Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Ides of Genocide

I remind you about this sort of fictional science (see previous post) in a book about Native people and science fiction because, well, we better not forget that, ever. It also raises an interesting idea about Western perceptions of Native people. While some so-and-so’s were measuring heads at White Earth, much of the science, social science, and cultural expression produced in the America of that same era was busy predicting the imminent demise of Native people. Given the sepia tones of photographs like “Sunset of a Dying Race” and the romantic rending of hearts in other tales of the “Vanishing American,” perhaps we should say what they really predicted was the eminent demise of Native people. That lends it a far greater air of gravitas and makes it all sound kind of noble, doesn't it?

Et tu, EdwardCurtis?

"The Vanishing Race" (1904) photo by Edward Curtis.
The only problem with the pic, Mr C, is Natives weren't vanishing;
that was your fantasy.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Grace Dillon and Brian Hudson have asked me to contribute a piece to their anthology on Native science fiction titled Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Together. I'm calling my article "Mastodons and Mega-Texts: Can Native People Escape the Clutches of Colonialist SF?" It opens with a little story exploring a fiction of science (rather than a science fiction) that had devastating effects for the Anishinaabe people at White Earth. This excerpt gives a little sense of the flavor of my piece.

Science came to the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota in the early 20th century as part of an American government effort to determine who was a mixed-blood. Real, legitimate men of science came to White Earth, men who thought they could determine who among the Anishinaabe there had white blood mixed with their red by careful scientific attention to the shape of their heads, the amount of curl in their hair, and by taking a good look at their feet. These tests were not designed to answer the disinterested questions of pure science, but were rather part of an effort to extend to mixed-blood Anishinaabe the privilege of selling their land allotments to interested buyers, most of whom—it turns out—were not Indian. Today, a good hundred years in the future, only about ten percent of the land at White Earth is owned by Anishinaabe people.

Thanks, science!

David Beaulieu explores this episode in White Earth history in his illuminating article, “Curly Hair and Big Feet.”