliticized sense,
innocent or dismissive of the strains of colonization and then settler colonialism on their politics, looking instead for a pure culture and pure interlocutors
of that culture.”23 Tolley writes that in regard to the anthropological record,
“it easily comes to equate authentic Indianness with cultural stasis. The result
is that the government looks for static Indians, and the tribes do their best to
present themselves as such, despite, in both instances the obvious contradiction.”24 Anthropological theories and scholarship have also affected land
claims, land ownership, and land stewardship, as Native peoples continue to
be faced with challenges to their sovereignty and land rights.
In 1969 Vine Deloria Jr. wrote a scathing response to anthropology in his
book Custer Died for Your Sins, where he held that “the massive volume of useless knowledge produced by anthropologists attempting to capture real Indians in a network of theories has contributed substantially to the invisibility of
Indian people today.”25 This invisibility not only delegitimizes modern Native
people’s issues in regard to land, treaties, sovereignty, and self-determination
but also delegitimizes their rich, storied, and ancient histories. Designations
like primitive, prehistoric, wilderness, or hunter-gatherer created and maintained a certain image of Native peoples and their societies, which also affected
US policies and even the basic tenets of federal Indian Law.26 The first written
use of the word primitive “in its anthropological sense” was in 1781 during the
American War of Independence. Before this, European scholars had designated theories of cultural development (formulated since the early 1750s) that
included hunting, pastoral, agricultural, and commercial.27 In 1781 Edward
Gibbon wrote that the Native American was firmly in the hunting category
and that the condition of these “savages” was “perhaps the primitive and universal stage of mankind.”28 Thus, the Native American became thoroughly
tied to the primitive, and the designation was adopted as a means to separate
primitive Native peoples from “civilization,” ensconcing Native peoples firmly
in the past. In Red Earth, White Lies, Vine Deloria Jr. notes that the entrenched
belief that “all peoples began as primitives and inevitably moved toward Western forms of organization, which in turn were guaranteed by Western religion
and philosophy,” successfully created scholarship that was “laudatory of Western accomplishments” while “tribal peoples were given a marginal status as
human beings.”29
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Anthropology was also deeply heteropatriarchal, which clouded analysis
of Indigenous cultures, whose complex systems of gender, identity, politics,
and spirituality were often oversimplified, ignored, or actively erased from
the anthropological record. Trinh T. Minh-ha, a feminist scholar, sees anthropology as deeply racialized and gendered: “It seems clear that the favorite
object of anthropological study is not just any man but a specific kind of man:
the Primitive, now elevated to the rank of full yet needy man, the Native.”30
There was a consistent focus on Native men and their experiences in the
anthropological record but very little analysis of how this reflected a particular
perspective of shared stories or memories.
By the time early anthropologists began to gather ethnographic information, many Native communities had confronted genocide and were contending
with continuing policies meant to assimilate or eradicate their peoples.
Women, who were clearly targets of these policies and had been targets of
depraved violence throughout invasion, may have been unwilling to work
with white males and thus practiced “ethnographic refusal.” Men may have
similarly refused to share specifics about women’s lives, ceremonies, and
knowledges in an effort to protect women from further violence and degradation. Simpson explains that her notion of refusal “articulates a mode of sovereign authority over the presentation of ethnographic data, and so does not
present ‘everything.’ This is for the express purpose of protecting the concerns
of the community.”31 Native people understood the many dangers of allowing
outsiders into their communities, especially as they continued to contend with
policies of assimilation like boarding schools and allotment, intended to tear
their communities apart.
In the case of the ethnographic record, however, I am not only exploring
how the politics of refusal may have affected the way this record was built, but
I also want to critically engage with how Native peoples negotiate refusal.
Though there is a clear bias against women’s ceremonies in much of the
anthropological observations, and many anthropologists seemed uncomfortable with writing about or discussing elements of these ceremonies (like menstruation), many anthropologists and ethnographers of the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries who worked with tribes in California include discussions of the importance of women’s coming-of-age to tribal peoples. Some go
so far as to extend the practice of women’s coming-of-age ceremonies to all
Native nations, who they say had some sort of women’s ceremony or women’s
customs that paid special mind to menstrual customs and practices. I see these
moments of documentation as powerful negotiations of ethnographic refusal
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because these ceremonies were becoming less practiced as a result of the continued assault on Native women and their ceremonies. I marvel at this documented record for Northwest California tribes because it would be over sixty
years before the Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk would revisit these documents to
(re)write, (re)right, and (re)rite their women’s coming-of-age ceremonies. This
speaks to an ever-present notion of survivance among Native consultants
working with anthropologists while negotiating refusal and ultimately leaving
a foundation for what would become the reclamation of women’s coming-ofage ceremonies in California.
s A lvAge e t h no gr A Ph Y i n c A l i For n i A
Alfred Kroeber’s Handbook of the Indians of California was published in 1925
and quickly became the primary text used by anthropologists and scholars
to study California Indian peoples. Kroeber’s Handbook was the outcome of
“seventeen years of acquaintance and occupation with the Indians of California.”32 Much of Kroeber’s work was based on oral interviews with “informants”
or personal observation; he does not refer to other written or archived accounts
in this text. Julian Steward, one of Kroeber’s students, notes that “probably no
anthropologist has spent as many years as Kroeber collecting and dealing with
original cultural data or furthering field research programs.”33 Considering the
wealth of information available at the time in terms of government correspondence, diaries, newspapers, and first-person accounts, Kroeber’s decision to
use only the information that was given to him by Indian consultants, or those
activities that he observed, speaks clearly to his preferred methodology.
Kroeber lived most of his life in Berkeley, although he also owned a small
cabin in the heart of Yurok country in Northwest California. He had done his
fieldwork in Yurok country beginning in 1900 and ended up purchasing his
cabin in 1923 near the Yurok settlement of Oreqw (Orick), where he met several
Yurok people who would work with him over the years.34 Tony Platt, in Grave
Matters, provides a thorough and thoughtful account of Kroeber’s relationship
with the Yurok people and concludes that because of this close, personal relationship with several Yurok, “it is not by accident that Kroeber’s thousand-page,
encyclopedic tome, Handbook of the Indians of California, . . . begins with an
account of the Yurok. His survey of the Yurok takes four chapters and is ‘the
most exhaustive of the descriptions within the book.’ ”35 Platt also notes that
Kroeber’s relationships extended beyond interviews and research that he was
doing for academic purposes. Kroeber “kept in touch with his informants and
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some, like Robert Spott, came to Berkeley to collaborate on projects.”36 In addition, “Kroeber went out of his way to try to find local jobs around the Klamath
for his Yurok contacts. . . . In the early 1930s, for example, he explored with
Ruth Roberts, the possibility of getting Yurok hired in canneries and garages,
and in the growing business of recreational fishing.”37 Wailaki and Concow
scholar William Bauer notes that Kroeber’s relationships with his informants
“forged social relationships . . . which sometimes lasted for decades.”38
Kroeber’s constructions of the Native people in California primarily focused
on ceremonies, stories, and cultural life as artifacts rather than as complex
philosophies. Kroeber’s work engaged very little with the deep spiritual and
philosophical ideas that were built into oral histories and instead focused
intently on material culture and physical interactions with the environment.
Thomas Buckley, a noted anthropologist, critiques Kroeber’s view of culture,
which “made no reference to individuality, experience, or intra-cultural variation” and instead treated Indian people as “tokens of a timeless, ahistorical
cultural type.”39 This is another way in which Kroeber’s affinity for a natural
historical approach essentialized Native peoples and cultures and portrayed
them as without history, education, or even emotion, thus reducing a complex
society to a primitive culture and people, or what Tony Platt calls “a century of
public information” that “is one of dehumanization and inferiority, swaddled
in romanticism.”40
Kroeber’s work in California would be particularly misrepresentative
because of his disengagement from the genocide of California Indian peoples.
Buckley describes Kroeber’s California Indians as “perennial, not postholocaust,” and notes that Kroeber’s work objectifies Native people by negating
their history and writing about their cultures and societies with “cold, scientific distance and disinterest.” 41 Kroeber’s influence over anthropological discourse in California would be undeniable. His “hands-off tone” would make
it easier to frame the “[California Indian] near extermination in the imagery
of natural history subject to inevitable processes of erosion and decline” rather
than as a genocide.42 These observations would become part of the cultural
lexicon and would build a history that continues to affect Native people to this
day. Karuk scholar Julian Lang writes that “while Kroeber collected myths,
material artifacts, and ethnographies, he never introduced us to the living
people, focusing instead on the past.”43 Thomas Buckley, most tellingly, notes
that when Kroeber was asked why he “had not attended to recent Yurok history
and acculturation, Kroeber replied that he ‘could not stand all the tears’ that
these topics elicited from his Yurok informants.” 44
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Kroeber’s personal beliefs are reflected in his observations and classifications, though he claimed to aim for objectivity in his work. In particular, his
close working relationship with the Yurok inspired his belief that the Yurok were
“superior” to the other tribes in California.45 Whether to establish the superiority of the Yurok or because he could more easily find ways that the Yurok
culture fit his own ideas of “civilization,” Kroeber argued that there was a
hierarchical organization to California Indian cultures, and in Northwest California the Yurok were the most advanced in terms of material culture, monetary systems, and an “elaborate and precise code of law.”46 Kroeber’s approach
to establishing the superiority of one Native culture over another included his
designation of women’s coming-of-age and menstruation ceremonies as “a
mark of inferior cultural development.”47 Kroeber wholeheartedly believed
that tribes who practiced public celebrations of women’s first menstruation
were less advanced. He further believed that tribes who continued to practice
public puberty rites well into the contemporary period would never be able to
reach the same level of civilization as tribes who had “never” had public puberty
rites or who had given them up altogether. Buckley notes that Kroeber’s “selection of female puberty rituals as diagnostic of limited cultural achievement”
was “reflective of historically and culturally specific limitations.”48
Kroeber felt particular discomfort in writing about women’s ceremonies
and women’s cultural practices. His scholarship is deeply ingrained with a
Western patriarchal belief that menstruation is dirty and polluting. This meant
that Kroeber was particularly critical of women’s coming-of-age ceremonies
and practices associated with women, menstruation, and power. While rarely
mentioning or engaging with California Indian menstrual practices, Kroeber
also actively avoided the words menstruation, period, or even menarche, preferring instead to refer to menstruation as a “periodic illness” or “physiological
function.”49 Hupa scholar Jack Norton argues that Kroeber’s training and cultural background did not allow him to recognize the structures of spirituality,
culture, politics, and education that sustained the complex society of Native
people and instead caused him to treat Native people, their culture, and their
traditions as primitive.50 This included an active erasure of women’s experiences, the roles of women in the culture and society, and also the epistemologies central to women in Native culture.
Because Kroeber was working with a postgenocide population of Native
people, the availability and openness of consultants was skewed toward “older,
male leaders.” Tony Platt notes that “nowhere does [Kroeber] explore the extent
to which his subjects’ recollections were mediated by their age.”51 Nor does
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Kroeber reflect that his information was primarily collected from men, who for
any number of cultural or societal reasons may not have felt comfortable, compelled, or even informed enough to share specifically about women’s cultural
practices or the role of women in California Indian cultures and societies.
Kroeber’s relationship with Native people would continue to be complex
as he grew older and became much more involved with the politics of recognition and California land issues. In 1946, Alfred Kroeber testified in the California Indian Land Claims on behalf of California Indians who were bringing
a suit against the United States for “taking land without just compensation,
specifically the lands and compensation lost because the United States Senate
shelved, rather than ratified, the eighteen treaties made with California
tribes.”52 Kroeber testified on behalf of the Indian plaintiffs to “demonstrate
the fact of aboriginal ownership, exclusive use, and occupancy of lands lying
within tribal boundaries.”53 He argued for the tribes in this case as he believed
that “ecologically based understanding of land use” supported “ownership” of
that area.54 During the case Kroeber was sometimes at odds with his own
students, who were testifying for the US government and utilizing his methods
and scholarship to support their claims in court. In the end, California Indians
were awarded approximately forty-seven cents per acre when funds were actually distributed.55 This, wrote Kroeber’s wife, Theodora, was “just the sort of
expensive but meaningless denouement that Kroeber had most feared.”56
It is perhaps Theodora Kroeber who reflects best on Kroeber’s complex
relationship with his work and subject matter, and also on the personal conflict
and balance he had to maintain between the population he chose to study and
the academic discipline he helped create. Theodora Kroeber, in writing her
personal configuration of Alfred Kroeber, notes:
Kroeber believed ultimate answers or causes were rarely come by, and was
not disconcerted when he failed to discover them. . . . Kroeber wrote no textbook. . . . He had strong feelings about textbooks: he considered them the
prop of the routine and not-too-interested teacher; and a straitjacket for
their author, forever fixing and confining his formulations and scope. He
never taught the Indians of California course after the Handbook was completed except for an occasional lecture, although it was his own course and
had been a favorite one. He no longer had the freedom to range, to change
directions. . . . For this reason he never wrote the Culture Growth course
into a book—it was his favorite teaching course and he wanted to keep it
free-flowing and alive.57
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Alfred Kroeber worked with several other scholars who would publish foundational texts on California Indian peoples. Stephen Powers began working in
California Indian communities in 1871. He was primarily a journalist who published most of his work in the Overland Monthly and The Atlantic for several
years after studying California Indians in 1871 and 1872.58 He then collected his
articles to be published as a report for the U.S. Geographical and Geological
Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region in 1877. Powers’s book, Tribes of California,
was compiled by Robert Heizer and published in 1976, long after Powers’s
death. Though Powers was not considered a leading scholar in the field of
anthropology, he would have a continued influence on studies and publications on California Indian life and culture. Alfred Kroeber referred to Powers
as “my one predecessor in this field” and wrote that Powers’s work “with all
its flimsy texture and slovenly edges, [will] always remain the best introduction to the subject.”59 Powers’s work has been criticized because, like Kroeber,
he did not discuss the current lives of Native people or their experience of the
attempted genocide from just a few years before. Powers instead focused on
an idealized version of the people that did not reflect the “shattering experience of contact.”60 Hupa scholar Jack Norton writes that despite Powers’s
“obvious dedication and talent, his lack of academic training caused his work
to be regarded by most scholars as sentimental and melodramatic.”61
Pliny Earle Goddard, a missionary and linguist, and Edward Sapir, also
a linguist, were both colleagues of Kroeber’s at Berkeley. Goddard had previously served as a missionary in the Hoopa Valley, where he “learned enough
Hupa to preach.”62 It was because of this interest in the Hupa language that he
returned to graduate school to complete a doctoral dissertation on the grammar of the Hupa. Goddard’s work was linguistically focused, and he gathered
numerous creation stories, prayers, and formulas from the Hupa people he
worked with. Jack Norton notes that “Goddard’s writings contain their share
of inaccuracies which have led, in some cases, to erroneous conclusions” but
that he “more than most anthropologists, recognized that within the total
lifestyle of the Northern California Indians, religion was a dominant force.”63
Goddard and Kroeber would eventually disagree on the direction the Anthropology Department should take in studying California Indian peoples. Goddard wanted a department focused more on linguistics and had little interest
in ethnographic fieldwork. He would ultimately leave the department to work
with Franz Boas at the Museum of Natural History in New York.64
Edward Sapir was never officially employed at UC Berkeley, but he was called
in on occasion to work with Kroeber, who respected his talents in linguistic
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research. Sapir is credited with the creation of twentieth-century American
linguistics (along with Leonard Bloomfield).65 He devoted much of his work to
studying American Indian languages, and his research focused closely on California. Sapir spent eighteen months researching in California and Oregon, and
after he left in 1908 he only returned twice, once in 1915 to work with Kroeber
on documenting the Yana language and once in 1927 to work with a student
on documenting the Hupa language.66 After his work in the Hoopa Valley,
Sapir wrote to Alfred Kroeber to recommend that he “get in closer and closer
contact with the Hupa Indians and take a good look at their religion,” because
he would see that it was “a most exciting and rewarding task.” Sapir did not
publish extensively. Linguist Victor Golla writes that “his primary motive
seems to have been to provide others—primarily Kroeber—with a detailed
phonetic record, and to make suggestions for future investigation.”67
Ethnographic exploration and documentation declined in the early 1930s
during the Depression and World War II. Kroeber retired in 1946 and was succeeded by Robert F. Heizer, a graduate of Berkeley’s Anthropology Department
who specialized in Northwest California Indian tribes. Heizer assembled writings from various scholars on California Indian peoples, including Stephen
Powers’s Tribes of California and an edited collection called The California
Indians: A Sourcebook, which included essays by Kroeber, among others.
According to Golla, Heizer “understood, long before the rest of his twentiethcentury colleagues that the ethnography of California Indians had become a
historical discipline. . . . [H]e devoted a significant part of his intellectual
energy to locating and publishing neglected gems of the nineteenth and earlytwentieth century documentation of California languages and cultures.”68 In
1978 Heizer worked with editor William C. Sturtevant on the Handbook of
North American Indians, a twenty-volume series that was “planned to give an
encyclopedic summary of what is known about the prehistory, history, and
cultures of the aboriginal peoples of North America.”69 Heizer was the editor
for volume 8 of the series, which is dedicated to California and furthered what
Kroeber had explored in his Handbook because, as Heizer wrote, “Kroeber’s
monumental work is a most authoritative treatment of California Indians in
one volume, although it is obviously ‘dated.’ ”70
Several modern studies of California Indian peoples and cultures have
been published over the past few decades, some an outgrowth of Kroeber’s
scholarship and theories, and others that challenge his findings or critically
redress some of his more controversial statements. Thomas Buckley became
a vocal critic of Kroeber’s work, utilizing his own scholarship to complicate
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analyses of California Indian cultures and spiritualities. His texts Standing
Ground: Yurok Indian Spirituality, 1850–1990 and Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation, as well as articles like “Kroeber’s Theory of Culture Areas
and the Ethnology of Northwestern California” and “Suffering in the Cultural
Construction of Others: Robert Spott and A. L. Kroeber,” provide a critical
lens by which to view Kroeber’s work while foregrounding Indigenous epistemologies. Buckley’s work also has a clear focus on the power of menstruation, and he provides a foundation for exploring how menstrual customs and
women’s coming-of-age ceremonies shaped anthropological discourse in
California and beyond.
D o c u m e n t i ng Wom e n ’s c om i ng – oF-Age c e r e mon i e s
According to cultural historian Harold Driver, rituals for menstruation and
coming-of-age are nearly universal for North American tribes. However,
Driver also notes that the public celebration of women’s coming-of-age is
restricted to three areas: the Hopis; the Takic Uto-Aztecans of Southern California, and most groups of Northern California and southern Oregon.71 Driver
notes that in California puberty ceremonies were integral parts of Athabascan
cultures, and the puberty rites of Southern California cultures were fairly
distinct from Athabascan cultures of California and the Southwest. Driver
believes that group puberty rites were more common than individual rites in
Southern California, and he speculates that the individual focused rites of
women’s coming-of-age ceremonies originated on the Northwest Coast and
spread to California and the Southwest. Driver’s goal in studying the prevalence of puberty ceremonies was to demonstrate how similarities and differences among various tribes can help establish a timeline of migration and
cultural exchange among tribal peoples in the Americas. Driver was not the
first scholar to utilize the puberty ceremony in this way. Alfred Kroeber
believed that this ceremony was the oldest of the Northern California region.
Driver concluded that the women’s puberty ceremonies “must indeed be
extremely ancient” because of their shared characteristics among various
tribes throughout the Americas.72 Driver also argued that “public recognition
of girls’ puberty was a relatively late development and one which originated
among tribes of the North Pacific Coast.” Driver concluded that “tribes of that
region placed relatively great emphasis on publicization of individual crises
or changes of status,” which meant “that the public girls’ puberty ritual originated there and then spread southward.”73
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The problem with attempts to codify ceremonial practices in this way is
that often anthropologists and scholars are constrained by the tenets of the
Bering Strait land bridge theory, which posits that Native peoples are immigrants to the Americas and that the Athabascan language groups are descendants of recent migrations dating back 1,500 years and stemming from groups
in northern Canada and Alaska. The Bering Strait theory was most famously
interrogated by Vine Deloria Jr. in 1995, when he wrote Red Earth, White Lies,
and the interrogation continues today as new evidence found by scientists
leads scholars to question the validity of assumptions by those still attempting
to justify the Bering Strait theory.74
Kroeber, Driver, and others were attempting to support the theorized
migration of Native people over the Bering Strait land bridge through their
interpretations of puberty ceremonies and their shared traits. Kroeber believed
that cultural elements gather in various territories and can demonstrate timelines of when these elements were adopted as part of cultural practices. He
made several efforts to quantify and describe these element distributions to
show how elements that were widespread in certain regions must be the oldest
ones of that region and elements that were individualized to particular tribal
groups must be newer to the area. Kroeber theorized that puberty ceremonies
throughout the Western Hemisphere were given the most emphasis by groups
that were stationary and immobile, conservative in their cultural borrowings
and exchanges. These ceremonies were “attenuated or absent in those areas
where the post-Archaic cultural continuity had apparently been disrupted by
migrations or other strong outside influences.”75 This theorizing of Native cultural elements and migration patterns did not, however, fit well with the Athabascan peoples in the western United States, who practiced very rich and
complex women’s coming-of-age ceremonies. Because the Athabascan groups
are considered by Western scientists to be “fairly new” arrivals to the Americas, the theory posits that they should have less focus on girls’ coming-of-age
rather than positioning these ceremonies as a central part of their culture
and cosmologies. Linguist Victor Golla writes, “If Kroeber is correct, it must
be assumed that the Pacific Coast Athabascans and their Apachean kin both
borrowed the ceremony from other groups at a fairly late time, either during or
after their migrations south. Nevertheless, extensive borrowing of a conservative trait that seems otherwise to atrophy in situations of cultural fluidity,
is puzzling.” 76 Even more “puzzling” is that it is not just one group of Athabascan peoples that centralizes women’s coming-of-age and puberty to its
culture and cosmologies, as this includes the Hupa, Navajo, Western Apache,
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Mescalero, and Chiricahua, as well as “most all of the Athabascan cultures of
California and the Southwest,” who have very well developed and central
puberty and coming-of-age ceremonies.77
Driver offers a counterpoint by delineating two types of coming-of-age
ceremonies present in the western United States. The first type is found in
Central and Southern California, which he distinguishes because of the practice of “group” ceremonies for girls, where, in his view, women’s ceremonies
shared many common traits with men’s coming-of-age ceremonies in the
same region. Driver distinguishes a second type of ceremony which is found
principally on the Northwest Coast, western Oregon, Northern California,
and the Southwest. These coming-of-age practices are distinguished from the
Central and Southern California practices because they tend to focus on performance of the ceremony for an individual girl. Driver calls these ceremonies
a “true menarche rite” and notes that they have few traits in common with
any male-focused coming-of-age ceremonies in these tribal groups.78 Driver
believes that the girls’ puberty ceremony originated on the Northwest Coast
and was adopted by the Pacific Coast Athabascans and the Apacheans before
they migrated to the Southwest. These subsequent Athabascan migrations to
Southern California and the Southwest, which Driver puts at around 1,200–
1,600 years ago, spread the puberty rites to these areas and to non-Athabascan
groups.79 Golla calls Driver’s conclusions “inconsistent with the linguistic and
archaeological facts.”80
Golla, who did extensive work with the Hupa, has offered his own interpretation of how and why women’s coming-of-age ceremonies vary across
cultures, especially in California. Golla focuses on the instruments used in the
ceremony, in particular the use of a “dance staff,” which he says is “missing”
from the Athabascan ceremony of Northwest California: “For the Atsugewi,
Maidu, Washo, and Wintu, there is specific mention of the girl using it as a
cane to lean on during the ceremony. Among the Maidu, Washo, and the Honey
Lake Paiute, the girl left the dance with the staff, chased by one or more young
men who tried to capture it from her. The Washo and Wintu explicitly regarded
the dance-staff as a talisman, and after the ceremony it was carefully hidden
in the woods.”81
Golla hypothesizes that because Athabascan groups do not use a staff in
their ceremony, they could not have migrated to the area with the ceremony,
nor originated the ceremony, but instead must have come into contact “with
groups for whom this ceremony was the central ritual event” and “borrowed
the essence of it.” Golla does note that several staff-like elements are used in
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the Athabascan ceremonies, including a “dance rattle” stick for keeping time
while singing and a staff-like stick that is used by the men in the ceremony,
though he labels this a “much less symbolically potent stick rattle.”82
The findings of these Western theorists rest on their understanding of
shared or differing aspects of the women’s coming-of-age ceremonies across
tribal cultures. The cosmologies and epistemologies of the tribal people who
not only hold this dance very sacred but also see it as part of their essential
rituals to balance and build their futures are never considered. Golla acknowledges in his work that after reading through and studying the many facets and
recollections of the Flower Dance, he has concluded that the ceremony is very
old and very complex. He writes that “Athabascan-speaking immigrants very
quickly adopted an old and complex trait, the girls’ puberty dance, and incorporated it so seamlessly into their virtual life that it is difficult to believe it was
not always theirs.”83
The idea that ceremonies foundational to a group’s culture and spirituality
can also adapt over time is never engaged by anthropological scholars. However, the creation stories and epistemological framework of these ceremonial
practices shed further light on how Native peoples understand a history much
longer and more complex than theorized “migration” and “conservative cultural borrowing.” Take, for instance, the origin stories offered by two Hupa
elders to Pliny Earle Goddard, specifically concerning the Jump Dance and the
Flower Dance. The Jump Dance story was told in November 1901 by McCann.
Goddard writes, “The narrator called it one of his choicest stories, but said
nothing of its ceremonial use.”84 The story follows an Indian from Ta’k’imiłding who became a K’ixinay. He “went over the world looking at dances” and
“went around the world” until he saw a dance he liked because “they danced
ten places near together.”85 He brings this back to the Hupa people. Here we
see an example of a story about the K’ixinay learning and utilizing dance elements inspired by other peoples and cultures. This could mean that the Hupa
see no fault in this type of cultural adaptation, but it also demonstrates that
within these stories there are clear ideas of cultural sharing that are not mysterious or hidden; instead they are talked about openly. The Flower Dance story
does not mention any type of cultural sharing or adaptation from other cultures
but instead firmly roots the creation of the Flower Dance among the Hupa. The
dance originates with the K’ixinay people, who come to Yima:ntiwinyay and
his daughter when he begins to sing and dance over her because she has become
a woman. The dance is then brought into the K’ixinay world above, along with
the first Kinahłdung.86 Theorizations of migrations and cultural borrowing are
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not part of the creation of this dance; instead, the Hupa stories speak of the
Flower Dance as originating among the Hupa First People.
What is missing from these theories is critical engagement with the source
material. Many of these theories are based on written documentation of ceremonial practices by Kroeber and his fellow linguists and ethnographers. This
takes for granted that the conclusions drawn by these ethnographers are
correct, rather than providing a critical analysis of the ways their assumptions are informed by their own cultural biases. Kroeber wrote that these
women’s ceremonies were part of the “generic or basic stratum of native culture,” yet he also insisted that “it has decayed among those nations that succeeded in definitely evolving or establishing ceremonials whose associations
are less intimately personal and of a more broadly dignified import.”87 Kroeber’s unwillingness to discuss how this observation could reflect Native
peoples’ postgenocide status undermines his findings. Upon further review
and study, it is clear that even in cultures where Kroeber was not privy to
detailed information about women’s coming-of-age or women’s customs,
within the stories of these many tribes can be found obvious nods to the importance of women to Native cultures and societies.
Kroeber would go so far as to erase the practice of women’s coming-of-age
ceremonies from one tribe in particular, the Yurok of Northwest California.
Kroeber wrote that there was no nightly dance for young women at their first
menstruation among the Yurok, as there was among the Hupa. Instead, a
young girl would “[sit] silent in her home for 10 days with her back turned to
the central fire pit” and follow a number of prescribed actions. Kroeber insisted
that the Yurok’s lack of a nightly ceremony demonstrated that “the Hupa stand
one slight grade lower than the Yurok in the scale of civilization by one test
that holds through most of California: the attention bestowed on the recurring
physiological functions of women.”88 However, Kroeber’s field notes contradict
his claim that the Yurok had no coming-of-age ceremony, or even that they
paid little attention to “recurring physiological functions of women.” One of
Kroeber’s Native consultants was Susie of Weitchpec, a Yurok woman who
spoke at length with Kroeber about women and coming-of-age.89 In these notes
Susie outlines not only the many things a newly menstruating young woman
would do, including running, bathing, and fasting, but also how there were
prayer formulas and medicine designed specifically for women to harness the
power that came with menstruation. In Susie’s description of this ritualistic
ceremony for a young woman at her first menstruation, she describes the many
young children who would run behind the young woman and the women who
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would come to help the young girl and to bring sticks, which shows community
involvement in these ceremonial practices.90 Susie mentions briefly that there
is no Flower Dance on “this river,” although it is unclear if she means there has
never been such a custom or that there had not been one in quite some time
when Kroeber was speaking with her.91 She does elaborate slightly that there
are Flower Dances in Hupa, in Crescent City (north of the Yurok), in Karuk
country (north of the Hupa), and maybe at Requa (which is a Yurok village).92
In addition, Susie shares with Kroeber some of her Flower Dance songs,
which he translates. Susie tells him that these songs are for luck.93 As Susie of
Weitchpec claims, there may have been a Flower Dance at the Yurok village
of Requa, and Kroeber’s refusal to engage with why there may or may not
have been a Flower Dance along the river during Susie’s time, or at the time
they were working together, reflects a refusal to engage with how the culture
and spirituality adapted to the changing world where these women’s ceremonies were particularly targeted for eradication.
Kroeber’s theories that the Yurok somehow pay little or less attention to
menstruation or young women as they come of age erases the power of their
ceremonial practices, regardless of whether they mirror the nightly dancing
that happens among other tribes. The Yurok also valued menstruation as a
powerful and spiritual time.94 And they had a number of important ceremonial
and spiritual elements that they practiced to demonstrate this. In her 2013
article “She Bathes in a Sacred Place: Rites of Reciprocity, Power, and Prestige
in Alta California,” Mary Virginia Rojas explores another element of women’s
coming-of-age ceremonies on the Northwest Coast. Like Golla, she focuses
on a particular element of the ceremony, namely the ceremonial scratching
stick that could be made of antler or abalone. Rather than try to make a crosscultural analysis and attempt to argue which tribe was the first to utilize this
kind of scratching implement, Rojas focuses on why this scratching stick is
important to the spiritual practice of Yurok women. She argues that the scratching stick “may be seen as a tool that moves energy, a technology that makes the
intangible concrete.”95 They are important for empowering women as well as
being “the source of autonomous religious activity for Yurok women, illuminating a different way of thinking and a different way of being in the sacred.”96
Here Rojas introduces an analysis that engages with Indigenous epistemologies. A cross-cultural analysis would show that there are many tribes
throughout California in which women use scratching implements during
their coming-of-age ceremonies and also as part of their menstrual practices.
Determining which tribe used these first negates how each tribe builds its
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epistemologies and methodologies based on a deep and personal knowledge
of not only spirituality but also the psychosocial and physical well-being of
their people and the environment.
Another example of contemporary anthropological discourse that engages
with spirituality and Native perspectives is Abalone Tales: Collaborative Explorations of Sovereignty and Identity in Native California by Les W. Field, a professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Field interviewed Native
people to provide space for them to speak at length in their own words through
transcriptions and even artwork: “My intention is to show how collaborative
ethnography paves the way for anthropologists to pursue different kinds of
methods with respect to different sorts of questions and to validate these different methods’ capacity to produce knowledge.”97 Field demonstrates what
has become a contemporary effort in ethnography to foreground Native
peoples as collaborators: “While the anthropologist may initiate research with
her or his own questions, as I did, ultimately the research process must focus
on those issues of importance within the Native Community and give voice to
multiple perspectives from that community.”98 Field also includes a section
specifically about the “revivification” of the Flower Dance, speaking to Callie
Lara and Hupa medicine man Merv George Sr. In Field’s analysis of the women’s coming-of-age ceremony, he takes to heart the lessons passed on to him
by his Native collaborators. “Merv,” he writes, “talked about how many of the
old people wanted to criticize but not to help get the dance started again. So
Merv and his daughter researched and learned; they also made up new songs.
This went to the heart, he observed, of how he understands and organizes the
rituals—there are rules, to be sure, but there is also a wide range of possible
creativity and innovation. Composing and singing new songs brings the dances
to life, brings them into the present.”99
Native peoples have remained conscious of bringing their ceremonial
practices and epistemologies into the present, knowing how important this
is to sovereignty and self-determination. For example, the preamble to the
Yurok Constitution (adopted in 1993) very clearly states that they have always
and will always come together to perform ceremonies, including the Flower
Dance, which “have always drawn hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of
Yuroks and members of neighboring tribes together for renewal, healing and
prayer.”100 This participates in (re)writing, (re)righting, and (re)riteing of
assertions like Kroeber’s that this dance was not part of Yurok culture. The
section of the preamble concerning the assertion of their women’s coming-ofage ceremonial practices reads as follows:
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Our people have always carried on extensive trade and social relations
throughout our territory and beyond. Our commerce includes a monetary
system based on the use of dentalium shells, Terkw-term and other items
as currency. The Klamath River was and remains our highway, and we
from time beginning utilized the river and the ocean in dugout canoes,
Althwayoch, carved from the redwood by Yurok craftsmen, masterpieces
of efficiency and ingenuity and have always been sold or traded to others
outside the tribe. Our people come together from many village[s] to perform ceremonial construction of our fish dams, Lohgen. Our traditional
ceremonies—the Deerskin Dance, Doctor Dance, Jump Dance, Brush
Dance, Kick Dance, Flower Dance and others—have always drawn hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Yuroks and members of neighboring
tribes together for renewal, healing, and prayer. We also have always traveled to the North and East to the high mountains on our traditional trails to
worship the Creator at our sacred sites—Doctor Rock, Chimney Rock, Thklamah (the stepping stones for ascent into the sky world), and many others.
D o c u m e n t i ng t h e h u PA Wom e n ’s c om i ng – oF-Age c e r e mon Y
While Kroeber actively attempted to erase the centrality of this ceremony from
certain tribes (like the Yurok), other scholars attempted to document the
detailed instructions for performing this ceremony. Edward Sapir offers a particularly lengthy description and analysis of the women’s coming-of-age ceremony in his collected writings. Sapir worked mostly with six Hupa speakers,
including Sam Brown, Emma Frank, John Shoemaker, Mary Marshall, Jake
Hostler, and Oscar Brown.101 Linguists Victor Golla and Sean O’Neill provide
biographies for each Hupa consultant in their edited edition of The Collected
Works of Edward Sapir (vol. 14, 27–28). The narrated text that Sapir transcribes
provides detailed instructions for performing the ceremony. The translated
text is nine pages long, one of the longest featured in Sapir’s work.102 The story
was narrated by a Hupa man, Sam Brown, during the summer of 1927. Sam
Brown was “chief consultant and interpreter” for Sapir and is described as
“unusually knowledgeable and articulate.”103 Sam Brown was Sapir’s source
for thirty-nine texts. He had earlier worked as an interpreter for Pliny Earle
Goddard and would continue to work with anthropologists after his time with
Sapir.104 Golla and O’Neill describe him as such: “A [bachelor], he often wore
a (woman’s) basket cap and excelled in such traditional female occupations as
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basket weaving, acorn processing, and cooking. By middle age, when Sapir
knew him, he had become one of the chief authorities on World Renewal
matters, as well as for a number of other rituals. Although his father was
White, his mother came from a branch of the family that owned the [xontahnikya:w ] in [Ta’k’imił-ding]. He died in 1959 at the age of 80.”105
Brown’s narration of the Flower Dance (Text 10 in Sapir’s volume) includes
detailed instructions for performing the ceremony. Brown’s narrative includes
specific Hupa terms for when a girl menstruates for the first time (kina’k’iłday)
and when the newly menstruating girl is part of the Flower Dance ceremony
(kinahłdung). In their work, Powers and Heizer had suggested that the puberty
ceremony was mainly done for girls from “wealthy” families. However, the
translation of Brown’s account affirms, “Whenever someone menstruates for
the first time, everyone says, ‘They will have the Flower Dance for her.’ ”106
This demonstrates that the dance was a part of every young girl’s life and was
important to the entire community, not just those who were from wealthy
families. Brown provides additional information on a lot of important aspects
of the ceremony, like the name of the “tim” bathing spots, which are the ritual
bathing spots for menstruating women.
Brown dedicates a second text, “The Origin of the Flower Dance,” to the
Flower Dance ceremony, which differs from a creation story of the Flower
Dance offered by Robinson Shoemaker, who was a consultant for Goddard in
1901.107 Brown relays that he learned this story from Lily Hostler, whose
mother was from Redwood Creek country, and Golla suggests that “this may
be the Redwood Creek version of the story.”108 In this version of the Flower
Dance origin story, a K’ixinay man and woman come into existence, and they
have two girls. Their father marries a new woman “in a blue dress.”109 The
father begins to ignore the first wife and “stopped eating (what his first wife)
cooked.” He then beats up his first wife. The girls’ mother (the first wife) tells
the girls they are leaving and “going back home!” They walk until evening,
when they stop at a house and find an old man “with a pot-belly” who invites
them in. He cooks them acorn mush and brings them venison and salmon. The
girls’ mother tells her story, and in the morning they leave. As they are leaving,
the old man says, “I wish that girl would become a kinahłdung.”110 They get
to Orleans (a place in Karuk country), and the older girl realizes that they are
kinahłdung, so she starts singing a song. (While she declares that both she
and her sister are kinahłdung, Golla later clarifies that only this first girl was
actually menstruating for the first time at this point.) Silver-Gray Fox, Hummingbird, and Frog Woman, as well as others, come to begin a Flower Dance.
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The old man also comes to the dance, but now he is a young man, and one of
the girls declares that she is going to marry him. The other girl is taken to the
K’ixinay world, and she becomes the perpetual kinahłdung. In contrast to Goddard’s text, it is two girls that are responsible for the creation of the first Flower
Dance. As these two young women come of age and have their first menstruation, it is immediately celebrated, even though they are in the midst of escaping
their father. This is how important the ceremony is to a young woman’s development, but it is also a clear demonstration of how this power could perhaps
help these young women as they start new lives without their abusive father.
The fact that this is an origin story of the Flower Dance means that it will be
repeated generation to generation and probably told to each young woman as
she comes of age in her community.
Like Sapir, Goddard also offers a translated origin story of the kinahłdung
dance (Flower Dance or puberty ceremony). The story was told in Hupa in
June 1901 by Robinson Shoemaker. Goddard describes Robinson Shoemaker
as “a man about 30 years of age. His father and mother, both quite old, are
unusually well supplied with myths and formulas.”111 Shoemaker was the consultant who would provide Goddard with the origin of the women’s comingof-age ceremony in June 1901.
In this story the ceremony is created by a K’ixinay person to mark the awakening of his daughter. Thus, this dance is directly tied to the K’ixinay people
and implies that when a girl is doing the dance, she is directly tied to the
K’ixinay, effectively representing or becoming a K’ixinay’s daughter. It shows
the power that youth have, as the young women must take a central role in
“calling” the dance to them. For the Hupa, the power of kinahłdung in this
situation must be celebrated and acknowledged as a means of helping them
understand their new roles in society.
Stephen Powers also offers a personal recollection of a Hupa Flower Dance
ceremony in his book. He does not do this for any other ceremony from the
tribe. This highlights the importance of this dance, as Powers was specifically
told a story or experienced the ceremony while in the Hoopa Valley (this is not
made clear in his text). In the story a young girl, whom Powers identifies as
Nish-Fang, desperately tries to return to the valley to perform her puberty
ceremony “in order that she might be duly ushered into the sisterhood of
women by the time-honored and consecrating ritual of the puberty dance.”112
While Nish-Fang’s story includes a reference to her first menstruation, Powers
simply refers to it as “that mysterious and momentous occurrence . . . which
announced her arrival to the estate of womanhood.”113 Because Nish-Fang is
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living with a white family on the Mad River, once she has her first menstruation she immediately makes plans to return to the Hoopa Valley so that she
can have a Flower Dance. Nish-Fang goes through a lot to have a Flower Dance,
including a long journey to the valley from the coast while fasting and having
to avoid the gaze of the white onlookers she comes into contact with because,
as Powers writes, “though these were the hereditary enemies of her race and
she might have destroyed them by a single glance, she lifted not her hands
from her face.”114 It is interesting how Powers documents the perceived power
of Nish-Fang during her first menstruation. His reflection, however, that she
could have “destroyed” onlookers is misleading, as it focuses on Nish-Fang’s
power as somehow being about the power to destroy and ignores the luck or
blessings that Nish-Fang’s menstruation would have brought to people around
her. There is no way to know if this reflects what Powers learned from NishFang or other Hupa people, or if this reveals Powers’s own assumptions based
on his cultural and social background. It is clear, however, from Hupa cultural
epistemologies that part of what comes from these women’s coming-of-age
ceremonies is the ability to harness, understand, and properly access the
power that comes from menstruation and coming-of-age. This is why NishFang works so tirelessly to avoid the gaze of others: she has not yet learned
how to best approach the power she has during this time.
Nish-Fang travels for many miles, avoiding the gaze of onlookers, until
finally she collapses, and her traveling companions carry her the rest of the
way into the valley. There she has a dance performed over her. “Then,” Powers
writes, “the chief lifted her by the hand, and the maiden Nish-Fang became a
woman of her tribe.”115 Powers does not relay whether this story was told to
him, if he witnessed the dance himself, or exactly who Nish-Fang was. Interestingly, however, he does provide a sketch of a young girl he identifies as NishFang.116 Nish-Fang has shoulder-length hair and is drawn wearing a ceremonial
dress and long dentalium strand necklaces. There is much that can be inferred
about Nish-Fang from this picture. As Powers’s visit was in the mid to late
1800s, very close to the genocidal policies, massacres, and violence perpetrated against Native peoples, Nish Fang’s shoulder-length hair is quite telling.
Traditional Hupa girls and women wore their hair long and parted in the
middle. Hupa people usually cut their hair in times of mourning, and hair that
was growing back (shoulder length, like Nish-Fang’s) could represent that she
was coming from a time of loss and mourning. It could also have been a function of her living with a white family, as noted by Powers, among non-Natives
in a small town many miles from the Hoopa Valley. In Powers’s sketch she is
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wearing a traditional xo’ji-q’osta:n (basket cap), and she is obviously a young
girl with no facial tattoos.117 She is also not wearing any of the markers of a
kinahłdung, which would usually include a scratching instrument around her
neck, bear grass anklets and bracelets, or blue jay veil. Had Powers attended
Nish-Fang’s ceremony, it would be no stretch of the imagination to assume that
he would have wanted to draw her in the ceremonial dress of the Flower
Dance. It could also mean that Nish-Fang’s ceremonial regalia did not include
all implements of the dance because of her hasty return, yet both she and her
community still insisted on having this ceremony performed for her.
None of this is meant to question the validity of Powers’s story about NishFang. That he included a picture of her and recalled the story of her Flower
Dance speaks to how important this ceremony was for Nish-Fang and to the
many ways Native women like Nish-Fang participated in documenting this
importance by sharing stories about the dance with those attempting to write
this historical record. There would have been many negotiations made by
Native people in these interviews, especially considering that women had
been targeted during colonization for violence and these ceremonies and cultural practices were used by settler colonial society to justify violence. The
sharing of these stories, epistemologies, and memories reflects powerful
moments of self-determination. Why tell these stories? For me, it is because
Native people are always thinking about future generations. They must have
known there would be people who could remember these stories without
Kroeber or Goddard or Sapir writing them down, but they also wanted to make
sure that somebody wrote them down. Maybe they wanted to show these white
male ethnographers that they were not ashamed of their culture or beliefs.
Maybe they hoped to leave a record that we could find one day. Even if Kroeber
or other ethnographers hadn’t planned for it, the scribbly handwritten notes
of Native people telling stories became part of how we (re)write, (re)right, and
(re)rite our Native feminisms and futures.
c onc lusion
In the nineteenth century, as anthropologists attempted to gather historical
information on Native cultures, Native peoples were faced with policies of
assimilation designed to regulate their intimate lives, relationships, and
bodies. Even with the continued enforcement of these policies, many Native
peoples worked closely with scholars like Alfred Kroeber, Pliny Earle Goddard,
and Edward Sapir to share the stories, methodologies and practices that were
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a part of enduring Native cultures. While the women’s coming-of-age ceremony was particularly targeted for eradication by outside influences and government agents, these Native consultants participated in creating a historical
record that would contribute to the cultural revitalization of these ceremonies
many decades later. While they built this cultural revitalization, the women
of the Hoopa Valley Tribe would explore the anthropological and ethnographic
records from the early nineteenth century. As my mother, Lois Risling, says,
We looked at any place where we could find a reference to the dance; like
we looked in Kroeber’s, Alfred Kroeber’s handbook, and there was a reference in there to Flower Dance, that it was done. We looked in Sapir’s works
and there was a reference there. But we also looked in the original notes that
Kroeber took because one of the things we noticed is that he might have two
or three lines mentioning the dance, depending upon the tribe that he was
talking about, but that his notes were more extensive. He had actual interviews with women, so we read those notes.118
Bringing this revitalization to fruition was not just a reclaiming of memories, stories, songs, and ceremony; it was also a reclamation of the historical
ethnographic record. It was here that Native women would push back against
narrative of the vanishing, dying Indian, demonstrating not only that we are
still here but also that the Flower Dance had never disappeared and would
never disappear, go extinct, or be forgotten. The ceremony could be none of
those things because this ceremony was in the memories of our elders, in the
records and stories left by our ancestors in the ethnographic record, and being
danced for all time in the heavens above, waiting for us to recall it.119
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University of Washington Press
Chapter Title: Dining’xine:wh-mil-na:sa’a:n Hupa People—With Them—It Stays, There Is
Book Title: We Are Dancing for You
Book Subtitle: Native Feminisms and the Revitalization of Women’s Coming-of-Age
Published by: University of Washington Press
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Ch a P t er 1
Hupa People—With Them—It Stays,
There Is a Hupa Tradition
or Al nArr Atives AnD
nAtive Feminisms
Hupa people, Na:tinixwe, the people of where the trails return,
I think are a more gynocentric people. Some of our medicines
for people, a lot of our ceremonies involve the medicine happening at night because you are tying it to the moon, which we
would associate with water, which we would associate with
the water from women.
—Melodie George-Moore (Hoopa tribal member,
Karuk, Cherokee, Whilkut)
m Y e ng Age m e n t W i t h n At i v e F e m i n i s m s Be g A n Be c Ause oF m Y
own experiences as a Native woman. On one hand I was raised among vocal
women who assertively advanced Indigenous issues and actively engaged with
traditional cultural practices. I was taught to do the same from a young age.
Hupa ceremonies include cycles that have continued uninterrupted since time
began. For neighboring tribes, these ceremonies were revived after periods of
significant disruption. This process involved community members stepping
forward to occupy traditional leadership roles and formulate contemporary
articulations of cultural values and traditions. Over time I became aware of
unsettling themes emerging in various ceremonial and community contexts.
I recall returning after one particular ceremony to my parents’ house and
sitting on the couch with my auntie Mary Jane Risling.1 I shared with her that
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in several ceremonies and community events I had attended there was a growing undercurrent of what can best be described as patriarchal “concern trolling” of young women.2 On some occasions young women were told that there
were rumors about them not being virgins, and that virginity was of utmost
importance for our traditions and dances. This felt antithetical to what I had
learned growing up about Hupa people, who did not exclude or dismiss women
in this way. These traditions did not treat virginity as sacrosanct, but rather
held that in certain ceremonies women should not dance after they had their
first child. This, coupled with people starting to say that women could no
longer wear red at ceremonies because it reminded people of menstruation
and that women shouldn’t wear pants but only long skirts, had left me disheartened. I had even heard people say that women generally should not touch
men’s regalia and that women who are menstruating should not be at public
educational cultural demonstrations, because they could “hurt” or “curse”
people. In community conversations I was told that the reason women had to
wear long skirts while they danced in ceremony was because otherwise they
would be perceived as trying to attract men and would entice them away from
their prayers and good thoughts.3
I don’t remember it being this way when I was younger. I have pictures of
my mother and Auntie wearing jeans and basket hats at ceremony. I had worn
red to ceremonies before. We have many red things on our regalia: woodpecker scalps, beads, and red abalone. Growing up, I had never experienced
someone asking me about my virginity or commenting on the length of my
skirt. How these seemingly patriarchal conversations about women had
become so prevalent I could not understand. Had Native culture always been
this way, and I only started to notice as I got older? On the couch that day with
my auntie, I asked her, “Do you think our cultures are inherently misogynistic?” She was adamant in her response: “No. I don’t think our cultures were
misogynistic, not at all. Women occupied key and powerful roles as healers,
leaders, and regalia holders. I think our cultures have become imbalanced in
a way that looks, walks, and quacks like misogyny, but it is something that is
learned. And you know how I know that? Because traditionally our cultures
are tied to the land and rooted in nature, always the best teacher. Nature
strives for balance, and the feminine is central to existence. Women are central
to Hupa culture. They are central to our spirituality. We respected women, we
knew they were important to our future.”
I have felt a very personal longing to explore Native feminisms because,
for me, we cannot build our futures without decolonization and we cannot
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decolonize or enact self-determination without Native feminisms. This conversation has been a growing discourse not only among Native academics but also
in Native communities. The intimate ties between Native feminisms and the
enactment of sovereignty and self-determination are a foundational framework built by scholars like Kathryn Shanley, Paula Gunn Allen, Ines HernándezÁvila, Mishuana Goeman, Jennifer Denetdale, Renya Ramirez, Audra Simpson,
Joanne Barker, and others. Barker notes that gender, sexuality, and feminist
studies are central to sovereignty and self-determination because they critically
analyze how sovereignty and self-determination are “imagined, represented
and exercised” so that sovereignty and self-determination do not mirror heteropatriarchal standards.4 On a community level, Native feminisms can help to
formulate a more open discussion about how to empower Native peoples in
order, as Barker notes, to confront the “normative gendered and sexed bodies”
that seek to create Indigenous peoples as “citizens of the state.”5 In Native cultural epistemologies there is a complex engagement with feminism, which
values the empowerment of all people in ways that support gender equality
and gender balance.
I have seen this type of engaged feminism demonstrated in women’s
coming-of-age ceremonies, which enact an epistemological framework that
(re)writes, (re)rights, and (re)rites Native feminisms as foundational building blocks of Native culture and society. The (re)riteing aspect of this project
requires an intervention in the previous anthropological and historical work
that silenced Native feminisms and supported interpretations of Native culture
as traditionally patriarchal. Modern understandings of ceremony can become
intertwined with patriarchy and misogyny, so much so that contemporary
practices of ceremony are used to reinforce this patriarchy in the name of
“tradition.” Andrea Smith and J. Kehaulani Kauanui argue that “the imposition
of patriarchy within Native communities is essential to establishing colonial
rule, because patriarchy naturalizes social hierarchy.”6 The patriarchal invasion of our stories, the foundational building blocks of our cultures and epistemologies, has allowed scholars and even community leaders to create a
mythological Native past that mirrored the heteropatriarchal structure of settler colonial society.
In this chapter I approach the (re)writing, (re)righting, and (re)riteing of
Native feminisms by engaging a Native feminist analytic of the oral tradition
to establish that Native feminisms are not introduced by Western culture and
are not conceptualized only through a Western cultural framework but are
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instead integral to the enactment of our culture and to our survivance, decolonization, and Indigenous futures. I am in agreement with Renya Ramirez, who
argues that “rather than viewing a Native feminist consciousness as a force
that could cause internal conflict or as a white construct, it should be emphasized as furthering an essential goal in indigenous communities: to combat
sexism.”7 Pueblo scholar Paula Gunn Allen believed that “a feminist approach
reveals not only the exploitation and oppression of the tribes by whites and
white government but also areas of oppression within the tribes and the
sources and nature of that oppression.”8 She saw feminist analytics as
addressing the effects of patriarchal colonialism to help tribes reclaim their
“egalitarian and sacred traditions.”9 And Lisa Kahaleole Hall argues that
Native feminisms must look not only at how patriarchal ideas of the “dominant” society have affected Native peoples, but also at how “patriarchal colonialism has been internalized within indigenous communities.”10 This chapter
demonstrates that internalized patriarchal expressions of ceremonial practices are not traditional and illustrates how the revitalization of women’s
coming-of-age ceremonies center and reclaim Native feminisms.
Throughout history, Native women have been portrayed as either Pocahontas or the squaw.11 Either Native women are assisting in the colonization
of their people, or they are dirty and disregarded as overtly sexual, stupid, and
lazy. Native women have also been left out of historical scholarship and treated
as peripheral to their nations, cultures, and societies rather than shown as integral or as serving in leadership positions. Reframing Native women as central
to oral narratives and cultural practices is imperative for (re)righting and (re)
riteing Indigenous epistemologies, because as Seneca feminist scholar Mishuana Goeman argues, “Native women are at the center of how our nations, both
tribal and non-tribal, have been imagined.”12 It is through engaging Native
feminisms as foundational to our traditional cultures as well as our revitalizations that we can truly build a future with our past.
The crux of this chapter uses a Hupa feminist analytic of oral narratives to
center Native women’s experiences, because, as Michelle Jacob notes, this type
of feminist analysis can work “toward envisioning a society in which our traditional cultural norms which respect and honor women’s contributions are
upheld.”13 I aim to reconfigure discussions of Hupa oral narratives and material culture to reflect a gendered analysis focused on how Hupa people valued
gender equality in their culture and society as well as their spiritualities and
philosophies. Bringing our frameworks of gender balance and equality to bear
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on how we understand material culture and societal organization demonstrates the feminist practices that should be a part of our contemporary revitalizations of ceremony and culture.
In Weaving Strength, Weaving Power, Venida Chenault argues that “by
reconnecting to and utilizing the strengths of the traditional cultures, the wisdom of the origin narratives, the gendered teachings within these creation
stories, and the systems and processes that support strong tribal women, the
full power of Indigenous peoples is embraced.”14 As Chenault highlights, Western scholarship does not provide interpretations of Indigenous societal organization that “accurately interpret roles, status, power, and influence of tribal
women. Instead, disparaging portrayals of Indigenous women are mired in
constructed images advanced in cowboy movies, cartoons, and stereotypes
that continue to serve as the basis for information and shaping public opinion.”15 My Native feminist analytic is built on a tribally specific methodology
that shows how oral stories inform Native feminisms and reinscribe them, not
as modern-day liberal cultural values masquerading as tradition but instead as
dynamic parts of our Indigenous past, present, and futures. My argument is that
women’s coming-of-age ceremonies engage Native feminisms and dismantle a
heteropatriarchy that is often characterized as “traditional” or even “modern”
in some contemporary Native nations. It is important that the types of critical
engagement offered in this chapter clearly demonstrate that women’s comingof-age ceremonies are not vehicles to oppress women, nor a longing for an idealized past, but instead support the (re)writing, (re)righting, and (re)riteing of
Native feminisms. As Joanne Barker notes, locating Indigenous gender, sexuality, and feminist study in Indigenous territories contextualizes the relationship
between land and people and holds the analysis accountable to specific communities.16 My feminist study is necessarily accountable to Hupa people. And
while I have experienced occasions when patriarchal ideology is held up as
tradition, I have also seen engagement with values of gender equality and
respect that continue as a part of Hupa cultural practices. I aim to provide a
theoretical framework for what Native people already practice in community
revitalizations so as to reinforce that their focus on gender equality and the
rejection of patriarchy has always been part of Native culture and society.
n At i v e F e m i n i sm A n D t h e or A l t r A Di t ion
Many scholars have written about Native societies as “egalitarian” groups
where the roles of women and men were balanced and women had religious,
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economic, and political autonomy.17 Scholars who study the role of Native
American women in Indigenous societies believe that the centrality of a female
divine spirit demonstrates how important Native American women are to
Indigenous cultures and societies.18 Kim Anderson writes in A Recognition of
Being that “many native creation stories are female centered, and there are
many stories that speak about the role of women in bringing spirituality to the
people. The Iroquois attribute the beginnings of the earth to a female, rather
than a male. Among the Sioux, the White Buffalo Woman is recognized as the
culture bearer, as she brought the sacred pipe.”19 Devon Mihesuah provides
a summary of some of the divine roles of women in Indigenous American
Women. She notes that for the Navajo “‘mother’ symbolizes earth, sheep and
corn.” Apache also have a central female spirit person, known as Changing
Woman. There are also central female spirit people for the Cherokee (Selu),
Tewa Pueblos (Blue Corn Woman and White Corn Maiden), and the Shawnee,
who refer to their creator as “our grandmother.”20
Native women participated in governmental affairs in a number of Indigenous societies, a fact that highlights their central role in the structure of the
society. Sally Roesch Wagner writes that Haudenosaunee women were
“involved in all decisions of governmental policy, from the local to the federal
level.”21 Jennifer Denetdale notes that for the Navajo Nation, “Although written reports do not mention women as leaders or chiefs, Navajo oral tradition
and other accounts make note that it was not unheard of for women to serve
as headmen or chiefs. . . . [E]arly American accounts have noted Navajo
women’s presence in council proceedings between Navajo and American leaders.”22 In Being Again of One Mind, Lina Sunseri describes the Haudenosaunee
women’s roles in traditional society, which included the ability to “exercise
sexual autonomy, to divorce, to own property, to approve of war or to order
its end.”23 She also notes that lineal descent had to “run through the female
line.”24 Lisa Kahaleole Hall notes that in Hawaii “there were women chiefs as
early as 1375” and that in religious systems of Native Hawaiians both male
and female gods had power.25 Marilou Awiakta writes at length about the role
of women in traditional Cherokee society. Awiakta explains that in negotiating their treaty with Western colonizers, the Cherokee people included
women in these talks. When Westerners came to negotiate, however, they did
not invite or involve women, which inspired a Cherokee leader to ask, “Where
are your women?” thereby noting the fundamental differences in worldview
and ideas about gender and gender equality that separated these two very
different cultures.26
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The (re)writing and (re)righting of the historical record of gender equality
in Native communities has been an important and necessary intervention made
by Native studies scholars. While anthropological and archaeological studies
have attempted to recreate this history through ethnographic interviews and
studies of Indigenous burial and village sites, they did not fully engage with or
attempt to discuss oral narratives as complex philosophies, methodologies, or
ontologies. Early ethnographic studies significantly misinterpreted gender in
Indigenous cultures and societies. This has led to several misconceptions about
how Indigenous peoples valued and conceptualized gender. It has been up to
contemporary Indigenous scholars to reclaim the historical, anthropological,
and ethnographic record with a more discerning analysis in order to (re)write,
(re)right, and (re)rite gender epistemologies and Native feminisms from a perspective that values oral narrative accounts as “archive” and “documentary
evidence.” These stories were and are how Native peoples define and redefine
their sovereignty, cultures, knowledges, and feminisms. Calvin Martin highlights how Native peoples “survived equally as long” as Western societies
around the world and that, much like other cultures throughout the world,
Native peoples in the Americas had “scrutinized and pondered the great cosmic
and existential issues and produced answers just as complete and satisfactory”
as Western civilization.27 It is through stories that Native people engage theories, philosophies, law, and systems of government. Dian Million argues that
Indigenous stories are powerful not because they fit a Western framework of
methodology or structure but “because they are engaged in the articulations
that interpret who we are in the discursive relations of our times. We engage
in questioning and reformulating those stories that account for the relations of
power in our present. That is theorizing. It offers new experiential frames, in
our case, often from our lives, from our own felt experience, from our stories,
from our communities, from our languages.”28 I argue that in records and documentation of oral narratives and material culture we can discern a foundation
of Native feminisms that build Indigenous epistemologies. I am particularly
engaged by Million’s insistence that our stories are not only interpretations and
documentation of the past, but also part of our theory making and research
paradigm as contemporary Native peoples.
Indigenous scholars have led the way in exploring the many rich, illustrious
aspects of the oral tradition that encompasses Indigenous thought, philosophy,
histories, literatures, and knowledges. Vine Deloria Jr. compared the oral tradition to science.29 Christine F. Black utilizes Australian aboriginal language
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to develop an Indigenous jurisprudence.30 Creek scholar Craig Womack utilizes …

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