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Translated Nation

Rewriting the Dakhóta Oyáte

2019
Author:

Christopher J. Pexa

Translated Nation

How authors rendered Dakhóta philosophy by literary means to encode ethical and political connectedness and sovereign life within a settler surveillance state

Translated Nation examines literary works and oral histories by Dakhóta intellectuals, highlighting creative Dakhóta responses to violences of the settler colonial state. Bringing together oral and written as well as past and present literatures, it expands our sense of literary archives and political agency and demonstrates how Dakhóta peoplehood not only emerges over time but in everyday places, activities, and stories.

Translated Nation examines literary works and oral histories by Dakhóta intellectuals from the aftermath of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War to the present day, highlighting creative Dakhóta responses to violences of the settler colonial state. Christopher Pexa argues that the assimilation era of federal U.S. law and policy was far from an idle one for the Dakhóta people, but rather involved remaking the Oyáte (the Očéti Šakówiŋ Oyáte or People of the Seven Council Fires) through the encrypting of Dakhóta political and relational norms in plain view of settler audiences.

From Nicholas Black Elk to Charles Alexander Eastman to Ella Cara Deloria, Pexa analyzes well-known writers from a tribally centered perspective that highlights their contributions to Dakhóta/Lakhóta philosophy and politics. He explores how these authors, as well as oral histories from the Spirit Lake Dakhóta Nation, invoke thióšpaye (extended family or kinship) ethics to critique U.S. legal translations of Dakhóta relations and politics into liberal molds of heteronormativity, individualism, property, and citizenship. He examines how Dakhóta intellectuals remained part of their social frameworks even while negotiating the possibilities and violence of settler colonial framings, ideologies, and social forms.

Bringing together oral and written as well as past and present literatures, Translated Nation expands our sense of literary archives and political agency and demonstrates how Dakhóta peoplehood not only emerges over time but in everyday places, activities, and stories. It provides a distinctive view of the hidden vibrancy of a historical period that is often tied only to Indigenous survival.

Translated Nation

Christopher Pexa is an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Nation and assistant professor of English and affiliate of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota.

Translated Nation

Contents
Preface
Note on Language and Orthography
Introduction: Ambivalence and the Unheroic Decolonizer
1. Transgressive Adoptions
First Interlude: Grace Lambert, Personal Interview, Fort Totten, Spirit Lake Nation, August 10, 1998
2. (Il)legible, (Il)liberal Subjects: Charles Eastman’s Poetics of Withholding
Second Interlude: Interview with Grace Lambert, Taté Tópa Dakhóta Wóunspe (Four Winds Dakota Teaching) Program, March 10, 1993
3. Territoriality, Ethics, and Travel in the Black Elk Transcripts
4. Peoplehood Proclaimed: Publicizing Dakhóta Women in Ella Deloria’s Waterlily
Third Interlude: Interview with Lillian Chase, Taté Tópa Dakhóta Wóunspe Program, Fort Totten, Spirit Lake Nation, February 26, 1993
Conclusion: Gathering the People
Acknowledgments
Appendix: Dakhóta Pronunciation Guide
Notes