Kauanui provides an impassioned assessment of how the arbitrary correlation of ancestry and race imposed by the U.S. government on the indigenous people of Hawai‘i has had far-reaching legal and cultural effects. With the HHCA, the federal government explicitly limited the number of Hawaiians included in land provisions, and it recast Hawaiians’ land claims in terms of colonial welfare rather than collective entitlement. Moreover, the exclusionary logic of blood quantum has profoundly affected cultural definitions of indigeneity by undermining more inclusive Kanaka Maoli notions of kinship and belonging. Kauanui also addresses the ongoing significance of the 50-percent rule: Its criteria underlie recent court decisions that have subverted the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and brought to the fore charged questions about who counts as Hawaiian.
Land desecration, treaty rights, political status, cultural revitalization: these are among the themes taken up by a broad cross-section of interviewees from across the United States and from Canada, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Australia, and New Zealand. Some speak from the thick of political action, some from a historical perspective, others from the reaches of Indigenous culture near and far. Writers, like Comanche Paul Chaat Smith, author of Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong, expand on their work—about gaming and sovereignty, for example, or protecting Native graves, the reclamation of land, or the erasure of Indian identity. These conversations both inform and engage at a moment when their messages could not be more urgent.
Contributors: Jessie Little Doe Baird (Mashpee Wampanoag), Omar Barghouti, Lisa Brooks (Abenaki), Kathleen A. Brown-Pérez (Brothertown Indian Nation), Margaret “Marge” Bruchac (Abenaki), Jessica Cattelino, David Cornsilk (Cherokee Nation), Sarah Deer (Muskogee Creek Nation), Philip J. Deloria (Dakota), Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga Nation), Hone Harawira (Ngapuhi Nui Tonu), Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), Rashid Khalidi, Winona LaDuke (White Earth Ojibwe), Maria LaHood, James Luna (Luiseño), Aileen Moreton-Robinson (Quandamooka), Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba (Mohegan), Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape), Jean M. O’Brien (White Earth Ojibwe), Jonathan Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio (Kanaka Maoli), Steven Salaita, Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche), Circe Sturm (Mississippi Choctaw descendant), Margo Taméz (Lipan Apache), Chief Richard Velky (Schaghticoke), Patrick Wolfe.
Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying. In simple but vivid detail, Velma Wallis depicts a landscape and way of life that are at once merciless and starkly beautiful. In her old women, she has created two heroines of steely determination whose story of betrayal, friendship, community, and forgiveness "speaks straight to the heart with clarity, sweetness, and wisdom" (Ursula K. Le Guin).