Steve Russell: Being indigenous good for the fakers
"For some reason, lots of folks have decided it's a good day to be indigenous. Now, I've got no problem with Prof. [Raymond] Pierotti writing about traditional ecological knowledge. But like every other scholar, he needs to cite his sources, and I would hope he understands that there is no pan-tribal ecological tradition. In one of his chapter titles, he asks ''Who Speaks for the Buffalo?'' I expect him to claim that he does. The publisher's blurb claims that Pierotti provides ''a fascinating look at the complexities of his career conducting research from an Indigenous perspective and the reluctance of many university Native programs of study to recruit natural scientists.''

Native studies programs generally come in two flavors. Some have a humanities focus and some a social science focus. It's true that a natural scientist would not be an easy fit for programs asking about the representation of horses in Joy Harjo's poetry or how much jurisdiction the U.S. Supreme Court intends to leave for tribal courts.

In spite of the biases of Indian studies programs, Prof. Pierotti appears to claim that he has had ''a career conducting research from an indigenous perspective.'' I wonder whose indigenous perspective he has been using, since the Comanche Nation repossessed theirs.

Is there a Comanche ecological tradition or a Plains Indian ecological tradition? I'm not informed at this time, but I know several real Comanches I can ask. My own research often turns on what is fair, and I don't think my ethnicity gives me seriously different ideas about what is fair.

Speaking of what is fair, I'm about to retire, and the Netherlands was a pretty nice place. And I was looking at what made Prof. Pierotti a Comanche. The argument in his family was over whether the kids were told stories about a Comanche ancestor.

Is the issue whether the stories were in fact told? It seems tacky to call a dead person a liar, so if stories make the man Pierotti is Comanche and I'm indeed Dutch."

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Is it a good day to be Indigenous? (Indian Country Today 9/5)

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