“to look at both the blessing and the genocide”: Bad Indians and the Destruction of Writing
Anthropologist Robert Heizer’s collections of primary sources documenting genocidal events and concomitant language and rationalizations in 19th c. California, The Destruction of California Indians and They Were Only Diggers, are part of an almost-genre of similar publications (e.g. Cliff Trafzer and Joel Hyer’s Exterminate Them!). The snippets in the collections from settler media and government documents have often been understood to be, and used as, evidence for the production of historical narratives, grounding a written history of events and colonial and genocidal attitudes and processes. But, from another angle, they also adumbrate a shadow sociality, an image of a difficult and often strained being-togetherness, in the form of a highly mediated sketch of California Indian life and communities struggling to survive, a sociality that Deborah Miranda succinctly describes as being “bad Indians” (in the many meanings of these terms). These collections raise the question of how to see, how to talk and write about, as well as how to teach, the destruction. In this talk, Mark Minch-de Leon will discuss the uses of such materials in the ongoing practice of California Indian theorizing, intellectualism, and pedagogy. Paired with the obsessively collected and haphazardly sifted and organized salvage anthropological archive, passed through the communal channels of re-relating of events, what Miranda calls “gossip,” these violent stories and images form part of a California Indian orature. Focusing on Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, the talk will emphasize Miranda’s robust concept of “story” as California Indian intellectual praxis. Through it, Minch-de Leon will consider story’s entanglements (and disaffiliations) with language, poetry, literature, and history.
Mark Minch-de Leon is Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in the Department of English at UC Riverside and a founding member of the California Indian Studies & Scholars Association (CISSA). His current book project, Indigenous Inhumanities: California Indian Studies as Postapocalyptic Research, looks at the anticolonial, antihumanist, and nonvitalist dimensions of California Indian intellectual and cultural resurgence as a form of weak or minor decolonization, one that effectively avoids the colonial traps of inclusion, reconciliation, recognition, representation, and other double binds. Attending to the fraught inclusion of California Indian Studies into the vitalist and humanist colonial university, in the book, Mark seeks to reorient California Indian Studies away from the study of California Indian peoples towards the difficult position of California Indian survival as study, as a perspective on the world, putting pressure on the boundaries between the institution and the communities who are the real knowledge producers. Mark is an enrolled member of the Susanville Indian Rancheria.
Event venue possible with support of UCLA Library.