Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

X-Marks

Native Signatures of Assent

2010
Author:

Scott Richard Lyons

X-Marks

A provocative and deeply personal exploration of contemporary Indian identity, nationalism, and modernity

In X-Marks, Scott Richard Lyons explores the complexity of contemporary Indian identity and current debates among Indians about traditionalism, nationalism, and tribalism. Employing the x-mark as a metaphor for what he calls the “Indian assent to the new,” Lyons offers a valuable alternative to both imperialist concepts of assimilation and nativist notions of resistance.

In writing X-Marks, Scott Richard Lyons brilliantly draws, delineates, and exemplifies what the x-mark on treaties may have meant to native treaty signers. For those of us who’ve studied treaties between the U.S. and our own tribes and marveled at the x-marks that were supposed to represent a distant ancestor, this book is essential. It’s superbly written. He asks us to make our own x-mark. I’m ready.

LeAnne Howe, Choctaw author, and professor at the University of Illinois, American Indian Studies

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, North American Indian leaders commonly signed treaties with the European powers and the American and Canadian governments with an X, signifying their presence and assent to the terms. These x-marks indicated coercion (because the treaties were made under unfair conditions), resistance (because they were often met with protest), and acquiescence (to both a European modernity and the end of a particular moment of Indian history and identity).

In X-Marks, Scott Richard Lyons explores the complexity of contemporary Indian identity and current debates among Indians about traditionalism, nationalism, and tribalism. Employing the x-mark as a metaphor for what he calls the “Indian assent to the new,” Lyons offers a valuable alternative to both imperialist concepts of assimilation and nativist notions of resistance, calling into question the binary oppositions produced during the age of imperialism and maintaining that indigeneity is something that people do, not what they are. Drawing on his personal experiences and family history on the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota, discourses embedded in Ojibwemowin (the Ojibwe language), and disagreements about Indian identity within Native American studies, Lyons contends that Indians should be able to choose nontraditional ways of living, thinking, and being without fear of being condemned as inauthentic.

Arguing for a greater recognition of the diversity of Native America, X-Marks analyzes ongoing controversies about Indian identity, addresses the issue of culture and its use and misuse by essentialists, and considers the implications of the idea of an Indian nation. At once intellectually rigorous and deeply personal, X-Marks holds that indigenous peoples can operate in modern times while simultaneously honoring and defending their communities, practices, and values.

X-Marks

Scott Richard Lyons (Ojibwe/Dakota) is assistant professor of English at Syracuse University, where he teaches indigenous and American literatures. He has also taught at Leech Lake Tribal College, the University of North Dakota, and Concordia College, Moorhead. The author of numerous critical and scholarly essays (including “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians Want from Writing?”), he is also a personal essayist and frequent contributor to newspapers such as Indian Country Today and Star Tribune (Minneapolis–St. Paul). He has worked with grassroots organizations on issues ranging from Ojibwe language revitalization to Native theater.

X-Marks

In writing X-Marks, Scott Richard Lyons brilliantly draws, delineates, and exemplifies what the x-mark on treaties may have meant to native treaty signers. For those of us who’ve studied treaties between the U.S. and our own tribes and marveled at the x-marks that were supposed to represent a distant ancestor, this book is essential. It’s superbly written. He asks us to make our own x-mark. I’m ready.

LeAnne Howe, Choctaw author, and professor at the University of Illinois, American Indian Studies

Writing with clarity and wit, Lyons offers genuinely original insights into a number of important and highly contested topics in Native American Studies.

Arnold Krupat, Sarah Lawrence College

Lyons is particularly good at using his experiences to convey an understanding of Indian societies. This perspective allows a brilliant, insightful exploration.

Choice

Lyon’s well-argued and easily accessible text adds an integral voice to the ongoing debate about Indian identity, culture, and nationhood.

MELUS

His ideas are reasonable and realistic, and his work makes an important contribution to contemporary American Indian discourse on identity, politics, and culture.

Journal of American History

This book would make a compelling addition to American Indian Studies courses as well as to all libraries who house American Indian scholarship.

Tribal College Journal

It’s tempting to describe Scott Richard Lyons’s X-Marks: Native Signatures of Assent as a dose of good common sense, and to extend the compliment by noting how little common sense we find among ourselves these days.

North Dakota Quarterly

X-Marks is an exemplary text not only for indigenous studies but for all those committed to global liberation.

Wicazo Sa Review

In X-Marks Scott Richard Lyons adds a timely and important optic to debates about contemporary Indian identity.

American Indian Quarterly

If one wants a balanced, insightful, well-grounded description of what it means to be an Indian, Scott Lyons’ X-Marks will provide. Lyons provides an understandable, insightful description of what Native identity is in the world where people live. Non-Indians and Indians alike will leave X-Marks with knowledge and understanding of Indian identity.

The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

X-Marks is a book that challenges its Native readers to make their own x-mark.

Studies in American Indian Literatures

Ultimately, Lyons makes a compelling case for a counterintuitive claim: by defining indigeneity as immutable, traditionalists have abandoned tradition. X-Marks is an important contribution to Native American studies, one that deserves praise as much for its pragmatism as its provocations.

Western American Literature Journal