Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Online NDN

Continuing my attempt to be more cool and hip, I am no longer listing the day via assignment.

I want to focus on the assigned reading though, specifically one article that is related to work that I am doing in collaboration with Dr. Monroe among others.

Haas, Angela. "Making Online Spaces More Native to American Indians: A Digital Diversity Recommendation." Computers and Composition Online. (Fall 2005)

The first portion where there is a list of various statistics I find to be accurate to a point. In the three years since the publication of the information in the article, there have been some interesting ways to express identity that have come on-line. Social networking sites in particular are serving NDN Country. In particular the youth. It is operating in a bricolage manner as well, by providing a digital space where music, video, images and experiences can be placed in an area that can be accessed by those that are allowed. There are shortcomings to this approach as well, but it should be noted that the requisite overhead costs, hardware and bureaucracy is circumvented.

The Digital Rhetorical Sovereignty section piqued my interest due to the manner in which sovereignty as a term was utilized. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is representing themselves well in a digital space, as well as creating forums for discourse to take place on the topic of sovereignty. This is something that other tribes should consider. At the same time there is a danger to opening access to Tribal identity to include rhetorical forms. Dr. Kim Christen's work with indigenous people in Australia, could be applied in this way. Limiting access to information is just as important as having that information available. NDN people have had entirely too much appropriated, to be comfortable with opening the doors to their traditions. Through Dr. Christen's work it is possible to protect rhetorics while opening access to tribal people who would benefit in the way Dr. Haas is proponing.

As far as the argument presented by Bizzaro, there is some merit in opening access. Here it is important to place the decision in the hands of the tribe. Every tribe has a different situation, treating them uniformly is a recipe for offense. Some tribes have rights issues that would not be well served by opening enrollment. Other tribes have been disenrolling members over financial issues. Blood quantum is a bit of an elephant in the room in this case, with each tribe setting their own levels. While entirely too many tribal people are denied access to NDN epistemologies based upon phenotype, there should also be a practical caution exercised in order to prevent exploitation. One way to go about side stepping blood quantum is for tribes (possibly in the same region or language group) to recognize other tribal blood.

I agree with the suggestions forwarded by Haas, with an addendum. Look around in the academy for NDN's. There are organizations that serve the needs of students and most of them have advisors.

For non-native students in her target audience of computer composition I would be confident to say that it is sound advice to enter that space aware of your outsider status. Instead of attempting to save 'us' or our rhetoric, try volunteering for activities sponsored by the Native American organization. Remember that NDN's are people, not causes...and in most cases you may be surprised to find that we don't feel like we need saving. We may not even want help.


~S~

3 comments:

jlpetersen said...

Your last comments about recognizing outsider status reminds me of a Mark Twain quip that says something about running for your life when well-meaning people descend upon your home with good advice and assistance.

I feel it is important to recognize and foster non-mainstream rhetorics, but meddling and speaking for others is annoying, unhelpful, and an all too easy trap fall into.

kristin said...

I'm curious in your claim that, "At the same time there is a danger to opening access to Tribal identity to include rhetorical forms." I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, and later you say mention "protecting" rhetorics. Are you pointing to the fact that by sharing personal cultural information online, tribes open themselves up to exploitation? Or coopting? Maybe in a lot of ways it's an audience issue. Haas is a member of the Cherokee Nation so she views the site through her own positioning and needs. Perhaps were someone else to go here, their intentions would be different.

You point to Bizarro's claims in this piece, and while it doesn't have so much to do with our class I've always been torn by her claims in that article (not sure if you've read it). I'm never sure what I think of tribal descendents trying to claim ndn, in that it often feels inauthentic and a bit exploitative to me. Then again, I wonder if it's my own pigeon-holing that forces these thoughts on me, that is "if you're not brown, don't powwow, and don't live on the rez then you're not ndn" which really, is a bunch of bs, buuuut maybe not....buuuuut maybe. For me, what's interesting is the ways that "indianness" is represented in digital spaces. In particular, I'm curious what forms of representation are available for whom, and why. I just finished an article on this, looking at mixed ndns representations in MySpace, and I don't have a really good answer but I do think it's very very connected to our physical everyday existence as well as the available means of representation.

Me me me me me. And what do I know? I got stuck in a crevice after chasing a bunny through the snow in WoW. Ha.

Shawn said...

'I'm curious in your claim that, "At the same time there is a danger to opening access to Tribal identity to include rhetorical forms." I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, and later you say mention "protecting" rhetorics. Are you pointing to the fact that by sharing personal cultural information online, tribes open themselves up to exploitation? Or coopting? Maybe in a lot of ways it's an audience issue. Haas is a member of the Cherokee Nation so she views the site through her own positioning and needs. Perhaps were someone else to go here, their intentions would be different.'

You are right on the nose here. Tribal rhetorics are often positioned within a cultural space, outside of that space they wouldn't have the same meaning or generate the same understanding. What I mean when I say 'protect' is to ensure that the rhetorics are not taken out of context, and to keep appropriation from weakening, displacing, or trivializing it.

'I'm never sure what I think of tribal descendents trying to claim ndn, in that it often feels inauthentic and a bit exploitative to me.'

My feelings on this is that there are those who claim NDN'ness because they desire the pathos and ethos that are attached to it. There are those who have grown up with some part of the NDN experience. And there are those who are conveniently NDN. In my estimation NDN'ness is under dispute between the dark skinned, long haired, pow wowing types. So the questions on "What is an Indian" are not easily answered.

This internal conflict can create an environment where people of Tribal descent are marginalized, which is really tragic. I find that pale descendants are more marginalized than ones who are misceginated(sp?) with a dark skinned race. At that point I don't think the issue is blood, tradition, or geospatial...I figure that it is prejudice.

In my opinion the descendants of white and NDN people are valuable to the tribal identity. As inherently bi-cultural people they are positioned outside each of the cultural spheres, able to gain access to both or neither. This perspective is valuable to both the dominant narrative and the NDN story. In my experience the dominant narrative is more than happy to listen in on tales of NDN descendants, it is the Tribal people who reject them more often than not.

Are there those who would claim descent simply to access a cultural tourism from the inside? Yes. Rejecting pale descendants based upon that idea is too simple in my mind. In my experience descendants of tribal people, who want to learn should be accepted. They will make mistakes, but none of us know what the generation previous did, and all of us make mistakes.

My 2 cents

~S~