Although research on the history of the eugenics movement in the United States is legion, its impact on state policies that identified and defined American Indians has yet to be fully addressed. The exhibit, Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities (ongoing until September 21, 2014) at the National Museum of the American Indian provides a provocative vehicle for examining how eugenics-informed public policy during the first quarter of the twentieth century served to “remove” from official records Native peoples throughout the Southeast. One century after Indian Removal of the antebellum era, Native peoples in the American Southeast provide an important but often overlooked example of how racial policies, this time rooted in eugenics, effected a documentary erasure of Native peoples and communities.
Eugenics as Indian Removal: Sociohistorical Processes and the De(con)struction of American Indians in the Southeast
ANGELA GONZALES is an assistant professor of development sociology at Cornell University. She received her B.A. in sociology from the University of California at Riverside, and her Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. Her research integrates knowledge and practice across the fields of sociology and American Indian Studies through theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions in the areas identity, community development, and the social determinants of health. In each area of her research, Gonzales seeks to build analytical frameworks sensitive to the complex socio-cultural and socioeconomic conditions that exist within American Indian communities. She is an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe from the Village of Shungopavi in Arizona.
Judy Kertész is a Ph.D. candidate in History of American Civilization at Harvard University. She is currently completing her dissertation, “Skeletons in the American Attic: Curiosity, Science, and the Appropriation of the American Indian Past, 1776–1846,” as a Charles Eastman Dissertation Fellow at Dartmouth College. Her dissertation focuses on the cultural politics and political economy of the “Vanishing Indian.” She has published on Lumbee Indian history and issues of gender and power in Native North America. Her research areas focus on Colonial British North America and the Early Republic, U.S. cultural history, American Indian histories and cultures, material culture and the intersection of Native/African-American histories.
Gabrielle Tayac, a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation, is currently a historian at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. She co-curated the inaugural exhibit, Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities for the museum's opening in 2004 and curated the permanent exhibit, Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake. Tayac focuses her research and lectures widely on issues of Native identity, sovereignty, cultural representation, and social movements. She was a cofounder of the League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations, which mobilized large collective actions for indigenous rights in 1992, and served on numerous human rights organizational boards including Amnesty International prior to her service at the Smithsonian. Mindful of societal transformation through youth, she wrote the award-winning children's book, Meet Naiche: A Native Boy of the Chesapeake Region.
ANGELA GONZALES, JUDY KERTÉSZ, GABRIELLE TAYAC; Eugenics as Indian Removal: Sociohistorical Processes and the De(con)struction of American Indians in the Southeast. The Public Historian 1 January 2007; 29 (3): 53–67. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2007.29.3.53
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