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K-State Today

December 4, 2013



Robertson publishes in American Indian Culture and Research Journal

By Dwanna Robertson

Dwanna L. Robertson, assistant professor of American Ethnic Studies, recently published  "A Necessary Evil: Framing an American Indian Legal Identity" in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, vol. 37, no. 4, pages 115-139.

The article documents the emergence and application of what Robertson conceptualizes as “American Indian Legal Identity,” or AILI, which emerged within the racialization of American Indians through federal policy and gained institutional status with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Racialized meanings of "Indianness" gained further institutional legitimacy when tribes reified the federally defined criteria, creating a blood tie ethnicity. Thus, federal Indian policy produced a racialized collective Indian identity, which subsequently resulted in the internalized racialization of individual native identity. Ultimately, however, legal standing does not require an ethnic or racial identity. AILI functions to exclude Indian people from the scope of federal legislation. Robertson analyzes semi-structured, in-depth interviews of 30 Native participants, who all ethnically identify as indigenous but only half of whom possess a legal identity. Robertson finds most participants continue to rationalize legal identity and justify it as a necessary evil because identification procedures maintain tribal sovereignty. Even natives without legal standing justify the system which excludes them.