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Native American rhetoric is the rhetoric used by Indigenous peoples for purposes of self-determination and self-naming, in academia and a variety of media.[1][2][3]



Studies of Indigenous rhetoric note that the many different Native American communicative traditions draw upon People-specific histories, multiple linguistic systems, geographically distinct though interrelated lands, and contemporary cultural, discursive, and academic modes.[4][5] Ernest Stromberg writes, “Native rhetoricians appropriate the language, styles, and beliefs of their white audiences in order to establish a degree of consubstantiality. Across divides of language, beliefs, and traditions, Native rhetoricians have had to find ways to make their voices heard and respected by a too frequently uninterested and even hostile audience.’”[6] Native rhetoric and rhetorical practice are influenced by both contemporary and historical circumstances that vary according to the unique cultural contexts of the unenrolled Indigenous peoples, non-federally recognized Indigenous Peoples, and the “574 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages.”[6]


Indigenous scholars debate various critiques against the labels applied to Indigenous Peoples. In "What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels," Michael Yellow Bird argues that the term, Native American, alongside others like it homogenizes hundreds of unique tribal identities and cultures by grouping them under a shared rubric, threatening Indigenous Peoples' rights to self-definition; he also argues that emphasis on the exonym "American" in "Native American" makes the term susceptible to appropriation by majority cultures; a susceptibility which he understands as contributing to the elision of oppression and dominance. For Yellow Bird and some of the respondents to his survey, tribal affiliation and terms emphasizing First Nations sovereignty are preferred forms of self-definition.[7]


Decolonial and rhetorical scholars have loosely sketched a definition of Indigenous rhetoric — for which they argue a shared relationship to the land and an uneven though shared experience of colonialism is partially responsible.[8] Drawing upon the theories of Gerald Vizenor, recent scholarship has interpreted the written appropriation of imperial discourse in Sarah Winnemucca Hopkin's (Northern Paiute) and Charles Alexander Eastman's (Santee Dakota) literary work as rhetorical tactics of survivance that contest the reductive and stereotypical categories supporting colonial constructions of the vanishing "Indian."[9] Native American rhetoric also has some similarities with Indigenous rhetorics in other colonial settings, including with the Sámi in northern Fennoscandia.[10]

Key Concepts in Native American Rhetoric


  1. ^ King, Lisa; Gubele, Rose; Anderson, Joyce Rain (2015), "Introduction: Careful with the Stories We Tell: Naming Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story", Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story: Teaching American Indian Rhetorics, Utah State University Press, pp. 3–16, doi:10.7330/9780874219968.c000, ISBN 978-0-87421-996-8
  2. ^ Cushman, Ellen (2008). "Toward a Rhetoric of Self-Representation: Identity Politics in Indian Country and Rhetoric and Composition". College Composition and Communication. 60 (2): 321–365. ISSN 0010-096X. JSTOR 20457062.
  3. ^ Bizzaro, Resa Crane (2004). "Shooting Our Last Arrow: Developing a Rhetoric of Identity for Unenrolled American Indians". College English. 67 (1): 70. doi:10.2307/4140725. ISSN 0010-0994. JSTOR 4140725.
  4. ^ Stromberg, Ernest, ed. (July 30, 2006). American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 1–11. doi:10.2307/j.ctt6wr9rm. ISBN 978-0-8229-7301-0.
  5. ^ Monroe, Barbara (2014). Plateau Indian Ways with Words : the Rhetorical Tradition of the Tribes of the Inland Pacific Northwest. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0-8229-7956-2. OCLC 883281487.
  6. ^ a b Stromberg, Ernest. American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance. p. 6.
  7. ^ Bird, Michael Yellow (1999). "What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels". American Indian Quarterly. 23 (2): 15. doi:10.2307/1185964. ISSN 0095-182X. JSTOR 1185964.
  8. ^ a b Riley-Mukavetz, Andrea; Powell, Malea D. (2015), "Making Native Space for Graduate Students: A Story of Indigenous Rhetorical Practice", Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story: Teaching American Indian Rhetorics, Utah State University Press, p. 141, doi:10.7330/9780874219968.c007, ISBN 978-0-87421-996-8
  9. ^ Powell, Malea (2002). "Rhetorics of Survivance: How American Indians Use Writing". College Composition and Communication. 53 (3): 427–428. doi:10.2307/1512132. JSTOR 1512132.
  10. ^ Buhre, Frida; Bjork, Collin (May 27, 2021). "Braiding Time: Sami Temporalities for Indigenous Justice". Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 51 (3): 227–236. doi:10.1080/02773945.2021.1918515. ISSN 0277-3945.
  11. ^ King, Lisa; Gubele, Rose; Anderson, Joyce Rain. Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story. p. 8.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Lyons, Scott Richard (April 15, 2016), "Rhetorical Sovereignty", Postcolonial Studies, Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 239–257, doi:10.1002/9781119118589.ch15, ISBN 978-1-119-11858-9, retrieved October 14, 2020
  13. ^ King, Lisa; Gubele, Rose; Anderson, Joyce Rain. Survivance, Sovereignty, Story. p. 7.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Vizenor, Gerald Robert (1999). Manifest manners : narratives on postindian survivance. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press. p. 4. ISBN 0-8032-9621-5. OCLC 41753807.
  15. ^ Sources and methods in indigenous studies. Andersen, Chris, 1973-, O'Brien, Jean M. London. 2017. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-1-138-82360-0. OCLC 951742374.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ Archuleta, Elizabeth (2006). ""I Give You Back": Indigenous Women Writing to Survive". Studies in American Indian Literatures. 18 (4): 88–114. doi:10.1353/ail.2007.0000. ISSN 1548-9590. S2CID 162331916.
  17. ^ King, Lisa; Gubele, Rose; Anderson, Joyce Rain. Survivance, Sovereignty, Story. p. 9.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)