The power of Western institutions, namely the museum, lies in their colonizing agendas to deny contemporary Native identities and cultures. Standard colonial museum narratives have supported non-Native notions of authenticity and cultural representation, which federal and state governments utilized to attack the rights of tribal nations as stipulated by treaties. Many tribes built museums to preserve and revitalize their cultures, assert their own tribal and cultural identities, and maintain their inherent sovereignty. Tribal museums serve as a central site in which to consider larger narratives of colonialism, conflict, resistance, adaptation, identity, sovereignty, and empowerment. This dissertation examines and compares the struggle for treaty rights as an assertion of sovereignty in two reservation communities--the Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington State and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota-- through their tribal museums. I explore their cultural landscapes and histories, treaties, perceptions of sovereignty, and complex relationships with federal and state governments and local non-Native communities. This project reveals how Native nations have at times recreated and reconstituted their tribal and cultural identities through tribal museums in an effort to further their most significant political causes aimed at maintaining their inherent tribal sovereignty. Comparative analysis of these community's histories, their historical struggles to retain treaty rights, and their museum structures reveals important insights into the place of tribal museums within broader sociopolitical relationships. The museum is one way tribal nations are simultaneously resisting and adapting to their socio-political, legal, and economic circumstances throughout history and into the present.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: American Studies. Advisor: Brenda Child. 1 computer file (PDF);ix, 277 pages.
To Resist and Adapt: Tribal Narratives of Community, Sovereignty, and Treaty Rights at the Squaxin Island Museum, Library and Research Center and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum.
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