Rootedness and mobility in international indigenous literatures

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Schacht, Miriam Helga, 1971-

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Indigenous cultures have long traditions of travel and mobility that empower them to survive, adapt to changing physical and political contexts, and create new futures for themselves. This dissertation, Rootedness and Mobility in International Indigenous Literatures, proposes a critical perspective that recognizes travel and migration neither as elements foreign to Indigenous cultures nor as symptoms of their hybridity or assimilation. Rather, they are central elements of Indigenous tradition, and as such inform contemporary Anglophone Indigenous writing as well as international Indigenous political actions. Understanding the place of travel within Indigenous cultures leads to a deeper understanding of the Indigenous peoples’ rights, which include not only the right to land, but also the right of free movement. Such mobility is not in conflict with but is instead complementary to a powerful sense of place and rootedness. The three chapters examine texts which hinge on cross-cultural contacts among Indigenous groups, and deal with novels by Thomas King, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Witi Ihimaera. Rather than merely seeking the legacies of colonialism in Indigenous texts, this dissertation acknowledges the devastating impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples but does not give colonialism center stage. Instead, the center belongs to Indigenous traditions and the dialogue that takes place between the stories being written today and the ancient stories and histories that have been passed down through generations. In exploring these novels and the cultural landscapes their authors call home, we see that travel, migrations, and the resulting intercultural contacts are not incidental, but integral to many Indigenous cultures, and contribute to a growing sense of Indigenous internationalism. Mobility and travel are not in conflict with, but instead coexist with a sense of rootedness and place. Thus, as we look at contemporary cross-cultural contacts among Indigenous authors, artists, and activists, it is vital to understand the long Indigenous histories both of rootedness and mobility.