Story as a Weapon in Colonized America: Native American Women's Transrhetorical Fight for Land Rights

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elizabeth Leigh Wilkinson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Karen Kilcup

Abstract: The violent collision between Native American and Euro-American politics, spirituality, economy, and community appears most prominently in each culture’s attitude toward land, which connects intimately with the position women held in each society. The social construction of land and a woman’s “place”—and the interconnectedness between the two as viewed through a Euro-American lens—conflicted so wholly with that of many Native American cultures that what resulted were wars, many fought physically on battlefields, but many others with rhetoric in speeches, books, petitions, and reports. The idea that the two cultures might fight bloody battles over land rights does not need much explanation; however, that they might come to blows as a result of how women acted in each society requires more attention. Synthesizing the heterogeneous methodologies and insights of American Indian literature, nineteenth-century women’s writing, and the history and theory of rhetoric, this dissertation articulates the transrhetorical power of Native American women: their ability to cross cultural and gendered boundaries of rhetoric. I argue that while white middleclass women such as Lydia Maria Child, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Margaret Fuller sought to empower themselves by speaking through Native women’s voices, indigenous writers Nancy Ward, Narcissa Owen, Sarah Winnemucca, and Gertrude Bonnin, fluidly negotiating white definitions of gender and culture, used their roles as transrhetors in order to protest land theft and to fight to reclaim territories unjustly taken by the United States government, using rhetoric as a weapon in the war over land.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
Native American, Women, Rhetoric, Land
American fiction $x Indian authors $x History and criticism.
American fiction $x Women authors $x History and criticism.
Indian women in literature $x North America.
Indian women $x North America $x Intellectual Life.
Indians of North America $x Land tenure.
Sex role in literature $z America $x History.
Ward, Nancy, $d d. 1822.
Owen, Narcissa, $d 1831-1911.
Hopkins, Sarah Winnemucca, $d 1844?-1891.
Zitkala-Sa, $d 1876-1938.

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