Citizen Indians


By the 1890s, white Americans were avid consumers of American Indian cultures. At heavily scripted Wild West shows, Chautauquas, civic pageants, expositions, and fairs, American Indians were most often cast as victims, noble remnants of a vanishing race, or docile candidates for complete assimilation. However, as Lucy Maddox demonstrates in Citizen Indians, some prominent Indian intellectuals of the era―including Gertrude Bonnin, Charles Eastman, and Arthur C. Parker―were able to adapt and reshape the forms of public performance as one means of entering the national conversation and as a core strategy in the pan-tribal reform efforts that paralleled other Progressive-era reform movements. Maddox examines the work of American Indian intellectuals and reformers in the context of the Society of American Indians, which brought together educated, professional Indians in a period when the "Indian question" loomed large. These thinkers belonged to the first generation of middle-class American Indians more concerned with racial categories and civil rights than with the status of individual tribes. They confronted acute crises: the imposition of land allotments, the abrogation of the treaty process, the removal of Indian children to boarding schools, and the continuing denial of birthright citizenship to Indians that maintained their status as wards of the state. By adapting forms of public discourse and performance already familiar to white audiences, Maddox argues, American Indian reformers could more effectively pursue self-representation and political autonomy.


From the Back Cover


"Lucy Maddox’s Citizen Indians brings to life the active work done by Native American intellectuals on behalf of uplift, progressive reform, of universally conceived Indian rights as well as specific tribal concerns. Focusing on the Society of American Indians (SAI) and a broad range of figures including Chief Simon Pokagon, Daniel La France, Gertrude Bonnin, and Luther Standing Bear, Maddox redraws American intellectual history of the period that witnessed widespread discussions of ‘the Indian problem’ and of assimilation as well as the quest for cultural and political sovereignty."—Werner Sollors, Harvard University
"A brilliant account of the issues and constraints confronting the first generation of modern pan-Indian intellectuals, Citizen Indians stands at the forefront of a long-overdue reassessment of the cultural productions and political efforts of Native people during the first half of the twentieth century. Unraveling the complex dynamics underpinning Indian performances, Lucy Maddox places Native people at the center of a national conversation, forcing readers to reconsider familiar histories of race and politics in the United States."—Philip J. Deloria, University of Michigan
"Citizen Indians is a highly sophisticated book about American Indian intellectuals in the Progressive Era. Lucy Maddox presents a complete, informed study of American Indian writers of the period and the social and political contexts in which they did their work. Maddox writes well, has done very careful and painstaking research, and is effective in making the case she does for understanding the complexities and particularities of Native America and Native American writers of the turn of the twentieth century."—Robert Warrior, University of Oklahoma
"Citizen Indians is a major contribution to our understanding of how American Indian intellectuals turned stereotypes and political subjugation to their own purpose, promoting autonomy through reform and redefining the grounds for their participation in the nation’s social and cultural life."—Eric J. Sundquist, UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature, UCLA
"In this engaging and well-written account of the rise of a certain kind of Indian public intellectual in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, Lucy Maddox shows how a fundamental dilemma of political representation inspired creative solutions and a powerful social and political critique. The efforts of Indian intellectuals and activists to fashion a critical voice as well as a politics of race and reform framed in their own terms remain controversial to this day. Maddox documents those efforts and shows how the pressure of Native critique—and the anxiety it generated in Anglo culture—shaped both the Indian reform movement and the culture that had sought to absorb it."—Priscilla Wald, Duke University

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