Beyond Fistfights and Basketball - Reconstructing Native American Masculinity

Baumann, Dianne. 'Beyond Fistfights and Basketball - Reconstructing Native American Masculinity'. UW Anthropology Sociocultural - Research Competency. Winter -2017.

On New Year’s Eve 2016, my 21-year-old cousin was discovered stabbed-to-death in an alley following a two-week search by family members.  Twenty-five years earlier another 21-year-old cousin was murdered in a bar and fifty years’ prior my cousins’ father was found bludgeoned-to-death days before her birth.  All three were Blackfeet men, died on the reservation, and represent a small percentage of ‘disappeared’ Native American men.  Substantial and necessary research examining the violence perpetrated against Native women continues to flourish, while violence and masculinity studies focused on Native men draws little attention.  Meanwhile the murder rate of Native men is three times higher than Native women, twice as high as white men, and occurs at the hands of the police more often than any other U.S. racialized group.  Colonization divided ‘Christians’ (white) and ‘heathens’ (Native) with settler whites identifying Native men as ‘wild’ and threatening.  I suggest this settler colonial construct of Native masculinity continues today and impacts Native men internally (psychologically) and externally (relationships), contributing to violence perpetrated against and by them.  This paper is an interpretive analysis of ‘Scary Brown Man’ (Ross 2014) and ‘Reservation Blues’ (Alexie 1995) examined through the intersection of the gender/race bias intrinsic to settler colonialism.  Alexie’s novel offers ‘typical’ reservation life and the spirit of survivance, while Ross’s article brings real-life situation into the conversation, providing a step toward encouraging the intersectional discourse around Native masculinity in the arena of gender/bias research as applied to settler colonial studies while questioning the role of identity politics within the discipline.  The use of survivance as a methodology within this treatise embraces the active resistance demonstrated by Native men against their assimilation into settler society.

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